KYIV/LVIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday issued a decree sacking a senior security figure and said separately that his drive to clean up the government would continue.
Authorities have dismissed dozens of officials in recent weeks and opened probes as part of a widespread drive against wrongdoing. The European Union says addressing corruption is a requirement for Ukraine joining the 27-member bloc.
Zelensky dismissed Ruslan Dziuba as deputy commander of the National Guard, according to a brief decree issued by the presidential office. It did not give any reasons for the move.
Zelensky — who has stressed the need for the defense ministry in particular to be cleaned up — did not specifically mention Dziuba in his daily video address.
Instead, he said he had met defense sector and law enforcement officials to discuss ways to protect institutions from what he called attempts from outside or inside to reduce their effectiveness and efficiency.
Referring to the crackdown, he said: “All this activity is not just about certain episodes or criminal proceedings … the state will continue to modernize the institutions themselves. The purity of the work of state structures must be guaranteed.”
Ukraine’s defense minister said on Thursday hundreds of officials at the ministry or in the armed forces had been disciplined last year after internal audits, and that he had “zero tolerance” for corruption.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s top military commander on Saturday said the country’s forces were holding defense along the frontline in Donetsk, including of the besieged town of Bakhmut, as the fiercest battles raged in the cities of Vuhledar and Maryinka.
Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, said Russia carries out some 50 attacks daily in Donetsk, a region in Ukraine’s southeast that Moscow has been trying to occupy fully.
“Fierce fighting continues in the area of Vuhledar and Maryinka,” Zaluzhnyi said in a Telegram message after a call with US General Mark Milley.
“We reliably hold the defense. In some areas of the front we have managed to regain previously lost positions and gained a foothold.”
Zaluzhnyi did not specify where the gains were. He added that Ukraine continues to hold Bakhmut, tying to “stabilize” the frontline around the town.
The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group said on Saturday that his forces are facing fierce resistance around Bakhmut from Ukrainian defenders.
On Friday, Britain said Russian forces were making gains north of Bakhmut, but were having a more difficult time attacking Vuhledar, some 150 kilometers (93 miles) further south.
It is impossible to independently establish the control areas of each side, as fighting along the frontline has slowed in recent months to what Ukraine defense ministry calls “crawling” attempts to move little by little.
Ukraine’s military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said that despite Russia’s pressure in Maryinka, a nearly deserted and destroyed small city that has been on the frontline since the start of the war a year ago, Ukrainian forces managed to hold the ground.
“Fighting is going on in the city center, but there have been no changes over the past 24 hours,” Zhdanov said in a social media video.
Wagner’s head, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said it could take two years for Moscow to control the whole of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Ukraine. Moscow last year claimed both as “republics” of Russia, in a move condemned by most countries of the United Nations as illegal.