Ukraine: Zelenskiy faces first corruption scandal since Russian invasion

The Ukrainian president cleans up. Five governors and four deputy ministers have been removed from their posts, the government said on Tuesday (January 24) following press revelations about alleged overpriced purchases of army supplies. Thus, this statement is made in response to accusations of corruption by some in power, which can create a bad image for the current government at a time when Ukraine needs its Western allies.

Under pressure for days, Germany on Tuesday opened the way for allowing allied countries to supply the heavy Leopard tanks that Ukraine is insistently demanding, promising to respond “with the necessary urgency” to Poland’s request.

On the ground, Russian forces continue to claim little success. On Tuesday, the head of NATO said there were “no signs” that Russia had changed its “targets.”

Series of resignations in Ukraine after corruption scandal

Among the officials who resigned are Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who oversaw the logistical support of the armed forces, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Kirill Timoshenko and Deputy Prosecutor General Alexei Simonenko.

“Even if these accusations are groundless,” the departure of Vyacheslav Shapovalov “will preserve the trust of society and international partners, as well as ensure the objectivity” of efforts to clarify this case, assured the Ministry of Defense. in a statement. These statements were made after the authorities dismissed the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine Vasily Lozinsky.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday evening that changes would be made in senior positions in the government and regions over the next 24 hours. In a daily video message, the Ukrainian president said that some decisions were made “today (Monday), others tomorrow” regarding positions “of various ranks in ministries and other central government structures,” as well as in the regions and in law enforcement forces. “.

“There are already personnel decisions – who is today, who is tomorrow – regarding civil servants of various levels in ministries and other central state structures, as well as in the regions and in law enforcement agencies,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

25 dead in the Belgorod region bordering Russia since the beginning of the offensive

In total, since the beginning of Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine, Ukrainian strikes on the Russian border region of Belgorod have killed 25 people and injured about 100, its governor said on Tuesday.

“Ukraine, the enemy, is bombing peaceful villages. We have 25 people killed and 96 wounded,” Vyacheslav Gladkov told President Vladimir Putin in an interview broadcast on Russian state television. For the first time in eleven months, Russian authorities officially report the death toll in the region.

Tanks: Berlin will consider the Polish request “with the necessary urgency”

In Berlin, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said he “explicitly called on partner countries that have Leopard tanks ready to deploy to train Ukrainian forces on these tanks” during a press conference in Berlin with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

These statements represent a step forward in Germany’s position, where there is increasing pressure on the Olaf Scholz government to give the green light to Atlantic Alliance member states so eager to be able to supply German-made Leopard tanks. in Ukraine.

So far, Finland and Poland have said they are ready to do so. Warsaw, which wants to create a “coalition of countries supporting Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks,” officially sent a request to this effect, which Berlin confirmed receipt on Tuesday. “We will process the request with the necessary urgency in accordance with the planned procedure,” a spokesman for the German government assured.

Russia claims progress on the ground

On the ground, as a result of the shelling of Russian artillery on Monday, a civilian in the village of Antonovka in the south of the Kherson region was killed, which its governor Yaroslav Yanushevich regrets. The day before, the leader of the local occupying power, appointed by Moscow, said that the Russian army was advancing on two settlements in the Zaporozhye region, also in the south, where clashes with the people of Kiev broke out this week. On Monday evening, the headquarters of the Ukrainian army soberly reported that “on January 20 and 21, the enemy conducted offensive operations in the area” in the Maly Shcherbakov area.

In the northeast, in the Sumy region, a young woman was killed and two others were injured when a shell hit a residential building in Yesmanskaya, and a residential building in Vorozhba was “directly hit,” according to Ukrainian regional authorities. Meanwhile, one of the top separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine, Denis Pushilin, has shown himself in Soledar, a small town Moscow claims was taken more than a week ago. For the Russians, the conquest of this city is a step towards the encirclement of Bakhmut, which they have been trying to conquer since the summer. According to Denis Pushilin, the fighting there is “intensifying” and Russian soldiers are “advancing”. Ukraine has not yet officially recognized the loss of Soledar, as fighting continues in its western part.

According to Pavel Kirilenko, head of the military administration of the Donetsk region, near Bakhmut, one person died as a result of Russian shelling late on Monday evening, January 23. At least two others were injured in the apartment building.

Anger in Poland and the Baltics

Poland and the Baltic states on Monday sharply condemned remarks by Czech presidential candidate Andrej Babiš, who assured that, once elected, he would not send soldiers to help them as part of NATO’s collective defense. In the second round of elections on January 27 and 28, the billionaire will meet with the former head of the NATO military command, retired General Petr Pavel. Asked during a televised debate on Sunday about the possibility of sending soldiers in the event of an attack on Poland or the Baltic states, Andrej Babish replied: “No, of course not.”

Article 5 of the NATO treaty obliges its member states to come to the aid of one of them in the event of an attack. “I want peace. I don’t want war. And under no circumstances will I send our children and the children of our wives to war,” the former prime minister continued. He later tweeted that he never questioned Article 5 and that his statements were cut. “The statements of Andrey Babish […] absurd and dangerous. They inspire doubts about trust and cooperation with NATO,” said the chairman of the Peasant Party PSL (opposition), Pole Wladyslaw Kosinyak-Kamysh. “The Kremlin might start slamming champagne,” he added.

Estonia and Latvia expel Russian ambassadors

Estonia and Latvia announced on Monday they were expelling Russian ambassadors to their respective countries, following a similar decision taken by Moscow a few hours earlier regarding the Estonian ambassador. The third Baltic country, Lithuania, announced in October that it was expelling a Russian charge d’affaires over “inconsistent actions and statements” after declaring the country’s ambassador “persona non grata” in April.

“We respect the principle of reciprocity in relations with Russia,” the Estonian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday, stressing that the Russian ambassador must leave Estonia on the same day as his diplomat from Russia, that is, February 7. Russia announced the expulsion of the Estonian ambassador on Monday, condemning Tallinn’s “complete Russophobia” following the expulsion earlier in January of 21 Russian diplomats and other Russian embassy staff.

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