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Zelenskyy Fires Top Security Chief and Prosecutor Citing Russia Collaborators, Promises 'Day of Judgment' for Russia

Randy Mancini 11 Jul 19

As Russian troops pressed their offensive in Ukraine's east, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fired his state security chief and prosecutor general on Sunday. 

Zelenskyy cited hundreds of criminal proceedings into treason and collaboration by people within their departments and other law enforcement agencies.

"In particular, more than 60 employees of the prosecutor's office and the SBU (state security service) have remained in the occupied territory and work against our state," Zelenskyy said.

"Such an array of crimes against the foundations of the state's national security, and the links recorded between Ukrainian security forces and Russian special services raise very serious questions about their respective leaders,'' he said in his nightly video address to the nation.

Ivan Bakanov, chief of Ukraine's security service and a longtime friend of the president is out. Bakanov had come under growing criticism over security breaches since the war began.

He also dismissed Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, and replaced her with her deputy Oleksiy Symonenko. Venediktova has helped lead war crime investigations.

Zelenskyy said they've not taken strong enough action to identify and remove Ukrainian officials who might be passing information to the Russians.

The Ukrainian president is warning there could be hundreds of cases of treason and collaboration by those within his own government.

Russian Missile Strikes Continue in Southern Ukraine

Meanwhile, Russian missiles hit industrial facilities Sunday at Mykolaiv, a key shipbuilding center in southern Ukraine. Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said the missiles struck an industrial and infrastructure facility. Mykolaiv has faced regular Russian missile strikes in recent weeks as the Russians have sought to destroy Ukrainian defenses.

The Russian military has declared a goal to cut off Ukraine's entire Black Sea coast all the way to the Romanian border. If successful, such an effort would deal a crushing blow to the Ukrainian economy and trade, and allow Moscow to secure a land bridge to Moldova's separatist region of Transnistria, which hosts a Russian military base.

Early in the campaign, Ukrainian forces fended off Russian attempts to capture Mykolaiv, which sits near the Black Sea coast between Russia-occupied Crimea and the main Ukrainian port of Odesa. Since then, Russian troops have halted their attempts to advance in the city but have continued to pummel both Mykolaiv and Odesa with regular missile strikes.

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Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia's Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, responded to Ukrainian officials' statements that Kyiv may strike the bridge linking Crimea and Russia, warning that would trigger devastating consequences for the Ukrainian leadership.

"They will momentarily face Doomsday," Medvedev said. "It would be very hard for them to hide."

Zelenskyy condemned Medvedev's Doomsday comment as "intimidation" and said it was Russia that would eventually face a "Day of Judgment."

"And not in a figurative sense, not as loud talk, but literally," he said.

Jill Biden Meeting with Ukraine's First Lady

In the U.S., Ukraine's first lady, Olena Zelenska, met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday as she began a series of high-profile appearances in Washington that will include a session with U.S. counterpart Jill Biden. But Zelenska is not traveling as an official representative of the government of her husband. 

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the secretary of state assured Zelenska of the United States' commitment to Ukraine. Blinken also commended her for her work with civilians dealing with trauma and other damage from the war.

She meets with Jill Biden at the White House on Tuesday and will speak in the congressional auditorium at the Capitol to lawmakers on Wednesday. Her husband received standing ovations from congressional members in a video address to lawmakers in the same auditorium earlier in the war.