Ukraine fires 6 deputy defense ministers as heavy fighting continues in the east


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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Six Ukrainian deputy defense ministers were fired Monday following the dismissal two weeks ago of Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in a corruption scandal, officials said, as heavy fighting against Russian forces continued in the east.

Russia claimed to have struck key Ukrainian facilities in air attacks overnight, hitting stores of Storm Shadow missiles and depleted uranium ammunition along with electronic intelligence centers and training facilities for Ukrainian military scouts.

The deputy defense ministers fired included Hanna Maliar, Vitalii Deyneha and Denys Sharapov, as well as the state secretary of the Defense Ministry, Kostiantyn Vashchenko, according to the Telegram account of Taras Melnychuk, permanent representative of the Cabinet of Ministers.Melnychuk provided no explanation of the firings, but the government has been investigating accusations of corruption in the military related to purchasing equipment. Rustem Umerov, a Crimean Tatar lawmaker who took over as defense minister, did not immediately issue a statement.

Reznikov was removed earlier this month after a scandal involving the defense ministry’s procurement of military jackets at three times their cost. Reznikov denied the allegations but resigned.

The reshuffling of the department came a day after Ukraine’s military said it captured the village of Klishchiivka from Russian troops after months of fierce battles. Fighting continued Monday as troops tried to hold the village south of the Russian-held city of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region.

Its recapture followed the retaking of the nearby village of Andriivka.

“The enemy is trying with all his might to regain lost positions,” Maliar said in a briefing Monday before she was fired. “Therefore, our fighters hold back the enemy’s attacks there and are entrenched at the achieved frontiers.”

Retaking Klishchiivka is considered tactically important, allowing Ukrainian forces to further extend their gains around Bakhmut.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year. Ukraine launched a counteroffensive in June that so far has been marked by small victories but no major breakthroughs. Despite being bolstered by NATO-standard weapons worth billions of dollars, Ukrainian military officials have said there are no quick solutions to puncture Russian defensive lines — only slow, grinding battles that have led to heavy losses.

In his efforts to draw more support, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is headed to the U.S. where he is expected at the White House and on Capitol Hill this week as he visits during the United Nations General Assembly. His visit to Washington comes as Congress debates President Joe Biden’s request to provide as much as $24 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

One supporter in Congress, U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, a Democrat from Arizona, met with Ukraine officials and soldiers Monday in Kyiv to assess the military’s current needs and discuss ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles, which Biden is considering providing.

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