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Russian shelling kills 6 in Donbass as Zelenskyy replaces security chief

#Russian #shelling #kills #Donbass #Zelenskyy #replaces #security #chief

Russian shelling in battle-scarred eastern Ukraine left six dead on Monday, Kyiv said, as the country reeled from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s decision to sack two senior law enforcement officials.

Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers met to discuss tightened sanctions against Moscow, and the bloc’s foreign policy chief warned of the “vital” consequences of Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports.

Rescuers in blue helmets were seen digging through rubble and clearing debris from the collapsed remains of a two-storey building in Toretsk in the industrial east that was hit by Russian artillery early Monday.

“Rescuers found and recovered the bodies of a total of five dead. Three people were rescued from the rubble and one of them died in hospital,” the emergency services said, adding that their rescue operations were complete.

Toretsk, a city of around 30,000 people, is about 50 kilometers south of Kramatorsk, a key target for Russian forces deployed to Ukraine in February.

They initially failed to capture the capital, Kyiv, early in the invasion, but have recently made gains in the eastern region of the Donbass, capturing the twin cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk.

Zelensky said late Sunday that he had fired Attorney General Iryna Venediktova and Security Chief Ivan Bakanov amid widespread cases of alleged treason by law enforcement officials.

He cited “a large number of crimes against national security foundations and the connections established between Ukrainian law enforcement officials and Russian special services” when making the announcement.

– ‘Life and death’ –

Deputy head of the presidency Andriy Smirnov told local media the two were suspended to prevent them from “possibly influencing criminal proceedings against employees of the Security Service of Ukraine”.

Zelenskyy on Monday appointed 39-year-old Vasyl Malyuk – first deputy head of the SBU security services since March – as acting chief of security under a presidential decree.

In Brussels, the EU foreign policy chief warned that Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports is threatening grain supplies to tens of thousands of people at risk of starvation and said it must end.

“It’s a matter of life and death for a lot of people. And the question is that Russia must lift the blockade and allow Ukrainian grain to be exported,” Borrell told reporters.

His comments came as Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met with UN and Turkish diplomats in Istanbul on Wednesday to discuss a possible deal to end the months-long blockade of Ukrainian ports.

Addressing officials, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that “arms against Ukraine, sanctions against Russia and accountability for Russia are the three ways to restore peace, enhance security and protect stability in Europe.”

A Ukrainian counter-offensive towards those Black Sea ports has gained momentum, and Kyiv said Monday that Russia is digging in along front lines in the Kherson region, where the Kiev army is attacking.

– ‘Massive Missile Fire’ –

Ukraine, meanwhile, accused Russia of renewed bombings of civilian infrastructure in nearby Mykolaiv, a battered town near the Black Sea coast that has come under repeated attacks in recent days.

“Mykolayiv was again under massive rocket fire,” regional governor Vitaliy Kim announced on social media, specifying that premises with agricultural machinery had been hit.

Battlefield dynamics in the south — and east — have shifted, say Kyiv and observers of the conflict, with the delivery of long-range precision artillery to Ukraine by its western allies.

These weapons are a key concern for Russia, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, speaking at a recent troop inspection, said Moscow’s armed forces must move to neutralize systems like the US-supplied Himars.

“Shoigu gave the order to give priority to destroying – with high-precision weapons – enemy artillery and long-range missiles,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.

In a BBC television interview aired on Sunday, British Armed Forces chief Admiral Tony Radakin estimated that 50,000 Russian soldiers had been killed or wounded in the invasion, with nearly 1,700 Russian tanks and some 4,000 armored fighting vehicles destroyed.

Radakin suggested Russia’s land forces could now pose less of a threat, but more than 20 weeks after the invasion began, Moscow said on Saturday it would step up its military operations.

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