Ukraine faced further turmoil on Sunday when President Volodymyr Zelensky announced he was sacking his two top law enforcement officials, in the most serious government shake-up since Russia launched its deadly invasion in february.
The domestic crisis came as the European Union prepared to discuss tougher sanctions against Russia on Monday and Kyiv accused Moscow of launching new strikes on several residential areas in eastern and southern Ukraine. .
The new attacks came after Moscow announced it would step up military operations and Ukraine accused Russia of planting missile launchers at Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant.
Zelensky said he was firing Attorney General Iryna Venediktova and security chief Ivan Bakanov amid a high number of cases of alleged treason by Ukrainian law enforcement officials.
In a national address, Zelensky said more than 650 cases of alleged treason and aiding and abetting Russia by Ukrainian security officials were currently under investigation, including 60 cases of officials who , according to him, remained in the territories occupied by Russia and “work against our state”. “
“Such a large number of crimes against the foundations of national security and the established ties between Ukrainian law enforcement and Russian special services raise very serious questions for the leaders concerned,” Zelensky said.
“Each of these questions will be answered.”
Zelensky also pointed to the devastating military power Moscow has used against Ukraine, saying that since Sunday Russian forces have launched more than 3,000 cruise missiles at targets in Ukraine.
As the conflict continues and increasingly turns into global energy and food crises, EU foreign ministers are considering banning gold purchases from Russia.
And other Russian personalities could also be blacklisted by the EU.
“Moscow must continue to pay a heavy price for its aggression,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said after passing on the proposed measures.
Brussels is expected to hold initial sanctions talks on Monday, but not make a decision the same day, according to a senior EU official.
The heaviest fighting continues to be centered in Ukraine’s industrial east, and on Sunday Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko accused Moscow of bombing “civilian infrastructure, especially educational institutions”. .
But Igor Besukh, a leader in the local town of Kramatorsk, just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the front line, was determined to stay strong in the face of Russian attacks.
Even after a Friday missile strike on Kramatorsk, which he said scared him, Besukh continued to operate his sushi restaurant, one of the few places still open in the city.
“War is war, but lunch should be served on time,” he said, quoting a popular saying.
Near Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, the southern city of Mykolaiv was the target of “heavy shelling” on Sunday, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said.
Kim added that several residential areas had been shelled in the region a day earlier, with three people killed in the village of Shevchenkove and a woman killed in Shyrokiv where a “residential building was destroyed”.
In a BBC television interview broadcast on Sunday, the head of the British armed forces, Admiral Tony Radakin, estimated that 50,000 Russian soldiers had been killed or injured during the invasion with nearly 1,700 Russian tanks and some 4 000 armored fighting vehicles destroyed.
Radakin suggested Russian ground forces may pose less of a threat now, but more than 20 weeks after the invasion began, Moscow said on Saturday it would step up military operations.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu “has given the necessary instructions to further increase” military pressure, according to his ministry.
The orders come after Ukraine’s atomic energy agency accused the Russians of installing missile launchers at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and using the facility to bomb the Dnipro region.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in its daily briefing on Sunday that it had destroyed a “warehouse of Harpoon anti-ship missiles delivered to Ukraine by NATO” in the port city of Odessa.
Ukraine has denied the claim, saying Russia destroyed the “storage facility” of a company unrelated to the military.
Hundreds of miles from the frontline, Ukraine said missile strikes earlier in the week left 24 people dead in the central city of Vinnytsia, sparking international condemnation.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it had targeted a meeting in Vinnytsia of the “Ukrainian Air Force command with representatives of foreign arms suppliers”.
But a senior US defense official said on condition of anonymity he had “no indication” there was a military target nearby.
Meanwhile, in Russia, police on Sunday arrested journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who in March interrupted a live TV broadcast to denounce military action in Ukraine, her lawyer said.
No official statement has been made, but her detention comes days after Ovsyannikova, 44, protested alone near the Kremlin holding a sign criticizing the Russian invasion and President Vladimir Putin.