Officials and governors of Ukraine are cleaning up from the biggest shakeup of the war

  • The deputy head of Zelensky’s office resigned
  • The defense official denies the charge of overcharging for the goods
  • Deputy Attorney Criticized for Vacationing in Spain
  • Allies seek German tanks for Kiev

KYIV, Jan. 24 (Reuters) – Ukraine sacked a string of governors and other senior officials from five war-torn provinces on Tuesday in the biggest shake-up of its wartime leadership since Russia’s invasion last year.

Separately on Tuesday, a long-awaited decision on whether allies can send German-made heavy tanks to Ukraine finally reached Berlin, with Poland saying it had formally sent its request.

The governors of Kyiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions were among a dozen senior Ukrainian officials who resigned or were dismissed on Tuesday. All five regions have been major battlegrounds in the past year, giving their governors unusually high national esteem.

Others who left included a deputy defense minister, a deputy prosecutor, the deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office and two deputy ministers responsible for regional development.

Some, though not all, are linked to allegations of corruption. Ukraine has a history of patchy and shaky governance, and it is under international pressure to show itself as a credible steward of billions of dollars in Western aid.

“There are already some individual decisions – some today, some tomorrow – regarding ministries and other central government structures, as well as officials at various levels in the regions and law enforcement,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address overnight.

Zelenskiy aide Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted: “The president sees and listens to society. And he responds directly to a key public demand – justice for all.”

The purge came two days after a deputy infrastructure minister was arrested and charged with embezzling $400,000 from contracts to buy generators in one of the first major corruption scandals to go public since the war began 11 months ago.

The Defense Ministry said Vyacheslav Shapovalov, the deputy defense minister responsible for supplying troops, had resigned to maintain credibility after he made untrue media allegations of corruption. Following a newspaper report that the ministry had paid too much for food for the troops, the ministry denied it.

The prosecutor’s office did not give a reason for the dismissal of Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Simonenko, who came under fire in Ukrainian media for taking a vacation in Spain. Although Zelensky did not name any officials in his address, he announced a new ban on officials taking vacations abroad.

Kyrillo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Zelensky’s office, announced his own resignation without reason. He helped run the president’s 2019 election campaign and recently had a role in overseeing regional policy.

The changes are a rare shake-up of an otherwise remarkably stable wartime leadership in Kyiv. Aside from purging a spy agency in July, Zelensky has largely stuck with his team, building around fellow political newcomers the former TV actor brought to power when he was elected in a landslide in 2019.

Decision time on tanks

Poland’s announcement that it has officially asked Berlin for permission to export German-made tanks to Ukraine continues to delay a decision by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in what has become a key debate among allies about how to support Ukraine.

“I hope this answer from Germany will come soon, because the Germans are delaying, deceiving and acting hard to understand,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference. “We can see that they don’t want to help Ukraine defend itself in a broad way.”

A German government spokesman said: “We will take action with the urgency they deserve.”

Kiev had been pleading for months for Western tanks to give its forces the firepower and mobility to break through Russian defense lines and retake occupied territory.

Germany’s Panthers, fielded by militaries across Europe, are widely seen as the best choice, available in large numbers and easy to deploy and maintain. But Germany has so far resisted pressure to pledge its own Leopards, and has said its allies have yet to formally request permission to send them.

“The Germans have already received our request for permission to transfer Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine,” Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter.

“I also ask the German side to join the coalition of countries supporting Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks,” he added. “This is our common cause, because the security of all Europe is at stake!”

Germany’s army chief said sending the tanks was a political decision. A senior official said the choice was ultimately up to Scholes and his cabinet.

“At the end of the day, the government will decide by consensus and in the chancellery,” Tobias Lindner, state secretary at the foreign ministry, told a defense conference organized by Handelsblatt in Berlin.

‘Spring will be decisive’

The front lines have been largely frozen for two months in the battle, despite heavy losses on both sides. Both Russia and Ukraine are widely believed to be planning an attack in the coming months.

The West pledged billions of dollars in military aid last week but has yet to respond to Kiev’s request for hundreds of heavy battle tanks, pending Germany’s decision on the fate of its Panthers.

A Ukrainian official said the coming spring and summer would be decisive.

“If the major Russian offensive planned at this time fails, it will be the doom of Russia and Putin,” Vadim Skibitsky, deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, told news site Delphi in an interview.

Reporting by Reuters Bureaus Writing by Peter Graff Editing by Timothy Heritage

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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