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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
Tuesday June 18, 2024
Tuesday June 18, 2024

Zelenskiy fires top bodyguard following assassination plot; no successor named

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy dismissed Serhiy Rud, head of his security team, after two guards were implicated in a plot against his life

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy removed Serhiy Rud from his position as head of state guards on Thursday, shortly after two members of the security team were accused of conspiring to assassinate the president. In a decree published without naming Rud’s successor, Zelenskiy emphasized a need for strong leadership in his personal security following the failed assassination attempt.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian drone struck a Russian oil processing plant in the Bashkiria region, approximately 1,500 km away, in what was seen as Ukraine’s longest-range attack since the conflict began. Additionally, two oil depots in southern Russia were targeted, which analysts believe was a strategic move to disrupt Russia’s war financing.

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In a separate incident, Ukraine’s parliament dismissed two senior officials overseeing critical wartime economic portfolios. Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, who managed infrastructure, was removed as his ministry undergoes restructuring. Lawmakers also accepted Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky’s resignation due to an ongoing investigation into his alleged involvement in the illegal acquisition of state-owned land. Solsky denies these accusations.

Ukraine’s parliament also intensified its stance on draft evaders, passing a bill to impose stricter penalties on those avoiding military service. The legislation, which is yet to receive Zelenskiy’s signature, would allow authorities to detain dodgers for up to three days and impose higher fines. Slovakia reported a rise in Ukrainian men attempting irregular border crossings, with 338 detentions in the first four months of 2024.

Zelenskiy appointed former army chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi, a key figure in Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion, as the new ambassador to the United Kingdom. This decision follows the dismissal of Vadym Prystaiko in 2023, who was removed after criticizing Zelenskiy publicly.

In another high-profile reshuffle, Zelenskiy replaced Colonel Serhiy Lupanchuk with Brigadier General Oleksandr Trepak as the new commander of Ukraine’s special forces. The special forces unit plays a crucial role in countering Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territories. This marks the second leadership change in six months.

The conflict also cast a shadow over Russia’s annual 9 May military parade. Only one tank, a World War II-era T-34, was displayed as Russia significantly scaled down its usual military showcase. In a defiant speech, President Vladimir Putin commended Russian forces fighting in Ukraine and blamed “western elites” for provoking global conflicts. He reaffirmed Russia’s readiness to defend itself, emphasizing that strategic forces remain on high alert.

In other developments, Putin proposed reappointing Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, his government’s chief technocrat. The State Duma is expected to approve the appointment due to its overwhelming pro-government stance. Moreover, Germany pledged to send Ukraine three additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to bolster its military capabilities, leveraging U.S. military resources.

Analysis:

Zelenskiy’s swift dismissal of Serhiy Rud underscores the critical importance of loyalty and reliability in Ukraine’s security apparatus. By acting decisively following allegations of a plot within the president’s security detail, Zelenskiy aimed to shore up trust in his government amid a volatile wartime environment. Without a successor named, however, this move may create a temporary gap in leadership, potentially affecting the morale and coordination of his personal security.

The Ukrainian drone attack on Russian oil facilities is a clear demonstration of Kyiv’s evolving military strategy. Targeting energy infrastructure deep within Russian territory aims to disrupt Moscow’s supply chains and reduce its ability to fund the conflict. Such tactics, however, could also heighten the risk of retaliation, as Russia may adopt a more aggressive stance in response.

The reshuffling of Ukraine’s cabinet reflects internal efforts to improve governance during wartime. Kubrakov’s removal indicates the strategic importance of restructuring government ministries to enhance efficiency, while Solsky’s resignation amid a corruption investigation sends a message that accountability remains paramount.

The crackdown on draft evasion reflects Ukraine’s recognition of a significant manpower challenge. Over two years into the conflict, sustaining a capable fighting force is crucial, and increased penalties could deter avoidance. Nevertheless, such measures may also lead to a backlash among families directly affected by conscription.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi’s appointment as ambassador to the U.K. reinforces Zelenskiy’s strategic use of diplomatic posts. The selection of a former army chief signals the significance of defense coordination between Ukraine and its allies. This move might enhance military cooperation, particularly as Kyiv seeks to secure more advanced weaponry and political support.

In Russia, Putin’s downscaled Victory Day parade signals the constraints imposed by ongoing military engagement. The focus on a singular, historic tank emphasized Soviet-era triumphs while acknowledging the current strain on Russia’s military resources. Putin’s rhetoric around western elites, however, could reinforce domestic narratives and justify continued military spending.

Germany’s provision of additional HIMARS to Ukraine signals unwavering support from NATO allies. By directly supplying weapons from U.S. stocks, Germany demonstrates a strategic partnership that aims to strengthen Ukraine’s resistance capabilities while maintaining regional stability

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