Ukrainian lawmakers on Tuesday endorsed the president’s decision to sack the country’s top prosecutor and security chief, rubber stamping Ukraine’s largest political shake-up since Russia invaded.
The overhaul was confirmed as Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Tehran with his Turkish counterpart to discuss a possible agreement to unblock Black Sea exports of Ukrainian grain.
Several Ukrainian deputies writing on social media at the parliamentary session in Kyiv said lawmakers had overwhelmingly backed President Volodymyr Zelensky’s shock call to remove the officials.
“Parliament voted to dismiss Iryna Venediktova as prosecutor general,” said David Arakhamia, a lawmaker affiliated to Zelensky. Other deputies said the plea to remove security chief Ivan Bakanov secured the necessary 226 votes.
Zelensky asked parliament to approve the dismissals less than 48 hours after announcing late Sunday that he was suspending the senior law enforcement officials and that 650 cases of suspected treason were under investigation.
He replaced Bakanov on Monday and described the shake up in the security services as an “audit” and said that 28 security officials were facing dismissal.
“Different levels, different directions. But the grounds are similar — unsatisfactory job performance,” Zelensky said.
Venediktova, who met regularly with counterparts from EU countries and the United States wrote on social media on Monday that she had “things to be proud of in her post and showed good results”.
– Tehran summit –
Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who arrived in Tehran on Monday, were due to meet in the Iranian capital on Tuesday to discuss mechanisms to export grain from Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Russian and Ukrainian delegations are due to meet in Istanbul alongside Turkish and UN representatives, with hopes rising for an announced accord.
The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned this week that the grain impasse was “an issue of life and death for many human beings.”
NATO member Turkey has been using its good relations with both the Kremlin and Kyiv to try to broker an agreement on a safe way to deliver the grain.
Along the Black Sea coast, Kyiv said Tuesday that Russian forces had rocked the southern and coastal region of Odessa with a barrage of seven cruise missiles, wounding at least six people including a child.
“One (missile) was shot down by air defences. Six hit a village. As a result, several residential buildings and other facilities were destroyed and caught fire,” the Ukraine presidency said.
The Russian defence ministry claimed that strikes on Odessa had destroyed a stockpile of Western-supplied weapons.
– Kramatorsk shelled –
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered Russian troops earlier this week to prioritise the destruction of long-range artillery supplied by the United States and Ukraine’s other Western allies.
Observers credit the weapons with altering battlefield dynamics, giving Ukraine the capacity to hit Russian arms depots and command posts deep inside territory controlled by Moscow.
The heaviest fighting in recent weeks, however, has centred not on the south but in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
Kramatorsk, one of the last-remaining Donbas cities under Ukrainian control, was hit by Russian strikes on Tuesday, AFP journalists said.
The head of the region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said one person was killed, and distributed video of the attack showing flames jumping from the inside a residential building.
AFP journalists said a four-story residential building was hit and saw panicked neighbours seeking medical attention from rescue workers in the aftermath.
One man with a bloodied head lay on the ground, before being taken away by the emergency services.
“He was just walking by and was hit,” said one woman, who declined to give her name, visibly shaken after the bombardment.
Russian strikes on Monday killed six people in the town of Toretsk, which has a population of around 30,000 and is not far from Kramatorsk.