Russia tells troops to wipe out powerful western weapons in Ukraine

Kyiv replaces law-enforcement chiefs due to treachery and collaboration in ranks

Moscow has ordered its military to target western-supplied rocket systems that Ukraine is using to strike Russian command posts and arms depots deep inside occupied territory, as shelling killed six people in the government-held town of Toretsk in the eastern Donbas area.

Kyiv said its forces were holding their ground in Donbas and seeking to reclaim territory in the southern Kherson region, as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy replaced two top law-enforcement officials due to alleged treason and collaboration in their agencies.

Mr Zelenskiy continues to request more arms from western powers, following the delivery of long-range multiple-launch rocket systems and artillery that are now doing daily damage to Russian positions and supply hubs dozens of kilometres behind the frontline.

Moscow’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, gave medals to members of the Russian military’s Vostok [Eastern] group that is fighting in Ukraine, and ordered it “to prioritise the destruction of enemy long-range missiles and artillery with high-precision weapons”.


Without offering evidence, Mr Shoigu claimed Ukraine was using the weapons to attack civilian targets. He did not address Kyiv’s announcement that last week its forces used the US-supplied Himars rocket system to destroy more than 30 Russian “military logistical sites,” which had “significantly weakened the attack potential” of Moscow’s forces.

Footage filmed by drones and eyewitness showing explosions at Russian ammunition stores in occupied Ukraine now frequently appear on social media. Most of the sites are in Donbas and Kherson regions, which are now largely controlled by Moscow’s troops.

Some Kyiv officials say Moscow’s anger over the effectiveness of the long-range, highly accurate and mobile western rocket systems prompted a recent intensification of Russian cruise missile strikes on Ukrainian cities, which killed and injured scores of civilians.

In Donbas, where Russian troops focused their attacks after being repelled from Kyiv and Kharkiv, Ukraine’s two main cities, six people were killed on Monday when shells hit a building in the front-line town of Toretsk, which is still held by government forces.

Mr Zelenskiy’s office announced that the head of Ukraine’s SBU security service, Ivan Bakanov, and its prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova would be suspended, and replaced by their deputies Vasyl Malyuk and Oleksiy Symonenko, respectively.

“As of today, 651 criminal proceedings have been registered regarding treason and collaboration activities of employees of the prosecutors’ offices … and other law enforcement agencies,” Mr Zelenskiy said in an address late on Sunday night.

“More than 60 employees of the prosecutor’s office and the [SBU] remained in occupied territory and are working against our state. Such an array of crimes against the foundations of national security … and the links detected between employees of the security forces of Ukraine and the special services of Russia, pose very serious questions to the relevant top officials. Each of these questions will receive a proper answer.”

Andriy Smyrnov, deputy chief of staff to Mr Zelenskiy, said the two suspended officials had failed to root out suspected traitors and collaborators, and “in the sixth month of war we continue to discover packs of such people in these agencies”.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe