Zelensky orders purge of Ukraine’s state guard in wake of alleged assassination plots

Residents clean debris next to heavily damaged houses following shelling in Pokrovsk, eastern Donetsk region (AFP via Getty Images)
Residents clean debris next to heavily damaged houses following shelling in Pokrovsk, eastern Donetsk region (AFP via Getty Images)

Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered the new chief of Ukraine’s state guard service to purge its ranks after two of its officers were accused of plans to assassinate senior officials.

The state security service (SBU) said last month that it had caught two guard service colonels accused of cooperating with Russia to plot the assassination of the Ukrainian president, military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov and other officials.

Mr Zelensky introduced staff to the new head of Ukraine’s state guard, Colonel Oleksiy Morozov, on Monday and said his main task was to ensure that only those who see their future tied with Ukraine could join the agency.

He said on Telegram: “And, of course, the agency must be cleared of anyone who chooses not Ukraine for themselves or discredits the state guard service.” The guard service provides security for various governement officials.

Mr Zelensky fired Mr Morozov’s predecessor Serhiy Rud in May, two days after the SBU detained agency employees who it said worked for Russia’s Federal Security Service and leaked classified information. There has been no comment from Moscow on the allegations.

Volodymyr Zelensky (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Volodymyr Zelensky (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

In other developments, Russian missiles killed at least four people and wounded 34 others, including two children, in the eastern Ukrainian town of Pokrovsk on Monday, the regional governor, Vadym Filashkin, said.

“This is one of the largest enemy attacks on civilians recently,” Vadym Filashkin said on Telegram.

Pictures shared alongside his post showed single-storey buildings with shattered windows, damaged rooftops and debris scattered around.

Mr Filashkin said Russian troops launched two Iskander-M ballistic missiles at the town which is about 24 kilometres (15 miles) from the front line. The attack destroyed one private house and damaged 16 more, he added.

One missile struck before, half an hour later, a second, the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said in a statement. The attacks also damaged a gas pipeline and cars, it added

Meanwhile, the Kremlin directly blamed the United States for an attack on Crimea with U.S-supplied ATACMS missiles that killed at least four people and injured 151.

Smoke billows from a burning administrative building in Fryazino in the Moscow region (via REUTERS)
Smoke billows from a burning administrative building in Fryazino in the Moscow region (via REUTERS)

Moscow formally warned the US ambassador that retaliation would follow.

Blaming the United States for a deadly attack on Crimea – which Russia annexed in 2014 and now considers to be part of its territory, although most of the world considers it to be part of Ukraine – is a step further than the Kremlin has gone before.

“You should ask my colleagues in Europe, and above all in Washington, the press secretaries, why their governments are killing Russian children. Just ask them this question,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters of the attack.

At least two children were killed in the attack on Sevastopol on Sunday, according to Russian officials. People were shown running from a beach near Sevastopol and some of the injured being carried off on sun loungers.

Russia said that the United States had supplied the weapons, while US military specialists had aimed the weapons and provided data for them.

In Moscow, two people jumped to their death from the top floors of a burning eight-storey former Russian electronics research institute on Monday.

At least six others died in the fire, state-run TASS news agency reported. Black smoke billowed from the building outside Moscow and flames roared up its walls. Some people were trapped on the top floors but were unable to escape.

One man was shown jumping from the upper floor of the building by the Baza Telegram channel. Another, with serious burns, fell from the upper floors, footage published by Shot Telegram channel showed.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire.

The EU has agreed to use €1.4bn (£1.2bn) in profits from Russian frozen assets for arms and other aid to Ukraine.

EU governments had already decided in May to use profits from the assets frozen in the EU to help Ukraine, with 90 per cent of funds earmarked for military aid.

But Hungary, which maintains warmer relations with Moscow, has been holding up approval of the necessary legal measures, diplomats say.

Hungary does not give arms to Ukraine and Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has criticised other EU and Nato members for doing so, saying they are fuelling the war.

At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, chief diplomat Josep Borrell said the usual unanimity for foreign policy decisions was not needed as Hungary had opted out of previous decisions underpinning the scheme.

“Since Hungary didn’t participate in the decision, it is not necessary that they ... participate in the implementation,” Mr Borrell told reporters as he arrived for the meeting.

Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said little as Mr Borrell laid out the plan, they said.

Additional reporting by agencies