Hanna Maliar, the deputy minister of defense who was dismissed, speaks during a briefing by the representatives of the Security and Defense Forces of Ukraine at the Military Media Center in Kiev on Jan. 12, 2023. (Photo by EPA-EFE)
After Ukraineís Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov was dismissed earlier this month, the Ukrainian government decided to dismiss six deputy defense ministers on Monday.
Hanna Maliar, who has frequently issued public updates on Russiaís war against Ukraine, was also included among those removed.
The government gave no reason for the dismissals.
The ministry had been dogged by media allegations of corruption while Reznikov was in the post although he faced no corruption allegations himself.
Less than two weeks ago, Rustem Umerov was appointed as the new Defense Minister.
"Rebooting. We (have) started. We continue. (The) Ministry continues to work as usual," Umerov wrote in a Facebook post.
Ukraine claims gains in south and east, downs drones, missiles
Also on Monday Ukraine claimed gains in the south and east frontlines while downing Russian drones and missiles, ahead of its presidentís visit to the US.
Kiev said on Monday it had taken back the eastern village of Klishchiivka, in what would be Ukraineís second significant gain in three days in its months-long counteroffensive against the Russian army.
The empty village, which reportedly had hundreds of inhabitants in the past, lies about 9km south of Bakhmut and has been the scene of intense fighting for weeks.
"Today, I would like to particularly commend the soldiers who, step by step, are returning to Ukraine what belongs to it, namely in the area of Bakhmut," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address to the nation on Sunday.
The breakthrough in Klishchiivka comes days after Kiev said it had gained control of the tiny nearby village of Andriivka and as Zelensky prepares for his second wartime visit to its major backer, the United States, to push for a continued flow of money and weapons.
Ukraine says two people killed in Russian attacks
Ukrainian officials said on Monday that two were killed people in the southern region of Kherson after Russia carried out a new wave of overnight air strikes and shelling in Ukraine.
According to the Kherson region governor Oleksandr Prokudin a man aged 72 and an elderly woman had been killed in a Russian attack on the region, and three others were wounded.
He said four others were hurt in a morning drone attack on the town of Beryslav.
Odesa region governor Oleh Kiper also said the Izmail district, home to Danube River ports that are used to export grain, had been targeted in a drone attack but gave no details of any damage to port or grain infrastructure.
Russia launched its special military operation in February 2022 in pro-Moscow regions of Ukraine to prevent Kievís persecution of the people in these regions and stop NATOís eastward encroachment.
Ukraine began to clear Russian troops, which had liberated the region after launching their special military campaign, from the Donbas territory in June.
The much-hyped months-long counteroffensive started after Kiev had received huge shipments of weapons and munitions from the US-led NATO forces, amounting to many tens-of-billions of dollars.
Kiev forces full-strength, yet futile, efforts have been focused on the war-battered town of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region as well as several points along the frontline in the south, towards Crimea.
Russian forces meanwhile have pursued their aerial bombardment campaign targeting Ukraineís southern regions and maritime export hubs in particular.
Kiev also claimed on Monday its air defiance systems had downed a swarm of attack drones and nearly 20 cruise missiles in Russiaís latest aerial barrage overnight.
"A total of 24 strike UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) were recorded around the Mykolaiv and Odesa regions. Eighteen attack drones were shot down by air defense units," the air force said on social media.
Kiev added that its forces had reportedly shot down all 17 cruise missiles fired by Russian forces overnight.
Ukraine set to sue Poland, Hungary and Slovakia over food import bans
Ukraine said on Monday that it plans to sue Poland, Hungary and Slovakia over bans on Ukrainian agricultural products.
Politico quoted Ukrainian Trade Representative Taras Kachka as saying in an interview that the restrictions placed by the European Union in May allowed Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds, while permitting transit of such cargoes for export elsewhere.
However, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia declared their own restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports on Friday after the executive European Commission decided not to extend its ban on imports into Ukraineís five EU neighbors.
Budapest, Warsaw and Bratislava say their measures are in accordance to their national interests and their moves are intended to protect their economies by preventing their farmers from a glut of products.
"It is important to prove that these actions are legally wrong. And thatís why we will start legal proceedings tomorrow," Politico quoted Kachka as saying.
Kachka told Politico that Ukraine could also impose reciprocal measures on Poland if Warsaw did not drop its additional measures.
"We would be forced to retaliate on the additional products, and would prohibit the import of fruit and vegetables from Poland," Politico quoted him as saying.
Kiev had already said it could seek international arbitration over the restrictions.
Brussels allowed its ban to expire on Friday after Ukraine said it would take measures to tighten control of exports to neighboring countries.