Russia-Ukraine war: Zelenskiy replaces special operations chief for second time in six months – as it happened

Zelenskiy replaces special operations chief for second time in six months

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy replaced the commander of his special forces on Thursday, the second time in half a year that he has changed the head of the unit which operates in Moscow-occupied territories.

The dismissal of colonel Serhiy Lupanchuk and appointment of brigadier general Oleksandr Trepak in his place was announced in two decrees on the president’s website that provided no explanation for the move, Reuters reported.

Since 2014, Trepak has been actively participating in defence operations in east Ukraine against Russian-backed separatists. He was engaged in leading the push to repel the Russian assault on Donetsk airport, one of the biggest operations back then.

The Ukrainian military’s chain of command has been changed at different levels since February when Zelenskiy replaced his top commander, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, with then-ground forces commander Oleksandr Syrskyi in a major shake up.

At the time, Zelenskiy said a new military leadership was taking control of the armed forces and promised to “reboot” the system by bringing in experienced commanders who understood the daily needs of the troops.

Key events

Closing summary

  • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy replaced the commander of his special forces on Thursday, the second time in half a year that he has changed the head of the unit which operates in Moscow-occupied territories. The dismissal of colonel Serhiy Lupanchuk and appointment of brigadier general Oleksandr Trepak in his place was announced in two decrees on the president’s website that provided no explanation for the move, Reuters reported.

  • The West needs to undermine and expose “the malign networks that Russia uses to spread its lies,” according to Britain’s foreign secretary, David Cameron. In his first major speech since taking up the role, he said over the last five years Britain had invested in that project by backing free media and supporting independent journalism in places like Georgia and Moldova, “where Russia seeks to bully and manipulate politics.”

  • A Ukrainian attack drone struck a Russian oil processing plant in the Bashkiria region on Thursday after flying a “record” distance of 1,500 km (932.06 miles) in an operation conducted by the SBU security service, a Kyiv intelligence source told Reuters. The drone hit a catalytic cracking unit at the Gazprom Neftekhim Salavat oil processing, petrochemical and fertiliser complex, the source said. Russia confirmed the fact of damage at the plant earlier, but said the facility was functioning as usual.

  • President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said that Ukraine could stop Russian forces advancing in the east if allied countries increased the supply of arms. The Ukrainian leader made the comments at a joint news conference in Kyiv with the European Parliament’s visiting president Roberta Metsola, more than two years after Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin said Russian and Belarus’ forces had started joint preparations for tactical nuclear weapons drills, Interfax news agency reported on Thursday.

  • President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday appointed former army chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, who led Ukraine’s defence in the first two years of Moscow’s full-scale invasion, as Kyiv’s ambassador to the United Kingdom. The decree was published on the presidential website. Zaluzhnyi was earlier named a “Hero of Ukraine”, Reuters reported. Ukraine has not had an ambassador in London since Zelenskiy dismissed former envoy Vadym Prystaiko in July 2023 after he publicly criticised the president.

  • Russia president Vladimir Putin has accused the West of risking a global conflict and said no one would be allowed to threaten the world’s biggest nuclear power as Russia marked the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two. As Russian troops advance against Ukraine’s Western-backed forces, Putin accused “arrogant” Western elites of forgetting the decisive role played by the Soviet Union in defeating Nazi Germany, and of stoking conflicts across the world, Reuters reported.

  • A Ukrainian air attack on Russia’s Belgorod region injured eight people and damaged scores of residential buildings and cars, the governor of the region bordering with Ukraine said on Thursday. Among the wounded is an 11-year-old girl who was taken to a hospital, Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor said on the Telegram messaging app, Reuters reported. About 34 flats in 19 apartment buildings were damaged, as well as three dozen cars in the city of Belgorod, the region’s administrative centre, Gladkov added.

  • Drones launched by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) struck two oil depots near the town of Anapa in Russia’s southern Krasnodar region causing large-scale fires, a Ukrainian intelligence source told Reuters on Thursday. The source said the oil depots were used as transshipment points to supply fuel to Russian troops in the nearby occupied peninsula of Crimea.

  • Meanwhile, Ukraine’s parliament has voted to dismiss deputy prime minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, a key government figure who has overseen the wartime reconstruction effort and championed efforts to set up a vital Black Sea shipping lane, Ukrainian lawmaker Yaroslav Zheleznyak said on Telegram. The 41-year-old’s dismissal comes amid plans to break up his powerful ministry into two separate government portfolios.

  • Ukraine’s parliament has dismissed agriculture minister Mykola Solsky who tendered his resignation in late April as he faces an investigation into alleged involvement in illegal acquisition of state-owned land, Ukrainian lawmaker Yaroslav Zheleznyak said on Telegram. Solsky, 44, has denied the allegations, Reuters reported.

  • Ukraine’s air defence systems destroyed 17 out of 20 attack drones that Russia launched targeting Ukraine’s territory, Ukraine’s air force said. The drones were destroyed over the Odesa region in Ukraine’s south, the air force said on the Telegram messaging app.

  • Lithuania’s foreign minister has raised the prospect of an ad hoc coalition of western countries sending military training personnel into Ukraine backed by ground-based air defence, days after Russia took an increasingly strident tone against what it sees as the threat of deeper western involvement in the war. Speaking to the Guardian after meeting his British counterpart, David Cameron, in London, Gabrielius Landsbergis also backed the British foreign secretary for saying that Ukraine could use British-made weapons against Russia; remarks that alongside Emmanuel Macron refusing to rule out western troops in Ukraine prompted the Kremlin to threaten UK assets and order a tactical nuclear training exercise.

  • Ukraine plans to double electricity imports on Thursday after a powerful Russian attack on Ukraine’s energy system, the energy ministry said. The imports are expected to rise to 16,699 megawatt hours (Mwh) versus 7,600 Mwh on Wednesday, the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app, Reuters reported. “Today, at Ukraine’s request, emergency electricity supplies have already been made from Poland, Romania and Slovakia,” the ministry said.

  • South Korea’s position remains it will not supply lethal weapons to any country, president Yoon Suk Yeol said on Thursday, when asked if Seoul was prepared to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. Yoon also said his government intended to continue managing relations with Moscow to “pursue economic cooperation and mutual benefits” even though the two countries’ ties have become “uncomfortable” since the start of the war in Ukraine.

That’s it from the Ukraine live blog for today. Thanks for following along.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said that Ukraine could stop Russian forces advancing in the east if allied countries increased the supply of arms.

The Ukrainian leader made the comments at a joint news conference in Kyiv with the European Parliament’s visiting president Roberta Metsola, more than two years after Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

Russia has been making small but steady territorial gains in the east of the country since the start of the year, with Ukraine’s forces depleted and weapons and ammunition running perilously low.

“We are putting maximum pressure on our partners to increase weapon deliveries,” Zelenskiy said at an open air briefing in the centre of the capital.

“If the delivery of weapons is increased, we will be able to stop (Russian forces) in the east, where they have the initiative.”

As he spoke, air raid sirens started to blare, a reminder of the threat of Russian missile and drone attacks which have intensified across the country, causing power outages for hundreds of thousands of civilians.

A view shows a damaged residential building at the site of a military strike, what local authorities called a Ukrainian air attack, in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in Belgorod, Russia, May 9, 2024. ] Photograph: Governor of Belgorod Region/Reuters

Zelenskiy replaces special operations chief for second time in six months

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy replaced the commander of his special forces on Thursday, the second time in half a year that he has changed the head of the unit which operates in Moscow-occupied territories.

The dismissal of colonel Serhiy Lupanchuk and appointment of brigadier general Oleksandr Trepak in his place was announced in two decrees on the president’s website that provided no explanation for the move, Reuters reported.

Since 2014, Trepak has been actively participating in defence operations in east Ukraine against Russian-backed separatists. He was engaged in leading the push to repel the Russian assault on Donetsk airport, one of the biggest operations back then.

The Ukrainian military’s chain of command has been changed at different levels since February when Zelenskiy replaced his top commander, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, with then-ground forces commander Oleksandr Syrskyi in a major shake up.

At the time, Zelenskiy said a new military leadership was taking control of the armed forces and promised to “reboot” the system by bringing in experienced commanders who understood the daily needs of the troops.

Russian president Vladimir Putin said Russian and Belarus’ forces had started joint preparations for tactical nuclear weapons drills, Interfax news agency reported on Thursday.

Russian service members, who were involved in the country’s military campaign in Ukraine, march in columns during a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 79th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2024. Photograph: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday appointed former army chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, who led Ukraine’s defence in the first two years of Moscow’s full-scale invasion, as Kyiv’s ambassador to the United Kingdom.

The decree was published on the presidential website. Zaluzhnyi was earlier named a “Hero of Ukraine”, Reuters reported.

Ukraine has not had an ambassador in London since Zelenskiy dismissed former envoy Vadym Prystaiko in July 2023 after he publicly criticised the president.

Zaluzhnyi is very popular among many Ukrainians for leading the army in the first hours of Russia’s invasion and for planning a counteroffensive that helped liberate significant swathes of territory seized by Moscow.

Ukraine says attack drone flew ‘record’ 1,500km

A Ukrainian attack drone struck a Russian oil processing plant in the Bashkiria region on Thursday after flying a “record” distance of 1,500 km (932.06 miles) in an operation conducted by the SBU security service, a Kyiv intelligence source told Reuters.

The drone hit a catalytic cracking unit at the Gazprom Neftekhim Salavat oil processing, petrochemical and fertiliser complex, the source said. Russia confirmed the fact of damage at the plant earlier, but said the facility was functioning as usual.

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More images and reports are coming in from Russia’s events to mark victory in the Second World War.

Although the US and UK ambassadors did not attend, AP reports that Vladimir Putin was joined by other dignitaries and presidents of several former Soviet nations along with a few other Moscow allies, including the leaders of Cuba, Guinea-Bissau and Laos.

Many observers see Putin’s focus on World War II as part of his efforts to revive the USSR’s clout and prestige and his reliance on Soviet practices, AP adds.

“It’s the continuous self-identification with the USSR as the victor of Nazism and the lack of any other strong legitimacy that forced the Kremlin to declare ‘denazification’ as the goal of the war,” Nikolay Epplee said in a commentary for Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center.

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Cameron said Britain had imposed unprecedented sanctions against Russia and was continuing to call on allies to maintain military support for Ukraine.

“To persuade we need to be active,” he added, referring to trips he had recently undertaken to central Asia, saying that potential partners all over the world needed to be told they could be helped to make a choice to “be more open, more independent”

Cameron also announced a new £1m programme for the British Council to teach English to Ukrainian civil servants, saying that Britain should also not hold back on championing the language around the world.

Some reaction and analysis is coming through from those who eager to pick up on policy nuances from the speech, which happened to go ahed with some embarrassing technical glitches.

Lord Cameron explicitly linking foreign, immigration, and economic policy in his speech this morning – the whole country needs to share in the benefits of globalisation, foreign policy is about prosperity too pic.twitter.com/drfXjpCy5z

— Olivia O’Sullivan (@LivJOSullivan) May 9, 2024

Cameron himself had also tweeted a ‘speed version’ of the speech

Cameron was one of the biggest champions behind overthrowing Gaddafi in Libya, resulting in it becoming a failed state.

David Cameron’s foreign policy single handily led to a country reinstating slavery and more than 4 million refugees pouring into Europe.

Shut up David. https://t.co/bTdSU4HfbT

— Ryan James Girdusky (@RyanGirdusky) May 9, 2024

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