Ukraine lawmakers vote to sack prosecutor general, security chief

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Ukrainian lawmakers on Tuesday endorsed the president s decision to sack the country s top prosecutor and security chief, backing Ukraine s largest political shake-up since Russia invaded.

The overhaul was confirmed as Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks in Tehran with his Turkish counterpart on 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 had secured the required 226 votes.

Zelensky asked parliament to act 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”, saying 28 security officials were facing dismissal.

“Different levels, different directions,” said Zelensky. “But the grounds are similar — unsatisfactory job performance.”

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, on Tuesday discussed mechanisms to export grain from Ukraine.

Afterwards, Putin praised the talks with the presidents of both Turkey and Iran as “truly useful and rather substantial”. Progress on the grain talks had been largely down to Erdogan, he said earlier.

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”.

And a document consulted by AFP Tuesday showed that the European Commission is proposing to unblock assets at Russian banks linked to trade in food and fertiliser.

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.

– Precision rockets a  game-changer  –

Along the Black Sea coast, Kyiv said Tuesday that a barrage of seven cruise missiles had wounded at least six people, including a child, in the southern and coastal region of Odessa.

“One (missile) was shot down by air defences. Six hit a village,” the Ukraine presidency said. “Several residential buildings and other facilities were destroyed and caught fire.”

The Russian defence ministry claimed that strikes on Odessa had destroyed a stockpile of Western-supplied weapons.

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.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said Tuesday another six French-made Caesar artillery were on their way to Ukraine, joining 12 already delivered.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, during a visit to the United States, called for the West to drastically step up its supply of precision rocket systems, calling them a “game-changer”.

And Zelensky s chief of staff Andriy Yermak underlined in an interview published Tuesday that Ukraine had to win its war with Russia before winter.

“After winter, when the Russians will have more time to get a footing, it will certainly be more difficult,” he told Ukrainian weekly Novoye Vremya.

“It is very important for us not to give them this possibility.”

– Deadly strikes in Donbas –

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.

AFP journalists said a four-story residential building had been hit and saw panicked neighbours seeking medical attention from rescue workers.

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 Monday killed six people in the town of Toretsk, not far from Kramatorsk.

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