Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Shapovalov resigns citing ‘media accusations’ of corruption

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, responsible for supplying troops with food and equipment, has resigned, citing “media accusations” of corruption that he and the ministry say are baseless.

A statement on the defence ministry’s website said that Shapovalov’s resignation was “a worthy deed” that would help retain trust in the ministry, Reuters reports.

Key events

Ukraine’s deputy prosecutor general Symonenko removed from post

Ukraine’s deputy prosecutor general Oleksiy Symonenko was removed from his post during a shakeup of senior officials on Tuesday, the prosecutor general’s office said.

Reuters reports the statement announcing his removal gave no reason for the decision but said it had been “according to his own wish”.

Earlier presidential aide Kyrylo Tymoshenko and deputy defence minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov both resigned, as Ukraine is gripped in a corruption scandal within its government.

Reuters has a quick snap to say that Ukraine’s deputy prosecutor general has been fired. The move comes after both presidential aide Kyrylo Tymoshenko and deputy defence minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov resigned, amid a corruption scandal across the government.

More details soon …

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Shapovalov resigns citing ‘media accusations’ of corruption

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, responsible for supplying troops with food and equipment, has resigned, citing “media accusations” of corruption that he and the ministry say are baseless.

A statement on the defence ministry’s website said that Shapovalov’s resignation was “a worthy deed” that would help retain trust in the ministry, Reuters reports.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence has published its daily operational briefing on how it sees the situation on the ground in Ukraine. Today the focus is on speculation about the Russian military hierarchy, with the MoD report claiming:

General Colonel Mikhail Teplinsky has likely been dismissed as one of Russia’s key operational commanders in Ukraine. Teplinsky was the officer on the ground in charge of Russia’s relatively successful withdrawal from west of the Dnipro in November 2022, and he has received praise in Russia as a capable and pragmatic commander. Teplinsky’s dismissal is likely another symptom of continued divisions within the senior hierarchy of Russia’s operation as General Valery Gerasimov attempts to impose his personal authority on the campaign.

Ukraine’s state broadcaster Suspilne has posted the following summary update to the Telegram messaging app, saying:

In the morning, Russian troops shelled Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region: residential buildings were hit, large-scale fires broke out.

In occupied Crimea, the Russian FSB [Federal Security Service] searched the homes of six Crimean Tatars. They were detained. Their relatives do not know where they are, Crimean Solidarity reports.

In the night anti-aircraft battle, in the eastern direction units of the anti-aircraft missile forces destroyed three Russian Ka-52 helicopters.

In Donetsk region, three civilians were killed by Russian shelling last night, and three more were injured.

The claims have not been independently verified.

Finland’s foreign minister has signalled a possible pause in discussions with Turkey over Finnish ambitions to join Nato, which he says is due to the pressure of Turkey’s forthcoming election.

Along with Sweden, Finland has been accepted as a member by the military alliance, but the process is yet to be ratified by Turkey, which has objections over what it claims is the harbouring and protection of anti-Turkish groups.

Reuters reports Pekka Haavisto has said that the situation is “hectic” because of elections in Turkey, and that a timeout is needed. Haavisto said he spoke to his Turkish counterpart yesterday and he expected there to be a pause for a couple of weeks. He said he did not see any point in Finland moving forward with the process ahead of Sweden, and that the talks should continue to be three-way.

Haavisto said Nato remains keen to include Finland and Sweden at the same time as it would ease defence planning.

The 2023 Turkish general election will be held on 14 May, when voters will choose a president and a new parliament.

Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto talks to the press in Brussels yesterday. Photograph: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

Ukrinform has more quotes from the resignation letter of Kyrylo Tymoshenko, who is leaving the post of deputy head of the office of the president of Ukraine.

In the letter, Tymoshenko thanked “every head of the regional military administrations. You and I were able to build the most powerful team in the country. You are great. You are real warriors of light!”

As well as thanking city mayors for being “constructive in disputes”, he had a wider message, saying: “I thank all Ukrainians for trust. I thank the armed forces of Ukraine for saving and defending our country. I thank my wife and son for understanding and support.”

There is some suggestion in Ukraine’s media that the heads of several regional authorities who were closely associated with Tymoshenko may also offer their resignations.

The general staff of the armed forces of Ukraine has issued its daily operational briefing. In the last 24 hours it claims to have killed 690 Russian troops, and destroyed two tanks, eight armoured personnel carriers, two artillery systems, 1 MLRS, two planes, four helicopters and three drones.

The claims have not been independently verified.

More now on Tymoshenko’s resignation, via Reuters.

Zelenskiy’s aide gave no reason for his resignation. Ukrainian media had reported that Tymoshenko might be part of the personnel shake-up the Ukrainian leader announced.

A decree accepting Tymoshenko’s resignation was published on the president’s website.

Zelenskiy said on Monday that personnel changes would be announced this week in the government, the regions and in the security forces after allegations of corruption nearly a year into Russia’s invasion.

Tymoshenko, 33, had been the deputy head of presidential office since 2019, overseeing regions and regional policies. He also worked with Zelenskiy during his election campaign, overseeing media and creative content.

“Since the start Russian invasion in Ukraine of February 2022, according to Ukrainian media, Tymoshenko had been embroiled in several scandals related to his personal use of expensive cars,” Reuters reports. “Tymoshenko has denied all the allegations.”

Zelenskiy aide resigns

The deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said on Tuesday he had asked President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday to relieve him of his duties.

“I thank the president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the trust and the opportunity to do good deeds every day and every minute,” Tymoshenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

German defence group offers to send tanks if needed

German defence group Rheinmetall could deliver 139 Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine if required, a spokesperson for the company told media group RND.

Germany is coming under intense pressure from Ukraine and some Nato allies, such as Poland, to allow Kyiv to be supplied with the German-made Leopard 2 tanks for its defence against Russia’s invasion.

The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has so far held back from supplying the tanks or allowing other Nato countries to do so.

Rheinmetall could deliver 29 Leopard 2A4 tanks by April/May and a further 22 of the same model around the end of 2023 or early 2024, the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

More on the corruption scandal in Ukraine: several Ukrainian media outlets have reported that cabinet ministers and senior officials could be sacked imminently.

On Sunday, anti-corruption police said they had detained the deputy infrastructure minister on suspicion of receiving a $400,000 kickback over the import of generators last September, an allegation the minister denies.

A newspaper investigation accused the defence ministry of overpaying suppliers for soldiers’ food. The supplier has said it made a technical mistake and no money had changed hands.

David Arakhamia, the head of Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, said officials should “focus on the war, help victims, cut bureaucracy and stop dubious business”.

“We’re definitely going to be jailing actively this spring. If the humane approach doesn’t work, we’ll do it in line with martial law,” he said.

Zelenskiy flags more changes in corruption purge

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said personnel changes were being carried out at senior and lower levels, following the most high-profile graft allegations since Russia’s invasion that threaten to dampen western enthusiasm for the Kyiv government, Reuters reports.

Reports of a fresh scandal in Ukraine, which has a long history of shaky governance, come as European countries bicker over giving Kyiv German-made Leopard 2 tanks – the workhorse of armies across Europe that Ukraine says it needs to break through Russian lines and recapture territory.

“There are already personnel decisions – some today, some tomorrow –regarding officials at various levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in the regions and in law enforcement,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address on Monday.

Zelenskiy, who did not identify the officials to be replaced, said his plans included toughening oversight on travelling abroad for official assignments.

Welcome and summary

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the war in Ukraine. My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest for the next while.

Our top story this morning:

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said personnel changes were being carried out at senior and lower levels, following the most high-profile graft allegations since Russia’s invasion that threaten to dampen western enthusiasm for the Kyiv government.

And German defence group Rheinmetall could deliver 139 Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine if required, a spokesperson for the company told media group RND.

We’ll have more on these stories shortly. In the meantime here are the key recent developments:

  • Germany’s approval for the re-export of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine is of secondary importance as Poland could send those tanks as part of a coalition of countries even without its permission, the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said on Monday. “We will ask for such permission, but this is an issue of secondary importance. Even if we did not get this approval … we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine”, Morawiecki told reporters.

  • German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock’s comment on Sunday, that her country would not “stand in the way” of Poland sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, is causing some confusion in Berlin. It remains unclear whether her remarks are indicative of a shift in the government’s position. Baerbock did not repeat her comment when pressed on the matter on Monday morning. “It’s important that we as an international community do everything to defend Ukraine, so that Ukraine wins”, she told press at a meeting of the EU’s foreign affairs council in Brussels. “Because if it loses Ukraine will cease to exist.”

  • Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov said during his visit to South Africa on Monday that Ukraine was rejecting peace talks and the longer this continued the harder it would be to resolve the conflict. Lavrov met South Africa’s foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, in a trip some opposition parties and the small Ukrainian community in South Africa have condemned as insensitive. The South African military is set to host a joint military exercise with Russia and China on its east coast on 17-27 February.

  • 18 people injured as a result of last weekend’s rocket attack on a high-rise building in Dnipro remain in hospital, including one child. Ukraine state broadcaster reports. “There are no serious patients among these patients, all of them were transferred from intensive care units to general departments.”

  • Dmytro Zhyvytskyi, governor of Sumy in Ukraine’s north-east, has said that an apartment building and railway infrastructure has been hit by Russian fire in Vorozhba. There were no details of casualties.

  • The top Moscow-installed official in the Russian-occupied parts of the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine said late on Sunday that he had visited the town of Soledar, which Russia claimed to have captured earlier this month. Denis Pushilin published a short video on the Telegram messaging app that showed him driving and walking amid desolate areas and destroyed buildings. The Guardian was not able to independently verify when and where the video was taken. On 11 January, the private Russian military group Wagner said it had captured Soledar. Ukraine has never publicly said that the town was taken by Russian forces.

  • Russian state-owned news agency Tass is reporting that Russian forces claim to have destroyed a large Ukrainian ammunition depot in the Kherson region.

  • Russia has said it is downgrading diplomatic relations with the Nato member Estonia, accusing Tallinn of “total Russophobia”. The Russian foreign ministry said it had told the Estonian envoy he must leave next month, and both countries would be represented in each other’s capitals by an interim charge d’affaires instead of an ambassador.

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