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'Pray that people get around the table': What's next following Ukrainian political shake up?

by Ros Mayfield

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has announced he's replacing his defence minister, setting the stage for the biggest shake-up of Ukraine's defence establishment since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

The decision comes amid continuing rumours of bribery and financial irregularities. Kyiv has applied to join the European Union and the public has become highly sensitive to allegations of corruption as the war rages on with no end in sight.

Major General Tim Cross CBE, a former British army expert who's an expert in military logistics, tells Premier he has a huge amount of time for President Zelensky in general: "Let's look at the positive side, which is he's grasping the nettle. He's doing something about it, he's determined to crack down on corruption."  The Maj General said he can understand the need to take a tough line on discipline: "If the international community is going to invest heavily in Ukraine, post war, they have to be convinced that it is going to be done within an atmosphere of fairness."

The outgoing minister, Oleksii Reznikov, who's held the position since November 2021, has helped secure billions of dollars of Western military aid to help the war effort, but has been dogged by allegations over his use of public funds, and using his position to procure winter coats for the army.  He has denied any wrongdoing, and has described the accusations as "smears".

Major General Cross, who's a Christian, tells Premier how he's praying for the situation: "My answer to this is always the same really, we should be praying for the people at the front, and we should be praying for both sides.  The young Russian soldiers who are fighting this campaign, need our prayers as much as anybody." 

He says that in his view, a negotiated solution may be the best answer: "I think we then need to pray that, somehow, we get people around the table. 

"It's difficult to see how any agreement could be reached at this stage, but ultimately, this will have to come to some sort of end.  We need to pray people like Patriarch Krill (leader of the Russian Orthodox Church and a Putin ally) and others begin to realise that this is not about a "Holy War". It's about an awful lot of people getting killed and injured, and an awful lot of damage being done."

Ukraine's troops have now been fighting the Russian invasion for more than 18 months.  They are currently battling through dangerous and heavily mined areas, trying to break through Russian defensive lines and recapture territory in the southeast and east.

(with additional reporting from Reuters)

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