Ukraine replaces the commander of the Territorial Defense Forces

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy replaced the head of the Territorial Defense Forces after nearly three months of conflict with Russia, but gave no reason.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said May 16 that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had appointed Major General Ihor Tansyura to replace Yuri Halushkin as commander of the Territorial Defense Forces, which assist the Ukrainian army in dealing with the Russian military campaign. It is not clear why Mr Halushkin was replaced.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry describes Mr Tansyura as a veteran officer who served as the chief of staff of the Ukrainian army.

Soldiers of the Ukrainian Territorial Self-Defense Forces use an anti-tank grenade launcher during an exercise in the Dnipropetrov region May 14.  Photo: Reuters.

Soldiers of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces use anti-tank guns during exercises in the Dnipropetrov region on May 14. Picture: Reuters.

The Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces are a civilian reserve force established by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine in January with a total of about 130,000 people. The main task is to create combat-ready units from civilians by training and supporting regular troops. This force also includes the International Corps for the Defense of Ukrainian Territories, made up of foreign volunteers.

“The rapid development of the troops, especially in severe combat conditions, is a great experience of both mistakes and achievements. There are successes, and, unfortunately, losses,” said the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

According to the Ukrainian military, on May 16 a battalion of the Territorial Self-Defense Forces pursued near the border with Russia after repelling Russian forces from the city of Kharkov in the north-east of the country.

This morning, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine announced that the combat operation in Mariupol was over and ordered the commanders of the Azovstal plant to “save the lives of the soldiers”. The agency did not say how many people were still at the facility, but the evacuation would likely mark the end of the longest and bloodiest struggle in the nearly three-month conflict in Ukraine, and also a significant defeat for Kyiv.

Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine in late February to become “demilitarized, de-fascist.” Russian forces retreated from Kharkov province but advanced deeper into the heart of Ukraine’s Donbass region.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces in eastern Ukraine have reached the border between Donetsk and Lugansk, two Russian-speaking provinces where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years. The army’s statement shows that Moscow is likely to soon gain control of the entire Donbass region, compared to just a third before the operation began.

Ministry of War in Ukraine.  Graphic: Washington Post.

Ministry of War in Ukraine. Graphic: Washington Post.

Huyen Le (Corresponding Reuters)