June 19, 2024

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Zelenskyy fires head of Ukraine’s medical forces as US defence chief visits Kyiv

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President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for urgent operational changes in Ukraine’s army as he sacked the commander of the medical forces following months of criticism from combat medics about the poor quality of supplies for the country’s soldiers.

The call was followed by an unannounced visit to Kyiv by US defence secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday. Austin reassured Ukrainian leaders of Washington’s “steadfast support” as they head into a difficult winter military campaign against Russian forces.

Announcing the leadership change during his evening address on Sunday, Zelenskyy said Major General Tetiana Ostashchenko’s dismissal and the need for a change within the military’s medical forces was “obvious”.

“This has been repeatedly discussed in society, in particular in the community of our combat medics — a fundamentally new level of medical support for our military is needed,” the president said.

Military medics told the Financial Times in October that poor quality supplies and lack of medical training were costing soldiers’ lives on the frontline, as Ukraine presses ahead with its sputtering counteroffensive meant to wrest back territory and deter increased Russian attacks in the country’s east. Cheap tourniquets, many made in China, have flooded Ukraine and made their way into soldiers’ first-aid kits, medics said.

While Ukraine does not disclose its casualty figures, the US estimates that about 130,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been injured and about 70,000 killed since President Vladimir Putin launched Russia’s invasion. Russia’s military is believed to have lost roughly 120,000 troops, with another 280,000 wounded, according to US estimates.

Austin’s trip to Ukraine, accompanied by Gen Christopher Cavoli, head of the US military’s European Command and Nato’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, was his second since…

2023-11-20 17:24:53

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