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UPDATED: Media writes Defense Ministry considers dismissing 3 commanders, ministry denies

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk November 13, 2023 7:12 PM 3 min read
Rustem Umerov stands in the Ukrainian parliament during voting on his nomination as the Ukrainian defense minister in Kyiv on Sept. 6, 2023. (Andrii Nesterenko/AFP via Getty Images)
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Editor's note: The Defense Ministry issued a statement following the publication of this story, saying "information published by a number of media outlets is not true." The ministry didn't specify the media nor what the statement was referring to.

The Defense Ministry is considering potential dismissal of three commanders within Ukraine’s Armed Forces, Ukrainian media outlet Ukrainska Pravda reported on Nov. 13, citing unnamed sources in the country’s military and political leadership.

According to the sources, Defense Minister Rustem Umerov is preparing requests to dismiss Medical Forces Commander Tetiana Ostashchenko, Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, the commander of the Tavria Group, and Joint Forces Commander Serhii Naiev.

Ukrainian paramedics and volunteers have reportedly called on the country’s leadership to fire Ostashchenko. In July, lawmaker Solomiia Bobrovska said that the Medical Forces Command hadn’t purchased any first aid kits in 2023, and those provided through international aid were not properly checked.

The reasons for the possible dismissal of Tarnavskyi, who commands troops on the southern front line, and Naiev are unknown, Ukrainska Pravda wrote.

Serhii Nikiforov, a spokesperson for the Presidential Office, told Ukrainska Pravda that the office would announce the dismissals on its website if such decisions are approved.

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Meanwhile, one of the media outlet’s sources said the discussions on firing the three commanders have been ongoing for months.

Hours after Ukrainska Pravda published the report, the Defense Ministry issued a “response to all media inquiries” saying that “information published by a number of outlets is not true.” The ministry didn’t specify to which reports it was reacting to.

“The Defense Ministry does not comment on rumors or unverified information. Everyone works as usual, and decisions are discussed in coordination with the General Staff.”

Earlier in November, Zelensky dismissed General Viktor Khorenko from his role as the Special Operations Forces (SOF) commander at Umerov’s request, replacing him with Serhii Lupanchuk.

The replacement caused confusion between the Defense Ministry and the Armed Forces as Khorenko said he learned about his dismissal from the media and was surprised.

The dismissal of Khorenko comes after Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi published an op-ed with a sobering outlook on the state of the war. Zelensky’s administration criticized Zaluzhnyi’s comments in the press, alleging he went too far in disclosing battlefield information to the public.

Zaluzhnyi: Ukraine must escape from ‘trap’ of prolonged war
Ukraine needs specific support from the West now that the war is in danger of moving to a “positional” stage, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, wrote in an opinion piece for the Economist on Nov. 1.
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