Ukraine general criticises firing of recruitment chiefs

Ukraine's top general has issued his strongest criticism to date of a previous presidential decision to fire regional military draft office chiefs, Interfax Ukraine reports.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy fired all of Ukraine's regional military recruitment heads in August in a corruption crackdown.

He said at the time a state investigation into centres across Ukraine had exposed abuses by officials ranging from illegal enrichment to transporting draft-eligible men across the border despite a wartime ban on them leaving the country.

Asked by reporters on the sidelines of an event on Monday about whether the decision affected mobilisation levels, Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi bemoaned the recruitment chiefs' sacking.

"These were professionals, they knew how to do this, and they are gone," Interfax Ukraine cited him as saying.

Zaluzhnyi's frank assessment of battlefield realities in a November essay published in The Economist are in stark contrast to the unwavering optimism of Zelenskiy's public speeches.

Ukrainska Pravda, a major Ukrainian media outlet, recently reported of a long history of growing tensions between the two men, citing several anonymous officials.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy dismissed all of Ukraine's regional army recruitment heads in August.

Asked by reporters to comment on the Defence Ministry's recent plan to boost military recruitment, Zaluzhnyi said the old system should be brought back.

"It is still a little early to evaluate recruiting. As for mobilisation issues, it is not necessary to strengthen it but to return it to those boundaries (and) to those frameworks that worked before," Interfax Ukraine quoted him as saying.

Ukraine, which initially had tens of thousands of eager volunteers queue up to fight off Russia's invasion, is now trying to conscript more men to replace those currently at the front.

Angry social media posts have abounded in recent weeks purporting to show army recruiters turning up at gyms and resorts to hand out draft notices.

Zaluzhnyi's remarks come a day after it was publicly revealed that an information gathering device had been found in an office that he had been due to move into, with the domestic security service launching an investigation.

The General Staff said on Monday "listening devices" had been installed in offices intended for the work of the commander-in-chief and employees of his office.

Zaluzhnyi told Ukraine's RBC media that he had used the office before, but not recently, and was supposed to work there again on Monday.

"(I regard this) as a war. Anything can happen. The investigation will prove what it was," RBC quoted Zaluzhnyi on Monday.

He denied employees of the General Staff could have been involved in the installation.

He also said he did not believe state secrets had been discussed in the office.

The security service added that the device - initially characterised as a bug by local media - was considered under preliminary information to be "in a non-operational state" - and no means of information storage or remote transmission of audio recordings were found.

"We emphasise that the device was found not directly in Valeriy Zaluzhnyi's office but in one of the premises that could have been used by him in the future for work," the service said.

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