Putin fires Butcher of Mariupol in unexpected blow against ally

Russian troops shell Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv

Vladimir Putin has fired Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, known as “The Butcher of Mariupol”, from his role as Russian deputy defence minister. Mizintsev, 60, was deputy to Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister, and a close ally of the Russian despot. The news was reported by Russian state TV military correspondent Alexander Sladkov.

He said: “This is my friend. And I respect him a lot. How, what, for what reason – it is difficult to guess. We’ll find out later.

“The exact reasons are not yet clear, just as it is not clear whether this is removal from office, a suspension or a transfer to a new place of service.”

The general was sanctioned by the UK over his role in the siege of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which was taken by Russia in May 2022.

He has been accused of ordering strikes on a children’s hospital, a maternity hospital as well as on civilian homes in Mariupol.

He also ordered the shelling of the Mariupol theatre that killed 300 sheltering civilians.

The UK foreign office has said General Mizintsev had used “reprehensible tactics” and had committed “atrocities”.

He has also commanded troops during the Syrian conflict and was responsible for the destruction of Aleppo.

The news comes as Russia fired more than 20 cruise missiles and two drones at Ukraine early Friday, killing at least 12 people, most of them when two missiles slammed into an apartment building in the center of the country, officials said.

The attacks included the first one against Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, in nearly two months, although there were no reports of any targets hit. The city government said Ukraine’s air force intercepted 11 cruise missiles and two unmanned aerial vehicles over Kyiv.

The strikes on the nine-story residential building in central Ukraine occurred in Uman, a city located around 215 kilometres (134 miles) south of Kyiv. Ten people died in that attack, according to Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Ihor Klymenko. The Ukrainian national police said 17 people were wounded and three children were rescued from the rubble.

The bombardment was nowhere near the war’s sprawling front lines or active combat zones in eastern Ukraine, where a grinding war of attrition has taken hold. Moscow has frequently launched long-range missile attacks during the 14-month war, often indiscriminately hitting civilian areas.

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Ukrainian officials and analysts have alleged the strikes are part of a deliberate intimidation strategy by the Kremlin. Russia has denied its military aims at civilian targets.

The attack was the first on the capital since March 9.

The missiles were fired from aircraft operating in the Caspian Sea region, according to Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander in Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi.

Overall, he said, Ukraine intercepted 21 of 23 Kh-101 and Kh-555 type cruise missiles launched, as well as the two drones.

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