Ukraine's Poroshenko names new head of anti-rebel operations

KIEV Tue Jul 8, 2014 2:54am EDT

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko  smiles as he speaks during a news conference at the EU Council in Brussels June 27, 2014. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko smiles as he speaks during a news conference at the EU Council in Brussels June 27, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

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KIEV (Reuters) - President Petro Poroshenko has named a new chief of military operations against separatists in eastern Ukraine, continuing a shake-up of the military and security leadership to combat the insurgency.

In a decree, he named Vasyl Grytsak head of the "anti-terrorist center", making him operational chief in the drive to quash the rebels.

Pro-Russian separatists have been fighting government forces since April when they set up 'people's republics' in the east of Ukraine.

The move, announced on the president's website, is the latest by Poroshenko to tighten his grip on security operations and restore public confidence in his ability to win the fight against the separatists.

After the appointment of a new defense minister and a new head of the armed forces general staff last week, government forces notched up their biggest victory to date against the separatists by re-taking the city of Slaviansk which had been a rebel stronghold.

Grytsak, a 20-year veteran of the state security apparatus, replaces Vasyl Krutov who has headed the "anti-terrorist center" since mid-April.

Despite some other military successes, Krutov and other security officials have come under public criticism for big military losses including the downing by the rebels of an Il-76 cargo plane in June with the deaths of more than 49 crew and servicemen.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Writing by Richard Balmforth, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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