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Ukraine's Zelenskiy Names New Commander In Donbas Conflict Zone

Ukrainian servicemen have been battling Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014. (file photo)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has appointed Lieutenant General Volodymyr Kravchenko to lead the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) in eastern Ukraine where Kyiv has been fighting Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.

Kravchenko previously was commander of the "North" operational and tactical group composed of six regions and the city of Kyiv.

Issued on August 5, the presidential decree replaces General Oleksandr Syrsky who was made commander of the army's ground forces.

Sysrsky first headed Sector C when the armed conflict started in the easternmost regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in April 2014. Kyiv first called the deployment an Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) and changed it to the JFO in the spring of 2018.

He was one of the main commanders during the battle of Debaltseve in the winter of 2015 when Russia-backed separatists launched an offensive to take over the vital railroad hub city in the Donetsk region.

Ex-President Petro Poroshenko appointed Syrsky the head of the ATO in 2017 and JFO commander in May.

More than 13,000 people have been killed in the Donbas conflict and 1.5 million more have been internally displaced.