Russian spies in Ukraine and the loss of a key area: Zelensky turns heads

Russian spies in Ukraine and the loss of a key area: Zelensky turns heads

Infiltration of Russian spies and losses in a strategic area in the south: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has dismissed the head of the security services and the prosecutor in the first major cabinet reshuffle since the start of the Russian invasion of his country.

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The announcement came on Sunday evening, initially in the form of presidential decrees with the suspension of the head of the Security Services (SBU) Ivan Bakanov, a childhood friend of the head of state, and prosecutor Irina Venediktova.

In his daily video address, Mr. Zelensky then criticized them for their insufficient efforts to fight spies and collaborators in Moscow.

The president emphasized that more than 650 investigations of “high treason” and “collaboration” with Moscow target collaborators with the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office and law enforcement, which raises “very serious questions” about the two leaders.

At his request, Parliament voted on Tuesday to dismiss Mr. Bakanov and Ms. Venediktova.

“Everyone expected” from them “more tangible results” in the process of “cleansing collaborators and traitors,” Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Andrich Smirnov said Monday.

Damaged negotiations

Ukrainian political researcher Volodymyr Fesenko told AFP that “the president and his government were not happy with the work of Bakanov and Venediktova” for a long time, and that the Russian invasion heightened tensions.

At least three senior SBU officials have been accused of high treason against Moscow in recent months. One of them, Oleg Kolinch, who was sacked in March and arrested on Sunday, was based in Kherson.

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Located at the gates of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014, Russian forces quickly occupied this strategic area after the invasion began, causing the government to accuse it of being poorly prepared for defence.

“It was supposed to help Bakanov, this man cooperated with the Russian special services. It was a very serious failure, in my opinion it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Zelensky,” analyzes Mr. Fesenko.

Zelensky had also dismissed the head of the security management unit in this region, Sergoic Krivoruchko, at the end of March. It is suspected that another regional official in the State Security Administration handed over to the Russians secret maps of minefields that are supposed to prevent their progress, according to the head of the regional council.

Mr. Zelensky announced Monday night a “review of executives” within the SBU, specifying that 28 of his agents should be fired soon for “unsatisfactory results” and firing one of Bakanov’s aides in the process.

Ms. Venediktova led the investigation into the atrocities committed by Russian forces since the invasion began, particularly in the town of Bucha, near Kyiv, which has become a symbol of Moscow’s “war crimes” in Ukraine.

According to the influential news site Okranska Pravda, it has angered the presidency by media coverage deemed to be excessive in its activities but above all by launching speedy trials of Russian soldiers.

The site asserts that these trials undermined the very difficult negotiations on the exchange of prisoners of war with Russia, which is one of the priorities of President Zelensky.

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Docile alternatives

To many in Ukraine, this adjustment appears to be a maneuver to strengthen the head of state’s control over the police, and Mr. Bakanov’s and Ms. Venediktova’s successors are seen as more pliant.

Mr. Zelensky replaced the dismissed officials with their two deputies – Vasyl Maliuk and Alexić Simonenko – by appointing them on a temporary basis.

It is “obvious” that these men “will carry out all the political orders” of the presidency, believes Tetiana Shevchuk, an expert at the Ukrainian NGO Center for Action Against Corruption, citing Forbes Ukraine.

While Ukraine, under pressure from the West, is on the verge of obtaining an independent anti-corruption prosecutor, the new prosecutor will have the means to “prevent or cancel” the latter’s decisions in accordance with the wishes of the presidency, warns the director of this NGO, Vitaly Shabunin .

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About the Author: Hermínio Guimarães

"Introvertido premiado. Viciado em mídia social sutilmente charmoso. Praticante de zumbis. Aficionado por música irritantemente humilde."

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