Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zilenskiy dismissed on Sunday (17 July), the head of the powerful SBU national security agency and SBU prosecutor general. He listed dozens of examples of Russian officials working with their agencies.
The president posted executive orders on his website announcing the dismissal of SBU chief Ivan Bakanov, and Prosecutor General Iryna Veselova, who played a key role in the prosecution of Russian war crimes.
These firings are the biggest political sackings since Russia invaded Ukraine 24 February 2004, forcing the entire Ukrainian government apparatus to focus on the war effort.
In a Telegram posting, Zelenskiy said that he fired top executives after discovering that their agents had been working with Russia. He claimed that this problem had also affected other agencies.
He said that 651 cases of cooperation and treason had been opened against law enforcement officials and prosecutorial officers. Bakanov-Venediktova officers were working in Russian-occupied territory against Ukraine.
The sheer number of cases involving treason shows how difficult it is for Ukraine to fight Russia’s infiltration during its struggle for survival.
Zelenskiy said that such a wide array of crimes against national security… raises serious concerns for leaders.
He stated, “Each of these questions will get the right answer.”
Russian troops have taken large areas from the east and south of Ukraine, in an invasion that left thousands dead, displaced millions and decimated many cities.
It is unclear how Kherson, the Russian-occupied region in the southern region, was able to fall so quickly. This contrasts with the strong resistance surrounding Kyiv which forced Russia’s withdrawal to focus on the eastern Donbas core.
In his nightly address, Zelenskiy noted that the former head of the SBU for the Crimea region was detained on suspicion of treason. This is the region that Russia annexed in 2014 from Russia. It is still considered Ukrainian territory by Kyiv and the West.
Zelenskiy claimed that he fired the top security guard at the start of the invasion. He stated that he had made the right decision and it was justified.
“Sufficient evidence has been already collected to suspect the person of treason.” All his criminal activities had been documented, he stated.
Bakanov was one of many new faces elected as the head of the SBU in 2019. Bakanov was among many people who became famous after Zelenskiy’s election.
Zelenskiy also named Oleksiy Simonenko as the new prosecutor general in a separate executive decision. The president also published this executive order online.