War in Ukraine: Two senior figures sacked by parliament at the request of Volodymyr Zelensky

War in Ukraine: Two senior figures sacked by parliament at the request of Volodymyr Zelensky

This is the first major overhaul since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelensky announced Sunday evening to dismiss his head of the security services and the general prosecutor in the form of presidential decrees. The first, Ivan Bakanov, childhood friend of the Head of State, and Iryna Venediktova, were suspended. In his daily video address, the Ukrainian head of state then criticized them for insufficient efforts in the fight against spies and collaborators of Moscow.

More than 650 investigations for “high treason” and “collaboration” with Moscow target collaborators of the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office and law enforcement, which raises “very serious questions” about the two leaders, underlined the president. At his request, the Parliament voted on Tuesday the dismissal of the two interested parties. “Everyone expected” from them “more tangible results” in the “cleansing of collaborators and traitors” infiltrated, detailed Monday a deputy head of the presidential administration, Andriï Smyrnov.

“The president and his cabinet were not happy with the work of Bakanov and Venediktova” for a long time and the Russian invasion has further exacerbated the tension, for his part estimated the Ukrainian political scientist Volodymyr Fessenko.

High treason

Separately, at least three senior SBU officials have been charged with high treason for Moscow in recent months. One of them, Oleg Koulinitch, sacked in March and arrested on Sunday, had been based in Kherson.

Located at the gates of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea annexed by Moscow in 2014, this strategic region was very quickly occupied by Russian troops after the start of the invasion, which earned the government to be accused of having poorly prepared his defence. “Supposed to help Bakanov, this man collaborated 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 Volodymyr Fessenko.

Unsatisfactory results

Zelensky also sacked the head of the SBU in this region, Serguiï Kryvoroutchko, at the end of March. Another regional SBU official is suspected of having delivered to the Russians secret maps of minefields supposed to prevent their progress, according to the head of the regional council.

The Ukrainian president announced on Monday evening a “review of executives” within the SBU, specifying that 28 of his agents should be dismissed soon for “unsatisfactory results” and dismissing one of Bakanov’s deputies in the process.

Docile substitutes

For many in Ukraine, this reshuffle looks like a maneuver to strengthen the head of state’s control over the police, the successors of Ivan Bakanov and Iryna Venediktova being considered more docile. Volodymyr Zelensky replaced the dismissed officials with their respective deputies – Vassyl Maliouk and Oleksiï Symonenko – by appointing them as interim.

“It is clear” that these men “will carry out all the political orders” of the presidency, believes Tetiana Shevtchouk, an expert from the Ukrainian NGO Center for Action against Corruption, quoted by the Forbes Ukraine site.

While Ukraine, under pressure from the West, is on the verge of having an independent anti-corruption prosecutor, the new prosecutor general will have the means to “block or cancel” the latter’s decisions according to the wishes of the presidency, warns the director of this NGO, Vitaly Chabounine.

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