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Ukrainian Zelensky takes action against “espionage”.

#Ukrainian #Zelensky #takes #action #espionage

The Ukrainian army is putting up a front-line stalemate against Russian troops, but President Volodymyr Zelensky’s shocking dismissal of two senior law enforcement officials has exposed another front in the war closer to home – against spies and Kremlin sympathizers.

His sacking of SBU security chief Ivan Bakanov, a childhood friend of President Zelenskyy, and prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova is unprecedented since the invasion began.

The decision was announced on Sunday and approved by parliament on Tuesday, with Zelensky berating the couple for their failure to counter the activities of Russian spies and collaborators in Ukraine.

In his daily video address, he said there were over 650 cases of officials suspected of treason and supporting Russia, including 60 “working against our state” in Russian-held areas of the country.

“All the expected … more tangible results” of Bakanov and Venediktova in the “fight against collaborators and traitors,” said Andriy Smyrnov, deputy head of the presidential administration.

– ‘The Last Straw’ –

“The president and his cabinet were not satisfied with the work of Bakanov and Venediktova,” Ukrainian political scientist Volodymyr Fesenko told AFP before the Russian invasion.

At least three senior SBU officials have been charged with treason in recent months.

One of them, Oleg Kulinich, who was released in March and arrested on Sunday, was stationed in the southern Kherson region.

Located near the Crimean peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014, the region was quickly taken over by Russian troops early in the invasion – a major setback for which the government has been heavily criticized.

“This man worked with Russian intelligence agencies. This is a very heavy blow. From my point of view, that was the last straw for Zelenskyj,” said Fesenko.

Zelenskyy had already fired the regional head of the SBU for Kherson, Sergiy Kryvoruchko.

Another SBU official is suspected of sharing top-secret maps of minefields with Russian troops intended to hamper their advance.

Zelenskyy said Monday there would be a “review” within the SBU, noting that 28 agents could be fired for “unsatisfactory” work.

One of Bakanov’s deputies was also fired.

– Prisoner swap in danger? –

Venediktova led the high-profile investigations into atrocities committed by Russian forces, particularly in the city of Bucha, which has become a symbol of alleged Russian war crimes.

According to the influential news site Ukrainska Pravda, she drew the wrath of the presidency by attracting undue media attention and being rushed through trials of captured Russian soldiers.

According to the report, the trials have angered Moscow and complicated negotiations over the prisoner swap, a priority for Zelenskyy.

For many observers in Ukraine, the reshuffle appears to have been a move to strengthen the president’s control over law enforcement.

The interim successors Bakanov and Venediktova, their respective deputies, are considered to be more docile politically.

“It is clear” that these men will carry out “all political orders” from the presidency, said Tetyana Shevchuk, an expert at the Center for Anti-Corruption Measures, an NGO cited by Forbes Ukraine.

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#Ukrainian #Zelensky #takes #action #espionage

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