Only a day after two senior Ukrainian officials were dismissed over allegations that their agencies harboured “collaborators and traitors”, the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has expanded the shakeup of his security services on Monday by suspending 28 more officials.
In his nightly video address, Zelensky said a “personnel audit” of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) was underway, and the dismissal of the 28 officials was being decided.
“Different levels, different areas of focus. But the reasons are similar — unsatisfactory results of work.”President Zelensky
On Sunday, he had fired SBU chief Ivan Bakanov and prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova. Mr Zelenskyy, citing hundreds of criminal proceedings into treason and collaboration by people within their departments and other law enforcement agencies.
“Six months into the war, we continue to uncover loads of these people in each of these agencies,” said Andriy Smirnov, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office.
Analysts said the moves are designed to strengthen Mr Zelensky’s control over the army and security agencies, which have been led by people appointed before the Russian invasion began on February 24.
“In the conditions of a war, Mr Zelensky needs leaders that are capable of tackling several tasks at the same time – to resist Russia’s intrigues within the country to create a fifth column, to be in contact and coordination with international experts, to do their actual job effectively,” Volodymyr Fesenko, a political analyst with the Penta Centre think tank, told The Associated Press.
Mr Bakanov is a childhood friend and former business partner of Mr Zelensky, who appointed him to head the SBU. Mr Bakanov had come under growing criticism over security breaches since the war began.
Ms Venediktova won international praise for her drive to gather war-crimes evidence against Russian military commanders and officials, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, over the destruction of Ukrainian cities and the killing of civilians.
Mr Fesenko said discontent with Mr Bakanov and Ms Venediktova had been brewing for a while, and it was possible that Ukraine’s Western partners pointed out the underperformance of the SBU and the prosecutor general’s office to Mr Zelensky.
Meanwhile, Russia pressed forward with its missile and shelling attacks, which Ukrainian officials said were designed to intimidate the civilian population and create panic.