Zelenski ousts Ukraine’s intelligence chief and prosecutor general amid treason charges

Jul. 17 () –

The President of Ukraine, Volodimir Zelenski, has dismissed with immediate effect the head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Ivan Bakanov, and the country’s Prosecutor General, Irina Venediktova, as announced this Sunday in a presidential decree followed by a public appearance of the president, in which he accused employees of both departments of carrying out treasonous acts against the Ukrainian state.

Venediktova will be replaced by Oleksiy Simonenko while the replacement of Bakalov, until now a member of the president’s closest circle of friends and from whom the president, according to sources of the American news portal Politico, had distanced himself after the fall of the Kherson region into Russian hands during the first weeks of the war, has not been announced.

According to the decree published on the Ukrainian Presidential website, Bakalov has been dismissed in accordance with Article 47 of the Disciplinary Statute of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which alludes to “failure to perform (or improper performance of) service duties with the consequent cost of human lives.”

For her part, the prosecutor has been dismissed under the war powers assumed by Zelenski after the Russian invasion of the country, without giving further details. The decree specifically alludes to Article 11 of the martial law in force in Ukraine which “grants the President the power to dismiss an official whose appointment is under his authority.”

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In an appearance before the population after announcing the dismissals, the President of Ukraine has wielded that about 60 staff members of the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Security Service “remained in the territories occupied by Russia and collaborated with the Russians.”

“Such a set of crimes against the foundations of the national security of the state and the connections that have been registered between the employees of the Ukrainian security forces and the Russian special services raise very serious questions about their respective leaders,” the president said in a speech on the presidential website.

Zelensky mentioned as an example the arrest just this weekend of the former head of the SBU for Crimea, Oleg Kulinich, on charges of treason. The president had dismissed him in March, a few days after the conflict began.

Ukrainian authorities suspect that Kulinich, appointed by Bakalov, ordered the dismantling of Ukrainian minefields along the demarcation line with Crimea last winter, which allowed Russian forces to advance very easily into the south of the country and seize the Kherson region in particular.

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“This person was dismissed by me at the beginning of the full-scale invasion and, as we can see, that decision was absolutely justified, and we have gathered enough evidence to notify this person of the suspicion of treason,” he has assured.

The president added “all those who together with him were part of a criminal group working in collusion with the Russian Federation will also be held responsible for the delivery transfer of secret information to the enemy and other facts of cooperation with the Russian special services.”

The president assured in his speech that already “651 criminal prosecutions for treason and collaboration activities have been registered in employees of prosecutor’s offices, investigative bodies and other law enforcement agencies.”

Finally, Zelenski has called for the appointment of a new head of the country’s Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, as well as to that of an additional independent anti-corruption agency, as requested at the time by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, as a condition for pushing Ukraine’s accession to the European Union, Bloomberg reports.

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