What was not publicly talked about recently actually happened: Volodymyr Zelenskyi initiated the resignation of his old friend Ivan Bakanov from the post of SBU head.
However, if this decision of the president was expected by many, then the decree of the head of state on the removal of (not so long ago) Irina Venediktova from the post of prosecutor general, on the contrary, somewhat surprised society.
What’s going on? Why is this story talking about increasing the influence of the deputy head of the Office of the President Andriy Yermak – Oleg Tatarov?
What do Bakanov and Venediktova themselves say about their resignation and suspension? And why were the parliament dissatisfied with their work long before February 24?
“If I wanted to release him, I would have already released him.” – so Volodymyr Zelenskyi he recently commented on the possibility of the resignation of SBU head Ivan Bakanov. It was June 27. But less than a month passed, when the president first removed the head of the special service from his post, and later submitted a motion to the parliament for his dismissal.
In the Council itself, the heads of state are not surprised by such a decision.
“Everyone has long understood that something needs to be changed in the SBU. And politicians, and society, and activists – everyone constantly talked about it. Therefore, I think that the president’s decision was made, in particular, to relieve this tension”– colonel of the SBU, secretary of the parliamentary committee on national security, member of the “Voice” faction, told Radio Svoboda Roman Kostenko.
According to him, the representatives of the committee had many questions for Ivan Bakanov long before February 24. One of the cornerstones was the vision of SBU reform.
“In fact, Mr. Bakanov did not want to change anything in the Security Service. He even once told us that “the SBU reform has already taken place”– explains Roman Kostenko.
Despite numerous questions and numerous invitations, the head of the SBU, as the committee says, came for a conversation only once – shortly before the large-scale invasion.
“At that time, he provided all the information that the committee was interested in. But as of now, I understand that the analysis that was presented then was (already now seeing how events are developing) completely wrong.”Kostenko notes.
After the start of the large-scale invasion, for the first time in the Ukrainian political community, there was serious talk about the fact that the president could send the head of the SBU out of office.
The basis for such conversations was a series of high-profile news. First, the probable absence of Bakanov in the capital at the beginning of the great war.
“On February 24, I was a participant in the meeting that took place at the president’s house. I directly saw almost all the heads of central state authorities who were either at their workplaces or in direct contact with the president. The only person I haven’t seen – this is Ivan Bakanov”, – said the People’s Deputy in a conversation with “NV”. Serhiy Rachmanin.
The former head of the Security Service, and now a representative of the “Batkivshchyna” faction, says that the head of the SBU was probably not in the capital at that time Valentin Nalyvaichenko.
“We were in Kyiv all the time. At that time, we did not see any public appearances of either the head of the SBU or his deputies. In any case, March (as well as the end of February) was the period when we did not hear anything about the leadership of the SBU.”he said in a comment to Radio Liberty.
Ivan Bakanov himself did not comment on such accusations against him, both before and now.
However, there are other much more serious accusations that impeach him as the head of the SBU. In particular, the appointment to high positions in the special service of persons who could cooperate with Russia.
For example, after February 24, it turned out that the former head of the Main Directorate of Internal Security of the SBU Andriy Naumov and the former head of the SBU in Crimea Oleg Kulinich could transfer intelligence information against Ukraine and data constituting a state secret to the Russian special services.
“If at least one such “mole” appears in the system, it is not just a crack for the entire system, but a huge problem! Because these people do not just read certificates, but have serious powers and access to all secret operations, to the personal files of SBU employees, to information about the international cooperation of the Security Service… In addition, no decree on appointment in the SBU system is issued without submission with the signature of the head of the SBU”. – ex-head of the Security Service of Ukraine, and now People’s Deputy Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, emphasized in a commentary to Radio Liberty.
It was the presence of persons in the ranks of the SBU who could cooperate with the Russian Federation that became the (official) reason why President Zelensky decided to remove Ivan Bakanov from his post, and later to turn to the parliament with a request for his resignation.
At the same time, the Council believes that not only he should be responsible for the situation in the special service.
“Not only Bakanov worked. Therefore, simply change one and set the following incorrectly. You cannot change or appoint a deputy. Everyone is equally responsible. Then it is necessary to bring in new people who should lead the SBU with their new vision. So that’s all for now – rearranging the chessboard in order to appease the people”– believes Roman Kostenko, colonel of the SBU, secretary of the Committee on National Security, member of the “Voice” faction.
RFE/RL turned to the SBU press service with a request to provide Ivan Bakanov’s comment on the situation surrounding his removal and resignation. But at the time of publication of this article, no response was received.
However, Ivan Bakanov is not the only top player of Ze-team who may lose his position during a large-scale war. The Prosecutor General was also threatened with dismissal Iryna Venediktova.
The parliamentary committee on law enforcement is not surprised. Both representatives of the government and representatives of the opposition say that before her work, issues began to accumulate long ago, and after February 24, they only became more acute.
At the same time, the deputies are surprised by something else: the fact that the president made a decision to remove the prosecutor general without consulting them.
“It was a surprise for the entire committee, as far as I understand, because none of us were consulted about Venediktova’s suspension. Although we live in a parliamentary-presidential republic and it is the Verkhovna Rada that appoints and dismisses the Prosecutor General at the request of the President”– notes the first deputy chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Law Enforcement, People’s Deputy from the “Voice” faction Andriy Osadchuk.
As several representatives of the law enforcement committee (both from the government and from the opposition) told Radio Svoboda, dissatisfaction with Venediktova among deputies began to grow in the fall of last year. One of the reasons is that the Prosecutor General’s Office did not interact very actively with the specialized committee: both in matters of legislative initiatives and in general in the matter of communication.
“When Ryaboshapka was the general prosecutor, he came to the committee (three or four times), reported, despite the fact that all kinds of citizens from the OPZZ and some from the “servants of the people” attacked him. He definitely cooperated with the committee. And Venediktova, it seems, was in the committee only once, and in general – held some personal meetings in the Prosecutor General’s Office. But I believe that this is not entirely correct from the point of view of subordination.”– explains Andrii Osadchuk, the first deputy head of the law enforcement committee.
Currently, the official reason for removing Iryna Venediktova from the post of Prosecutor General (as in the situation with Ivan Bakanov) is the presence of collaborators and state traitors among the employees of the prosecutor’s office.
The Prosecutor General herself is in no hurry to comment on such a decision by Volodymyr Zelenskyi.
“As soon as the stage of “settlement” of the existing situation is completed, in an adequate and understandable way for all parties, I will give a comprehensive comment.” she says.
Meanwhile, the head of the Anti-Corruption Center Vitaly Shabunin believes that traitors and collaborators within the OGPU and SBU are not exactly the reason why Zelensky decided to get rid of Venediktova and Bakanov.
“If this was the true reason, then at least the head of the SBI would fly along with Bakanov and Venediktova, because the SBI certainly has no fewer collaborators than in other bodies. The difference is that the SBU is already under the leadership of Comrade Tatarov, while the SBU and the SBU were not. It wasn’t until now. Because even these bodies ended up under Tatarov”– noted Shabunin y comments Radio Svoboda.
Oleg Tatarov – a former official of the Ministry of Internal Affairs during the times of President Yanukovych and Minister Zakharchenko. Since August 2020, he is the deputy head of the Office of the President, who supervises the issues of the law enforcement bloc.
Tatarov himself calls his work at Bankova “analytical assistance”, but according to deputies, representatives of the government and OP, his field of activity – quite wide.
In the story of Bakanov’s resignation and Venediktova’s dismissal, Tatarov’s name is mentioned because both newly appointed temporary acting heads – both the head of the SBU and the Prosecutor General – have good relations with him: for example, the first – Vasyl Malyuk– and the second – Oleksiy Simonenko– were among those whom Tatarov in 2021 invited to celebrate his birthday.
“For the first time in the history of Ukraine, the leadership of the entire law enforcement unit (except the anti-corruption unit) is in the hands of one person, Tatarov. Even Yanukovych was balancing, handing over control of law enforcement agencies to various people, so that there was some lever of deterrence and counterbalance.– believes the head of the CPK Vitaliy Shabunin.
In his opinion, the fact that President Zelensky allowed this is a “colossal mistake”, as “it will do many of us a disservice.”
According to Shabunin, both Vasyl Malyuk and Oleksiy Symonenko, even before being appointed to the positions of acting head of the SBU and the Prosecutor General, “took frankly illegal and frankly disgusting decisions” (which “despite all the shortcomings” Bakanov and Venediktov).
Currently, there is no new t.v.o. the head of the SBU, Vasyl Malyuk, nor the new acting general prosecutor, Oleksiy Symonenko, publicly commented on both their appointments and the accusations against them.
Oleg Tatarov, the deputy chairman of the OP, has not yet confirmed, but neither has he denied, his connections with them.
In order for the current (currently removed from office) head of the SBU and the current (currently removed from office) head of the Prosecutor General’s Office to be considered officially dismissed, the Verkhovna Rada must vote for their resignation.
Official motions for the dismissal of both Ivan Bakanov and Iryna Venediktova were submitted by the president to the parliament. Deputies can consider them at the next plenary meeting this week.