Ukraine war: Zelensky widens purge of security services

By Joe Inwood in Kyiv and Matt Murphy

BBC News

Ukraine's former SBU head Ivan Bakanov (left) and former Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova. File photoImage source, Future Publishing via Getty Images

Image caption,

Ivan Bakanov (L) and Iryna Venediktova have been dismissed by Ukraine’s parliament

President Volodymyr Zelensky has continued his purge of Ukraine’s security service (SBU) by dismissing the organisation’s deputy director.

Volodymyr Horbenko is the latest official to lose his job after Mr Zelensky said bosses failed to root out pro-Russian elements in the agency.

Regional chiefs in several other cities were also dismissed, Mr Zelensky said.

It comes as MPs voted to dismiss SBU chief Ivan Bakanov and Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova.

On Monday, an adviser to Mr Zelensky suggested that the pair had merely been suspended pending an investigation, after the president initially appeared to sack them in a late-night address.

But on Tuesday the Ukrainian leader laid down a motion of no-confidence in the pair before parliament, which was approved by an overwhelming majority of MPs.

There have been reports for several weeks that Mr Zelensky wanted to replace Mr Bakanov after coming to blame him for failures in stopping the Russian advance in February.

Neither of the top officials, both of whom Mr Zelensky personally appointed, are accused of betraying their country. But they ran agencies where Russian interference appears to have impacted Ukraine’s ability to hold territory in the opening days of the war.

Speaking after the vote, the leader of Mr Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, David Arakhamia, said new information had recently come to light, and the purge of the SBU would continue in the coming days.

“There will be many ‘cleanses’, because over the years many residents of the Russian special services have secretly entrenched themselves within the walls of the SBU, unfortunately,” Mr Arakhamia said, adding: “They got access to materials that they didn’t have before.”

On Sunday, Mr Zelensky said over 60 former SBU and prosecutor’s office employees were now working against Ukraine in Russian-occupied areas.

Mr Bakanov’s deputy, Vasyl Malyuk, was announced as the acting head of the SBU in a decree posted to the presidential website on Thursday.

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