Why Zelensky began an emergency fight against traitors, by Daria Volkova and Alena Zadorozhnaya for VZGLYAD. 18.07.2022.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy removed from their positions two key leaders of the power bloc - the head of the SBU and the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. According to official data, "in connection with the facts of treason on the part of employees of departments." However, according to experts, Ivan Bakanov and Irina Venediktova blamed Zelensky not only for failures in their work. What in reality was the reason for their dismissal and what consequences can it lead to?
The day before, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky removed the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Irina Venediktova and the head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) Ivan Bakanov from their posts, explaining his decision by numerous facts of treason by employees of these departments.
"As of today, 651 criminal proceedings have been registered on high treason and collaborationist activities of employees of the prosecutor's office, pre-trial investigation bodies, and other law enforcement agencies," Zelensky said.
According to him, in 198 criminal proceedings, the relevant persons were informed of suspicion. “In particular, more than 60 employees of the bodies and the SBU remained in the occupied territory and are working against our state,” he added.
Zelensky stressed that "such an array of crimes against the foundations of the national security of the state and the ties recorded between the employees of the security forces of Ukraine and the special services of Russia raise very serious questions for the relevant leaders."
As Zelensky's office later clarified, the dismissal of Bakanov and Venediktova does not mean their dismissal. “The president and all of us have been waiting for more concrete and, possibly, radical results from the leaders of these bodies to clear collaborators and state traitors for quite a long time,” said Andrey Smirnov, deputy head of the Presidential Office. Thus, first, official checks will be carried out against Venediktova and Bakanov, and then Zelensky will submit an idea about their dismissal to the Rada.
At the same time, according to politician and blogger Anatoly Shariy, such steps by Zelensky mean that two key Ukrainian security officials can be “smoothly transferred to the category of suspects in the near future.” The Ukrainian edition of Strana also draws attention to Zelensky's desire to quickly deprive Venediktova and Bakanov of the opportunity to influence any government decisions.
“After all, if we go through the dismissal procedure through parliament, then it would take a certain time - submitting a proposal to the Rada, considering it at a committee, putting a decision to a vote. Taking into account the speed of passing issues in parliament in war conditions, this could, of course, not be a very long procedure. But Bakanov and Venediktova would have had at least half a day from the moment they learned about the president's presentation to the moment they were fired. And it is possible that Zelensky considered that even such time should not be given to them, ”the authors of the publication note.
“Whether he was afraid that the Prosecutor General and the head of the SBU would close some criminal cases during this time, or destroy their materials, or do something else, is an open question. But the speed with which the president decided to remove them from their positions is extremely indicative, ”the publication says.
At the same time, another version of what is happening among Kyiv analysts is also widespread: since the number of defeats of the Armed Forces of Ukraine at the front is growing, as well as rumors about the trade in Western weapons, Zelensky and the head of his office, Andriy Yermak, needed to “make someone extreme”. Among the candidates for this role, in addition to Bakanov and Venediktova, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny was also considered. However, he enjoys the confidence of Western beneficiaries of the conflict in Ukraine, which gives him a certain immunity.
A slightly different point of view is held by the ex-deputy of the Rada Oleg Tsarev. “The real reason for the suspension is that Yermak eliminated his competitors in this way. For this, he used cases of the sale of foreign weapons discovered by the West, which took place under the control of the SBU,” Tsarev told the VZGLYAD newspaper. “Now Yermak will try to increase his influence on law enforcement agencies. At the same time, this is an intra-Ukrainian squabble that will in no way affect the course of Russia’s special operation in Ukraine, either in terms of timing or in terms of the nature of hostilities,” Tsarev believes.
At the same time, political scientist and economist Ivan Lizan believes that Venediktova and Bakanov did not in reality lead the law enforcement agencies of Ukraine, if we do not take into account "terror, protection of business and raider seizures of property." “If it was necessary to carry out a racket and make a nightmare of someone, the SBU was engaged in this. If it was necessary to do everything in a relatively legal and civilized manner, then the prosecutor's office was involved. These people did not influence real politics and law enforcement,” Lizan told the VZGLYAD newspaper.
“It is also no secret to anyone that the power bloc of Ukraine is closed to the United States. The Americans even created an anti-corruption vertical independent of the Kyiv authorities. She worked, of course, not as efficiently as in Romania, but nonetheless,” said Lizan.
“Who Zelensky appoints to these positions also does not matter to us. Personnel decisions will be made on the basis of the principle of personal loyalty to Vladimir Zelensky, and in terms of their professional qualities, the new leaders of the power bloc are unlikely to differ much from Bakanov,” Lizan believes.
In turn, the leader of the Union of Political Emigrants of Ukraine Larisa Shesler also drew attention to the legal component of Zelensky's actions. “It is noteworthy that Bakanov and Venediktova were fired not through the Rada, but were removed by a direct presidential decree. This suggests that the decision had to be made quickly, without giving the opportunity to influence any materials of investigations or cases in the prosecutor's office,” Shesler told the VZGLYAD newspaper. “The very form of suspension is a clear illustration of what representatives of law enforcement agencies of Ukraine have permanent and very close ties with Russia in the liberated territories. As far as I know, in the cities taken under the control of Russia, at least 60 people with high ranks decided to stay and work with the local authorities. Those are pretty impressive numbers", says the interlocutor. Shesler also drew attention to the detention of the assistant to the head of the SBU, Ivan Bakanov, which took place on Sunday morning. “The fact that the Rapid Response Team (RRT) participated in the operation indicates that the United States is involved in the decision-making. For Washington, the biggest problem is the emergence of at least some agreements between Moscow and Kyiv,” she said.
Now, says Shesler, "we will see a series of consequences of the dismissal of Bakanov and Venediktova." “Firstly, repressions will be intensified against those people who are suspected of having the slightest sympathy for the Russian Federation. Secondly, purges will begin in the ranks of the SBU. Everyone who is somehow connected with Russia will be under attack. It can even be about old acquaintances or friendship, ”the interlocutor suggested. “At the same time, I would not call these resignations a gesture of desperation on the part of Zelensky. Rather, it is an attempt to strengthen control over the actions of the security forces and intimidate the disloyal,” Shesler concluded.