Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fired the country’s security service chief and prosecutor general while accusing dozens of their employees of collaborating with Russia.
Zelensky, 44, announced the moves during a nightly address Sunday and cited hundreds of criminal proceedings into treason and corruption within the country.
CCTV shows people running for cover in Vinnytsia during Russian missile strike
“In particular, more than 60 employees of the prosecutor’s office and the [state security service] have remained in the occupied territory and work against our state,” Zelensky said.
“Such an array of crimes against the foundation of the state’s national security, and the links recorded between Ukrainian security forces and Russian special services raise very serious questions about their respective leaders.”
State Security Service head Ivan Bakanov, a childhood friend of Zelensky’s and former business partner, and Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova were dismissed. Many officials within both departments were also suspected of treason, Zelensky said.
“As of today, 651 criminal proceedings have been registered regarding treason and collaboration activities of employees of prosecutor’s offices, pretrial investigation bodies and other law enforcement agencies,” Zelensky said.
Venediktova was replaced by her deputy, Oleksiy Symonenko, while Politico reported last month, citing several unidentified Ukrainian and Western sources, that Zelensky was looking to replace Bakanov, who endured criticism regarding security breaches since the war began.
Zelensky said the former chief of the Main Directorate of the Security Service in Crimea was also detained for suspected treason.
“Everyone who together with him was part of a criminal group that worked in the interests of the Russian Federation will also be held accountable,” the Ukrainian leader said Sunday, CNN reported. “It is about the transfer of secret information to the enemy and other facts of cooperation with the Russian special services.”
Zelensky said he would also be appointing a new head of the Specialized Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office and the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine while promising additional moves to come.
“The specific actions and any inaction of each official in the security sector and in law enforcement agencies will be evaluated,” Zelensky vowed Sunday. “The corresponding inspection of law enforcement agencies has already yielded the first results and will be continued.”
Zelensky vowed that Ukraine would conduct a “self-purification” operation to root out nefarious actors, Fox News reported.
“It is definitely possible to bring all Russian war criminals to justice,” Zelensky said Sunday. “Each of the collaborators. All those responsible for terror. For everything that happens during 144 days and in more than eight years. It will be done.”