President’s office says prosecutor general and SBU chief have only been suspended and not sacked

18 July, 02:51 PM
Zelensky signed decrees on the removal from the posts of Venediktova and Bakanov (Photo:Iryna Venediktova/SBU/Facebook)

Zelensky signed decrees on the removal from the posts of Venediktova and Bakanov (Photo:Iryna Venediktova/SBU/Facebook)

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, and head of the SBU Security Service of Ukraine Ivan Bakanov, have been only been suspended from office, but not dismissed, Deputy Head of the President's Office Andriy Smirnov told Ukrainian national television on July 18.

He stressed that the inspections of the pair’s work were pending.

"The dismissal of these two officials is so far our of the question," he said.

"Official checks and an investigation will be carried out. Based on the results of these checks, the president will make a decision on the need to submit to the parliament a motion to approve the dismissal of the prosecutor general or not. The same applies to the SBU head.”

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Smirnov added that Zelenskyy's decision to remove and suspend the heads of two agencies was related to the fact that the president and society "have been waiting for a long time for more concrete and possibly radical results from the heads of these bodies regarding the purge of collaborators and state traitors."

The official reiterated that in the sixth month of the war, collaborators had been exposed in these law enforcement agencies almost every week.

"In order to prevent the potential influence of these two officials on the criminal proceedings being investigated against SBU employees suspected of cooperation with the aggressor country, and the same applies to the prosecutor's office, the president made appropriate decisions on the suspension," he said.

Smirnov also suggested that Venediktova and Bakanov could keep their positions based on the results of the inspections, but it will ultimately come down to the president’s decision.

He clarified that Venediktova was suspended in accordance with the president's right to remove from office an official who is appointed and dismissed by him.

Bakanov's suspension is prescribed in the Disciplinary Statute of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, since the SBU head is formally a member of the military.

Zelenskyy was initially reported to have fired Venediktova and Bakanov on July 17. Later, he explained that he had made the decision due to the large number of criminal proceedings on treason and collaboration among law enforcement officers.

In late June, U.S. politics news outlet Politico reported that Zelenskyy was aiming to replace Bakanov due to the loss of Kherson. Numerous sources within the president’s office have blamed the SBU for the city’s occupation, which occurred during the early days of the full-scale invasion. Later, the president said that the dismissal of the SBU head will depend on the results of an inspection and "if he wanted to fire him, he would have fired him."

Bakanov took the post as the SBU head at the beginning of Zelenskyy's term. He had no prior security experience, having previously worked as the head of Zelensky’s entertainment studio, and was considered to be a personal friend of the incoming president. He also managed Zelensky’s electoral campaign.

In May 2019, he was appointed the SBU's first deputy chairman. Later, he became the SBU's acting head, and took charge of the agency in August. 

Zelenskyy tapped Iryna Venediktova as Prosecutor General on March 17, 2020.

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