Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday sacked his chief prosecutor and the head of the country’s security agency in the largest government shakeup since the start of Russia’s invasion nearly five months ago.
Zelenskyy said he was firing Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and security chief Ivan Bakanov amid a high number of cases of suspected treason by Ukrainian law enforcement officials.
“Today, I made the decision of relieving of their duties the prosecutor general and the head of Ukraine’s security service,” Zelenskyy said in his daily address to the nation.
Zelenskyy said over 650 cases of suspected treason and aiding and abetting Russia by Ukrainian security officials are currently being investigated, including 60 cases of officials who have remained in territories occupied by Russia and are working against Ukraine.
“Such a great number of crimes against the foundations of national security and the connections established between Ukrainian law enforcement officials and Russian special services pose very serious questions to the relevant leaders,” Zelenskyy said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyz at a press conference at his official residence the Maryinsky Palace on March 3,2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Laurent Van der Stockt / Getty Images
“Each such question will be answered.”
Bakanov was a childhood friend of Zelenskyy’s and a former business partner, The Associated Press reports. Zelenskyy tapped him to head the SBU (state security service).
Bakanov was the target of increasing criticism about security breaches since the war started, the AP added.
Venediktova had led Ukraine’s investigation into alleged atrocities committed by invading Russian forces in the town of Bucha outside Kyiv, which caused international outrage.