President Volodymyr Zelensky has abruptly fired the head of Ukraine’s powerful domestic security agency, the SBU, and the state prosecutor-general, citing dozens of cases of collaboration with Russia by officials in their agencies.
The sackings of SBU chief Ivan Bakanov, a childhood friend of Mr Zelensky, and prosecutor-general Iryna Venediktova, who has played a key role in the prosecution of Russian war crimes, were announced in executive orders on the president’s website.
The firings are easily the biggest political sackings since Russia invaded on February 24, forcing the entire Ukrainian state machine to focus on the war effort.
In a Telegram post, Mr Zelensky said he had fired the top officials because it had been revealed that many members of their agencies had collaborated with Russia, a problem he said had also affected other agencies.
He said 651 cases of alleged treason and collaboration had been opened against prosecutorial and law enforcement officials, and that more than 60 officials from Bakanov and Venediktova’s agencies were working against Ukraine in Russian-occupied territories.
The sheer number of treason cases lays bare the huge challenge of Russian infiltration faced by Ukraine as it battles Moscow in what it says is a fight for survival.
“Such an array of crimes against the foundations of the national security of the state … pose very serious questions to the relevant leaders,” Mr Zelensky said.
“Each of these questions will receive a proper answer,” he said.