KIEV, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Ukraine fired two top cyber defense officials on Monday, a government official said, as prosecutors announced an investigation into alleged embezzlement at the government’s cyber security agency.
Yurii Shchyhol, head of Ukraine’s State Service for Special Communications and Information Protection (SSSCIP), and his deputy, Viktor Zhora, were fired by the government, a senior cabinet official, Taras Melnychuk, wrote on Telegram.
Melnychuk, the cabinet’s representative to parliament, did not mention the reasons for the dismissals. Shchyhol wrote on Facebook that he was sure he could prove his innocence, Interfax Ukraine reported. There was no immediate comment from Zhora.
The SSSCIP is responsible for securing government communications and defending the state from cyber attacks.
News of the dismissals came less than an hour before anti-corruption prosecutors said they were investigating the director and deputy director of the SSSCIP for their alleged role in a six-person plot to embezzle 62 million Ukrainian hryvnias (1.72 million dollars) between 2020 and 2022. .
Authorities suspect the officials bought software at an inflated price from two companies allegedly under their control in a sale that had been closed to other bidders, Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau said.
In a statement on Telegram, the SSSCIP said it was cooperating with investigators and that all of the agency’s procurement had been carried out legally.
Ukraine has stepped up efforts to reduce corruption as it seeks European Union membership, making fighting corruption a key prerequisite for negotiations to begin.
Recent targets of the investigation include a billionaire former backer of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the former president of the Supreme Court of Ukraine. Both have denied any wrongdoing.
In September, Shchyhol told Reuters that Russian spies are using hackers to attack the computer systems of law enforcement agencies to identify and obtain evidence related to alleged Russian war crimes.
Reporting by Dan Peleschuk, editing by Bernadette Baum, Ed Osmond and Andrew Heavens
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