Ukraine fired two top cyber defense officials on Monday, a government official said, as prosecutors announced the opening of an investigation into allegations of embezzlement at the government’s cybersecurity agency.
Yurii Shchyhol, head of the State Service for Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine (SSSCIP), and his deputy, Viktor Zhora, have been fired by the government, a senior Taras cabinet official wrote Melnychuk on Telegram.
Melnychuk, the cabinet representative in Parliament, did not mention the reasons for the dismissals. Neither the man nor their lawyers could be reached for comment.
The SSSCIP is responsible for securing government communications and defending the state against cyberattacks.
News of the firings came less than an hour before anti-corruption prosecutors announced they were investigating the SSSCIP chief and deputy director over their alleged roles in a six-person plot to embezzle $62 million ‘UAH ($1.72 million) between 2020 and 2022.
Authorities suspect 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 .
Prosecutors have not named either person responsible. In a statement on Telegram, SSSCIP said it was cooperating with investigators and that all of the agency’s purchases were made legally.
Ukraine has stepped up its efforts to combat corruption as part of its membership in the European Union, making the fight against corruption a key precondition for the start of negotiations.
Recent targets of an investigation include a billionaire, former boss of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the former president of the Supreme Court of Ukraine. Both have denied any wrongdoing.
In September, Shchyhol told Reuters that Russian spies were using hackers to target law enforcement computer systems to identify and obtain evidence related to alleged Russian war crimes.
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