Two top Ukrainian cyber officials dismissed amid embezzlement probe

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Two high-ranking cybersecurity officials in Ukraine were on Monday, according to a senior government official, amid an investigation into suspected embezzlement of state funds.

This article was updated at 3:25 p.m. EST.

Two high-ranking cybersecurity officials in Ukraine were dismissed on Monday, according to a senior government official, amid an investigation into suspected embezzlement of state funds.

Yurii Shchyhol, the head of Ukraine’s State Service for Special Communications and Information Protection (SSSCIP), said in a statement that he submitted his resignation from the post early this morning.

“I am confident that I will be able to prove my innocence during an impartial investigation and directly in court,” Shchyhol said.

In a comment to Recorded Future News, he declined to provide more details and said that he would share more “in court and after defeating the enemy.”

His deputy, Viktor Zhora, who was also reportedly sacked, said in a statement on Facebook that he resigned “in the interests of the SSSCIP, which must continue to perform more than a hundred functions defined by law.”

He also expressed regret that he didn’t have time to launch a national bug bounty program nor formalize the legal status of a dedicated Ukrainian cyber force.

“In the near future, I plan to decide how I can best be useful to the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” Zhora added.

In a recent interview with Recorded Future News’ Dina Temple-Raston, Zhora made no allusion to trouble at the agency, and discussed his plans about future projects at SSSCIP.

READ MORE: Zhora recently spoke with the Click Here podcast about long-term plans, like preparing for attacks on Ukraine’s power grid this winter.

SSSCIP is one of several Ukrainian security agencies. It is responsible for the cyber protection of state information resources and critical infrastructure.

Shchyhol led SSSCIP since 2020. His first deputy, Dmytro Makovskyi, has been appointed as the interim head of the agency, according to an official statement.

Embezzlement probe

The firings coincided with an announcement by Ukraine’s anti-corruption agencies that they are investigating a software procurement scheme, allegedly involving Shchyhol and Zhora, as well as four other suspects who were not identified by name.

According to the statement by Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), the suspects managed to embezzle $1.72 million between 2020 and 2022 by classifying the procurement of software for the SSSCIP.

The stolen funds were supposedly moved to accounts of controlled companies abroad “to make them legal and distribute among the members of the group,” according to NABU.

Shchyhol said that “all of the SSSCIP’s purchases from 2020 were carried out in compliance with current legislation.” The software in question was meant to protect Ukraine from cyber threats, he added.

According to SSSCIP’s statement, the agency has provided the necessary information for the investigation to law enforcement and added that it operates “on the principles of openness and has zero tolerance for corruption.”

“We urge you to refrain from making accusations against specific officials or employees who are currently involved in the protection of the critical information infrastructure of Ukraine, until the investigation is completed and the results of the investigation are given a legal evaluation by the court.”

These are the latest dismissals of high-ranking state officials that have taken place in Ukraine over the past year as the country escalates its anti-corruption efforts — a crucial step to joining Western alliances such as the European Union.

In September, Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, was ousted amid several corruption scandals at the ministry, related to the procurement of goods and equipment for the military at inflated prices.

In November, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyi dismissed the deputy head of the foreign intelligence service of Ukraine.

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Daryna Antoniuk
is a freelance reporter for Recorded Future News based in Ukraine. She writes about cybersecurity startups, cyberattacks in Eastern Europe and the state of the cyberwar between Ukraine and Russia. She previously was a tech reporter for Forbes Ukraine. Her work has also been published at Sifted, The Kyiv Independent and The Kyiv Post.

 

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