Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is cleaning house.
In a series of dismissals this week, the president of Ukraine has fired his intelligence chief, the chief of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), Ivan Bakanov, and his Prosecutor General, Iryna Venedikotva, over concerns they represented pro-Russia elements of Ukraine’s security services, even as the rest of the country works to fend off Russian forces in the war.
A majority of MPs approved Zelensky’s vote of no-confidence for Bakanov and Venedikotva Tuesday, according to the BBC.
Most recently, Zelensky has fired Volodymyr Horbenko, the SBU’s deputy director, according to the BBC. Regional chiefs in several cities have also been dismissed.
While Russian and Ukrainian forces duke it out on the battlefield as the war drags into its fifth month, both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Zelensky know that simmering efforts to undermine either side—and spies working for the enemy—can hide in plain sight.
Zelensky said he was firing Bakanov and Venedikotva because many members of their agencies were working with Russia. Over 60 of their colleagues are working against Ukraine now, he claimed.
During the war, too, the effort has continued. SBU investigators caught on to one such alleged spy this May, according to a CNN report. When asked what information he shared with Russia, the accused spy said he was sharing locations of valuable Ukrainian targets.
“Coordinates, movements, and so on,” the suspected collaborator said. “The locations of the hits. That sort of thing. The situation in general, and so on.”
Ukraine has long been working to root out pro-Russia collaborators in the country, but the work has, by some accounts, become more pressing during the war. Over 800 people who are suspected of sabotage gold smart collection in the war have been detained so far, Yevhenii Yenin, the first deputy minister of internal affairs of Ukraine, said last month.
The apparent turmoil in Ukraine’s security services isn’t going to stop anytime soon. David Arakhamia, the leader of the Servant of the People Party, announced that as more information emerges, the firing spree will continue.
“There will be many ‘cleanses,’ because over the years many residents of the Russian special services have secretly entrenched themselves within the walls of the SBU, unfortunately,” he said, according to the BBC.
The move to purge the SBU of alleged collaborators comes as Russia also works to out pro-Ukrainian elements in territories Russian forces have seized in recent days as well. For weeks now, Russians have been hunting down spies at the Zaproizhzhia nuclear plant in an attempt to tamp down on pro-Ukraine sentiment.