The unofficial reason for Venediktovaʼs suspension, according to Babel, is strained relations with the Presidentʼs Office. Babelʼs interlocutors in Servant of the People, pro-presidential and the most influential political party, and the leadership of the parliament have been talking about her possible dismissal since the beginning of June. Among the reasons — Venediktova poorly organized work on the investigation of war crimes committed by Russians in Ukraine, collection of evidences was not very effective. Also, investigations of cases against ex-president Petro Poroshenko, Putinʼs godfather Viktor Medvedchuk, and others, was slow.
The situation with Bakanov is even more complicated. Talks about his possible dismissal also began at the beginning of last month. At the end of June, Politico reported this with reference to four officials close to Zelensky and one Western diplomat who advised the authorities on SSU reform. According to Politico, the Office of the President was not satisfied with Bakanovʼs management skills. In addition, OP did not approve the actions of key SSU officials at the beginning of the large-scale invasion. Politico cited the example of the former head of the Kherson SSU department, General Serhiy Kryvoruchko, who, according to the Ukrainian authorities, ordered officers to evacuate from the city during the Russian assault, contrary to Zelenskyʼs order. Also, his assistant, Colonel Igor Sadokhin, who, according to the Ukrainian authorities, gave the Russians the location of minefields and guided their aircraft. And the former head of internal security of the SSU Andriy Naumov, who left Ukraine a few hours before the large-scale invasion started. Later he was detained in Serbia. Zelensky called Naumov and Kryvoruchko traitors and stripped them of their ranks. At the end of June, Zelensky commented on the possible dismissal of Bakanov: "First of all, if I wanted to dismiss him, I would have already did this, and secondly, we are conducting an inspection of all law enforcement agencies now. Specifically because of the fact that on February 24 there was a full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation on our land," he said, adding that some representatives of law enforcement agencies "went somewhere instead of being in their place" after the beginning of the attack.
Naumov was close to Ivan Bakanov. On the eve of Bakanovʼs dismissal, the State Bureau of Investigation, together with the SSU, detained the former head of the Crimean SSU branch, Oleg Kulinich, who, according to law enforcement officers, also cooperated with the Russians and disclosed information to them. ZN.ua, citing sources, reported that Kulinich was considered an "officer on special assignments" and enjoyed Bakanovʼs trust. All this, according to Babelʼs sources, was the impetus for the removal of the head of the SSU.
Acting Prosecutor General — Venediktovaʼs deputy Oleksiy Symonenko
Simonenko is almost 45 years old. He was born in Chuguyiv, Kharkiv oblast.
Symonenko graduated from the Yaroslav the Wise National Law Academy with a degree in law in 1998. At the same time, he got a job at the Kyiv Prosecutorʼs office. At first, he worked in the district prosecutorʼs office of Vatutinsky district (now Desnyansky), and then in Obolonsky district, where he rose to the position of senior investigator of the prosecutorʼs office.
In 2006, Symonenko moved to work at the Prosecutorʼs Office of Kyiv Oblast. He served there for four years and became the head of the department of supervision of the investigation of criminal cases by investigators of the Prosecutorʼs Office of Kyiv Oblast.
In 2010, the presidential elections were held, in which Viktor Yanukovych won. In the first months of his presidency, he changed heads in various government bodies — in May 2010, Valery Khoroshkovskyi became the head of the SSU. In the same month, Symonenko also joined the SSU. Already in 2011, at the request of Khoroshkovskyi, Symonenko received the title of "honored lawyer of Ukraine". The decree was signed by Yanukovych. In addition, Khoroshkovskyi prematurely gave Symonenko a military rank and awarded him three medals. It is not known exactly what positions Symonenko worked in. But he was definitely the first deputy head of the main investigative department of the SSU. He resigned from the service in March 2019.
In January 2020, Symonenko tried to get into the State Bureau of Investigation. He submitted documents for participation in the competition for the position of deputy director when Iryna Venediktova was temporarily acting as the director of the SBI. However, Symonenkoʼs didnʼt pass the competition. Within a few months, in March 2020, after the appointment of Venediktova as Prosecutor General, Symonenko became her deputy. He oversaw the investigation into the murder of journalist Pavlo Sheremet, as well as the investigation into the case of the killing of the activist Kateryna Handzyuk. In December 2021, he signed the indictment against former President Petro Poroshenko in the so-called coal case (read more about it here and here, in Ukrainian). Poroshenko is charged with treason and facilitating the activities of terrorist organizations.
But the biggest resonance was caused by the fact that it was Symonenko who broke the case against the deputy head of the Office of the President Oleg Tatarov (you can read about it in detail here, in Ukrainian). In short, instead of either closing the proceedings or taking it to court, Symonenko began to appeal to the courts — this contradicted the procedural law. The trials lasted six months. As a result, the investigators had no right to further investigate the proceedings, as the time limits set for this had expired.
In September 2021, journalist Mykhailo Tkach published a story about Oleg Tatarovʼs birthday. Oleksiy Symonenko was among the guests. According to Tkach, on the holiday, Symonenko stayed until three in the morning.
Symonenko has a plot of land with an area of 2,500 square meters in Kyiv oblast. The rest of the property belongs to his wife Olena. This is an apartment in Kyiv, a residential building of 640 square meters, two plots of land in Kozyn village, as well as several plots of land in Novi Bezradychi village near Kyiv, and an apartment in Kyiv that she owns jointly with other people. The wife is the only one in the family who owns a car — a 2016 Mercedes S-Class Coupe 400. Olena has been working in the restaurant business since 2019 — she owns the Crassula B company.
On February 21, 2021, the publication Bihus.Info reported that Symonenkoʼs wife is a co-owner of two plots of land together with the son of former Party of Regions representative Serhiy Kanaki. He is associated with the criminal world — the group of criminal authority Vyacheslav Peresetskyi, nicknamed "The Fascist".
Vasyl Malyuk is the first deputy head of the SSU
Malyuk is 39 years old, he comes from the Korostyshiv town, Zhytomyr oblast. He graduated from the National Academy of the Security Service of Ukraine, majoring in law. Since 2001, Malyuk served in the regional departments of the Security Service of Ukraine, holding positions from operations officer to deputy head of the department, later head of the department for combating corruption and organized crime.
In January 2020, Malyuk was transferred to the Central Directorate of the SSU as the first deputy head of the Main Directorate for Combating Corruption and Organized Crime of the SSU. In March 2020, Zelensky appointed Malyuk as the first deputy head of the SSU and head of this department. Malyuk was appointed instead of Dmytro Neskoromnyi [more about who Neskoromnyi is and the scandal can be found here].
On July 26, 2021, Zelensky dismissed Malyuk and three more SSU officials from their positions. At the time, the Presidentʼs Office cited the need to reform the SSU and the fight against smuggling as the reason or that. "It is fundamental for the president to significantly intensify the work of the SSU in order to finally put an end to all smuggling schemes. Unfortunately, we havenʼt seen enough work of the Service in this direction lately," explained the adviser to the head of the Office of the President Mykhailo Podolyak at the time.
At the beginning of September 2021, Ukrainian Pravda wrote that Malyuk was among the guests at the birthday celebration of the Deputy Head of the Presidentʼs Office Oleg Tatarov. Top officials of various law enforcement agencies came to the party, Tatarov said at the time that he did not see a conflict of interest in this. Babelʼs sources in the SSU and the parliament call Malyuk a person close to Tatarov.
On February 16, 2022, the Cabinet of Ministers appointed Malyuk as a deputy to the Minister of Internal Affairs Denys Monastyrskyi. He took over the position of Oleksandr Gogilashvili, who was fired the day before after two scandalous videos where he talks obscenely with police officers. But Malyuk worked at the Ministry of Internal Affairs for less than a month. Already on March 3, Zelensky again appointed him as the deputy head of the SSU, and on March 25 he also assigned him the rank of brigadier general. In Malyukʼs official biography, it is noted that he participates in the arrest of members of organized criminal groups. On July 16, the SSU together with the State Bureau of Investigations detained Oleg Kulinich, the former head of the SSU administration in Crimea. According to some media reports, Malyuk was allegedly present at the detention.
In April 2021, Malyuk showed his possessions declaration, which he did not want to open publicly the previous year. In it, Malyuk indicated a residential building with an area of 228 square meters with land plots in Korostyshiv town, Zhytomyr oblast, and land in Korostyshiv district. Also, an apartment in Kyiv with an area of almost 123 square meters, which his family used for free, and a residential building owned by the SSU. Malukʼs family also owns a 2004 Lexus LX470 and a 2014 Nissan Rogue. In 2020, the family received an income of 2.2 million hryvnias and kept $90,000 in cash.