Ukraine fired two senior cyber defense officials on Monday, a government official said, as prosecutors announced an investigation into alleged embezzlement at the government’s cybersecurity agency.
Yurii Shchyhol, head of the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine (SCIP), and his deputy, Viktor Zhora, have been dismissed by the government, senior cabinet official Taras Melnychuk wrote in Telegram.
Cabinet representative in parliament Melnychuk did not mention the reasons for the appeal. Shchyhol wrote on Facebook that he is confident he will prove his innocence, Interfax Ukraine reported. There was no immediate comment from Zhora.
SCIP is responsible for securing government communications and defending the state against cyber-attacks.
News of the shooting came less than an hour before anti-corruption prosecutors said they were investigating the head and deputy head of SCIP for their alleged role in a six-person plot to embezzle 62 million Ukrainian hryvnias ($1.72 million) between 2020 and 2022.
Authorities suspect the officials of buying software at an inflated price from two companies allegedly under their control in a sale that was closed to other bidders, Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau said.
In a statement on Telegram, the SCIP said it was cooperating with investigators and that all agency contracts were done legally.
Ukraine has stepped up efforts to curb corruption as it seeks membership in the European Union, making the fight against bribery a key prerequisite for opening negotiations.
Recent targets of the investigation include a billionaire former patron of President Volodymyr Zelensky and the former head of Ukraine’s Supreme Court. Both denied guilt.
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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