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Ukraine’s Security Service officers reportedly involved in bugging Bihus.Info project’s staff were to be rewarded, security service responds

Published:

The investigative journalism project Bihus.Info has submitted a request to Ukraine’s Security Service (SSU) regarding the awarding of the Order of Danylo Halytskyi to Roman Semenchenko, Head of the Department for the Protection of National Statehood, who was later fired after spying on journalists, and to Ihor Kravchenko, an SSU officer involved in the surveillance. The SSU denied that Semenchenko and Kravchenko had been decorated.

Source: a story by Bihus.info investigation journalism project; press service of the SSU in a comment to Ukrainska Pravda

Details: The story noted that, according to colleagues, in January, after the surveillance operation on Bihus.Info employees was over, but before the information about this operation became public, Roman Semenchenko, then Head of the Department for the Protection of National Statehood, and Ihor Kravchenko, an SSU employee, were recommended to be decorated with the Order of Danylo Halytskyi.

The story stated that Bihus.Info had submitted a request for this information but had no reason to doubt its authenticity.

The Order of Danylo Halytskyi is awarded by presidential decree for “significant personal contribution to the development of Ukraine, conscientious and impeccable service to the Ukrainian people”.

Bihus.Info also reported that following the release of an investigation into the SSU’s involvement in the bugging of journalists, the special service was banned from using branded clothing, expensive watches, and luxury cars. The project found that the relevant message appeared in the SSU’s internal chats and reached journalists.

“Attention, senior officers! I ask you to abstain from using branded clothing, expensive watches, luxury cars, etc., by operational personnel during official activities (during working hours). Please wear tactical clothing only! Executing the instruction is the personal responsibility of the heads of departments… Inform the personnel that they are not allowed to wear branded clothes, drive expensive cars, etc. (including and especially on weekends), as the Bihus staff will be actively working. No exceptions! Tactical uniforms, etc.” the project quotes a message from the special service’s internal chats.

The Bihus.Info story also suggests that after the investigation was released, “journalists from different editorial offices took to social media to say that they were already familiar with Ihor [Kravchenko].”

“Some of them knew him because he [Kravchenko] called them to a meeting, and some because he came to their editorial office. They also mentioned that, according to Ihor, he was instructed to deal with all journalists,” the investigators said.

Later, the SSU press service denied that Semenchenko and Kravchenko had received the award.

Quote from SSU: “We inform you that Roman Semenchenko, former Chief of the SSU’s Department for the Protection of National Statehood, and Ihor Kravchenko do not hold the state award Order of Danylo Halytskyi.”

Background:

  • On 16 January, a video was leaked to the Internet showing Bihus.Info investigation project employees allegedly using narcotic substances. Project manager Denys Bihus recorded a video message with explanations and assured the public that everyone who cooperates with Bihus.Info will undergo drug tests.

  • On 5 February, investigative journalists from the Bihus.Info group claimed to have identified those who had installed hidden cameras in hotel rooms to conduct surveillance of the editorial board. They were members of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU).

  • On 31 January, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed Roman Semenchenko, the head of the Department for the Protection of National Statehood of the Security Service of Ukraine.

  • The Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) stated on 5 February that the leadership had made some “decisions” concerning its personnel and that “certain members of Bihus.Info were identified” among clients of known drug dealers.

  • On 6 February, Ukrainian lawmakers voted to summon Vasyl Maliuk, Head of the SSU, to the Ukrainian parliament to present a report on the bugging of Bihus.info staff.

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