Zelensky plans to fire Ukraine’s top spy – Politico
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reportedly has plans to fire his childhood friend, Ivan Bakanov, from his role as head of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), according to a report published on Thursday by Politico, citing four Kiev officials.
Bakanov, who has been at Zelensky’s side since high school and served as his manager during his early days as a comedian, has allegedly drawn the ire of the Ukrainian leader over his supposed unprofessionalism. Zelensky reportedly blames Bakanov for allowing a string of mishaps and mass desertions in his agency since the start of Russia’s military offensive against the country and is now looking to replace him with someone “more suitable to serve as the wartime chief of the SBU.”
Kiev authorities have reportedly been “very unsatisfied” with Bakanov’s performance as the nation’s top spy and have been actively trying to “get rid of him,” according to a top Ukrainian official who spoke with Politico on the condition of anonymity.
“We are not satisfied with his managerial, you know, [skills] because now you need … anti-crisis management skills like we don’t think that he has,” the anonymous official was quoted as saying, since there are people in Kiev who reportedly blame Bakanov for failing to respond to Russia’s military offensive on February 24.
As one of Zelensky’s most trusted confidants and business partners, Bakanov was personally appointed to the position by the Ukrainian leader in 2019 after Zelensky came into office. He initially served as the First Deputy Head of the agency, in charge of leading its anti-corruption department before becoming the head of the entire organization later that year.
However, since the beginning of his tenure at the SBU, Bakanov has faced sharp criticism from Ukrainian opposition parties, who have insisted that Bakanov’s background in show business is not a good fit for the head of the nation’s top intelligence-gathering agency.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.