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18 Dec, 2023 07:09

Ukraine probes wiretapping of top general’s office 

The device was found at a facility slated for use by General Valery Zaluzhny, Kiev’s security service has said
Ukraine probes wiretapping of top general’s office 

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has launched a criminal investigation after a covert listening device was discovered in an office linked to the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces, Valery Zaluzhny.

The bug was found on Sunday and was constructed from components of an unknown origin, making it impossible to identify the installer, RBK Ukraine reported, citing a source. 

According to an SBU statement on Telegram, the device was in a “non-operational state” and no means of information storage or remote transmission of audio recordings was found.

The authorities emphasized that the device had been discovered “not directly in [Zaluzhny’s] office but in one of the premises that could have been used by him in the future for work.” 

Former Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar reacted to the developments by saying that leaks of classified information from the country’s military headquarters had happened “more than once” in the past.

“I don’t know who wanted to wiretap the Commander-in-Chief and what they wanted to hear,” Malyar wrote on Telegram on Sunday. However, she stressed that the possibility of bugs is “always taken into account during verbal communication” by Ukrainian commanders and Defense Ministry officials.

Zaluzhny is widely reported to have fallen out with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, after the general told The Economist in October that the conflict with Russia had entered “a stalemate”. The Ukrainian president’s office publicly rebuked the commander over his claims about the frontline situation, while Zelensky went on to sack one of the general’s top deputies. The Ukrainian leader further warned his top commander to stay out of politics, claiming it is a “huge mistake” when a military figure “behaves as a politician.”

According to a report by Ukrainskaya Pravda earlier this month, Zelensky’s men, including chief of staff Andrey Yermak, have been escalating tensions due to Zaluzhny’s perceived political ambitions since at least April 2022. A public opinion poll conducted for the president’s office indicated that in a hypothetical election, Zelensky would lose to Zaluzhny in a second-round vote, the news outlet added.

The head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Sergey Naryshkin, claimed last week that NATO foreign ministers had discussed a replacement for Zelensky in November, with Zaluzhny supposedly among the leading contenders.