MP Denys Monastyrsky, head of the parliamentary committee on law enforcement and a person from Zelensky’s team, responsible for law enforcement reform, explains dismissal of Roman Truba, the head of the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI). “80% of all the energy of the former SBI leadership tried to pull the rug out from under each other.” That is why this confrontation provoked scandals with the Telegram channel (wiretapping of Truba), the opening of cases against the director and his deputies, in connection with this, the spheres of influence in the Bureau were redistributed,” Monastyrsky said in an interview with RBC-Ukraine.
Roman Truba was fired on December 27, 2019, from the SBI office. The very next day, December 28, ex-MP Iryna Venedyktova was appointed in his office. So far, as an acting head. To take this place with complete legal comfort, Venedyktova resigned as an MP (she was elected from the Servant of the People faction).
But the replacement of Truba by Venedyktova did not save the situation: the SBI is drowning in scandals. Political scientist Kyrylo Sazonov states that something went wrong with the creation of bodies such as the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) and SBI from the very beginning. “And the change of leadership does not play a role here. Creating some incomprehensible structures, following to Western standards - all this does not give any result,” Sazonov says.
“Saying that we created the American analog of the FBI is just ridiculous,” Andriy Zolotariov, head of the Third Sector Center, agrees.
But why did the cosplay from American law enforcement cowboys fail with us? And will Venedyktova correct the situation?
Chronicle of lame situations
The SBI as a new organization caused a lot of complaints even at the stage of its creation in 2016. Many did not like the appointment of Roman Truba as the head of the Bureau. The pipe was considered completely dependent on President Poroshenko, and he really was betrayed to Poroshenko for three long years - until the end of the cadence of the latter.
But after that, Truba changed orientation. SBI began opening criminal cases against its own creator Poroshenko, and now we have a dozen of them. Now, Roman Truba considers the argument of criminal intentions that Poroshenko as his number one task. Or rather, he used to. Because his first big bout happened just because he actively persuaded the Ze-authorities in his personal devotion. And Poroshenko called affairs priority for himself. Truba’s talks were recorded and published.
The culprit of the scandal was soon fired. But his successor supported the tradition of provoking big and small scandals. Iryna Venedyktova is now heading the SBI, but our experts agree that she would not risk a parliamentary seat for an uncertain perspective. Most likely, Venedyktova will head the Bureau. According to the law, the SBI chairman is appointed by the president of Ukraine after the nomination of the prime minister, who, in turn, focuses on the presentation of the competitive commission. But nevertheless, the president is at the forefront of this pyramid.
Moreover: still not having left the status of “acting,” Venedyktova allows herself doing some actions with a frank corruption smack. She held an opaque competition to fill two posts of her deputies. And, more precisely, she didn’t but imitated the conduct - at least, the Bihus.info investigation says about this. This is also indicated by other candidates who submitted to the competition.
Venedyktova’s first deputy was Oleksandr Babikov, a former lawyer for Viktor Yanukovych, who, according to investigators, canceled his lawyer's certificate the very day after Venedyktova’s appointment. That is, he was informed that the place was assigned to him without any contests. Another position was taken by Oleksandr Sokolov, an ex-employee of the Security Service (SBU) of the Kharkiv region. By the way, Venedyktova comes from there. But she and Sokolov are connected not only by Kharkiv, but also... by Anna Sokolova, the wife of the Social Security Minister.
The latter works for the law firm of Natalia Kolesnik, Venediktova’s mother-in-law. As for the husband of our heroine, Denys Kolesnik, experts advise taking a closer look at him too.
According to the Ukrainska Pravda outlet, Denys Kolesnyk, an employee of the cyber police department, is actively influencing the work of the bureau, which is headed by Iryna Venedyktova. The latter takes the spouse to important meetings, he often appears in the building of the State Bureau of Investigations. And he ostensibly controls the personnel policy of the department. In particular, thanks to him Ruslan Biryukov, an adviser to Venedyktova, was appointed to the post of adviser, who had worked for the National Police for a long time and was a member of the competitive commission on the State Rescue Brigade in 2018, Ukrainska Pravda outlet reported.
In a word, a radical update of the system with the coming of Venedyktova to the office did not work. But after all, someone lobbied for her appointment, and in general - personnel rotations within the walls of the State Bureau of Investigations. We asked experts who were interested in reloading this structure and heard from them the following.
Who needs redistribution?
Political analyst Andriy Zolotariov puts forward four versions. He noted that, in particular, our foreign partners were interested in the changes in the SBI. The second group of those who could seek to dismiss Truba and appoint another player in his place is the oligarchs. The third option - President Zelensky stands behind the events surrounding the Bureau. And, finally, the fourth interpretation - Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov interfered in the game.
Bogdan Petrenko, the deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute for the Study of Extremism, suggests that the motivation of the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs could be understood. "The problem of the SBI is that they take part in the authority from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Regardless of the name of the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Any other minister in Avakov’s place would slow down the development of such a structure as the SBI," Petrenko noted.
He adds that now "there is a competition of two very powerful structures. At first, it was about the fact that the National Guard would come out of the subordination of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and now it was about the very opposite - about the provision of intelligence functions to the National Guard."
And Andriy Zolotariov points to the following: “When the functions of the investigation are transferred to the Bureau, the structure becomes super important. For whoever influences the investigation, he controls the entire power block.” At the same time, he believes that “it is impossible to completely take control of this structure, this is beyond the power of anyone.”
Obviously, such a distribution will affect the appointment of vice-chairmen of the SBI.
“Truba was a stranger,” Ruslan Bortnyk, director of the Ukrainian Institute for Policy Analysis and Management, tells us. “His appointment at one time was a consequence of the agreements between the Poroshenko Bloc and the National Front.”
Venedyktova is a completely different matter. It was with her help that “they will try to seize control over the investigation in the country in the president’s office. Because now the president has only the SBU. And the NABU and the Ministry of Internal Affairs control other influence groups,” Bortnyk says.
“The main interested party here is Bankova,” political analyst Kyrylo Sazonov is convinced.
One can argue for a long time on the question of which particular power structures are included in the zone of presidential control. Zelensky cannot but strive to oversee the State Bureau of Investigations with its unlimited possibilities. Why is he doing this? The answer is obvious.
The consequences of the mess
The presidential Servant of the people faction is far from being monolithic. Meanwhile, the fate of monocoalition depends on the ability of the main "shepherd" to keep his "herd" in obedience. Manual control by the State Bureau of Investigation will enable Zelensky to drive a whip over the backs of the obstinate MPs.For disobedience, the SIB will begin to institute criminal proceedings - against those whom the president’s finger points to.
Ruslan Bortnyk also does not exclude “individual demonstration cases in Zelensky’s entourage initiated by the State Investigations Bureau.” “But this will not happen systematically,” he said.
Having control over the GBR, you can settle accounts with long-standing hated opponents. For example, with Petro Poroshenko. Although Bortnyk does not believe that at least one case of the ex-president will ever reach the court. “There is no parliamentary immunity, and a lot of time has passed, and he is a defendant in many cases – but to no avail. Undercover trades continue with him,” Bortnyk is convinced.
“Poroshenko will push further,” says Kyrylo Sazonov. “Some of the people on Bankova hate him so much that they are ready to endlessly have fun - to drag him to prisons and so on. But in the eyes of the West it will be a blow to Ukrainian positions, and to support Ukraine in the fight with Russia. For many, this will be an occasion to cross out Ukraine from among the states that should be helped.”
But Zolotariov notes that the fate of the cases brought against Poroshenko does not depend on anyone's desire to “crush” him, nor on the person at the head of the Bureau. The presence/absence of international resonance will play a decisive role in their promotion or, conversely, curtailing. “Poroshenko’s affairs will not depend on Venedyktova. If he doesn’t have a letter of protection from foreign partners, they can be promoted,” the expert notes.
And no matter what happens in the future, trust in the SBI is being killed. Ukraine suffers significant reputation losses, and not only in the eyes of the West but also in the perception of its own citizens.
And another expert - Andriy Smily - predicts completely sad fate for the SIB. "The SIB has turned into a quasi-law enforcement body, which may be recognized as unconstitutional after some time, given how the mono-majority of the Servant of the People reset it.
That's just the Constitutional Court is traditionally under the influence of the president, no matter what’s his name. And this, in fact, is another reason why the SIB is not the FBI, and Ukraine is not the US.