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Prosecutor General's Office: Investigation into Bihus.Info surveillance transferred away from SBU

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 6, 2024 6:40 PM 2 min read
Three men allegedly linked to the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) bring surveillance equipment to a suburban complex near Kyiv where staff members of Ukrainian investigative media outlet Bihus.info were secretly filmed during their New Year private party, according to the outlet. (Bihus.info)
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The investigation into the surveillance of Ukrainian investigative outlet Bihus.Info will no longer be conducted by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the Prosecutor General's Office announced on Feb. 6, after the outlet reported on Feb. 5 that one SBU department had been involved in the surveillance.

"Given that law enforcement officers are probably involved in the commission of the specified criminal offense, the pre-trial investigation in criminal proceedings is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the State Bureau of Investigation," the Prosecutor General's Office said.

News that the Bihus.Info team had been under surveillance first emerged on Jan. 16, when a video appeared online showing some staff members of the team supposedly using drugs during a private party, filmed from well-placed, hidden cameras.

After analyzing the video, Bihus.Info said its employees had been under surveillance for months and announced they would investigate who was spying on its team. The SBU said it opened a criminal case into illegal surveillance.

Bihus.Info then reported on Feb. 5 that according to their investigation, the operation had been conducted by the SBU's Department for Protection of National Statehood. President Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed the head of this department, Roman Semenchenko, on Jan. 31.

"Given that law enforcement officers are probably involved in the commission of the specified criminal offense, the pre-trial investigation in criminal proceedings is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the State Bureau of Investigation," the Prosecutor General's Office said.

"Violations of journalists' rights are unacceptable and subject to careful consideration and appropriate response," Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said.

Ukraine's parliament voted to summon SBU Head Vasyl Maliuk earlier on Feb. 6.

Maliuk released a statement in response, saying that he "will do everything possible so that every mass media can work freely in Ukraine."

"Such actions are unacceptable and have already caused a number of personnel decisions."

Justice minister calls for tighter oversight over security services in wake of Bihus.Info surveillance scandal
The Ukrainian government needs closer oversight over the actions of security services within the country, Justice Minister Denys Maliuska said on Feb. 6 after the Bihus.Info investigative outlet said it had been surveilled by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).
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