Ukraine’s State Investigation Bureau destroyed secret materials in several major criminal investigations immediately after Russia launched its all-out invasion on Feb. 24, the Prosecutor General’s Office said, as cited on July 8 by Iryna Romaliyska, a journalist at Prague-based television channel Current Time TV.
The Prosecutor General’s Office said that prosecutors had not authorized detectives of the State Investigation Bureau to destroy the documents.
The State Investigation Bureau denied the accusations and claimed that all of the materials had been preserved. The bureau did not respond to requests for additional comments.
The case files are linked to several pro-Kremlin politicians, and their alleged destruction prompted speculation that treason or corruption is involved.
"There are two versions. Either they went crazy because they were scared, or there was a plot to take advantage of the situation," Sergii Gorbatuk, a former top investigator, told the Kyiv Independent in a reference to the Russian invasion. "I favor the second version."
The State Investigation Bureau, an agency similar to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations, investigates non-corruption crimes committed by top officials.
On July 8, Ukrainska Pravda, an online newspaper, published a document on an internal probe at the State Investigation Bureau into the destruction of the files.
According to the document, the destruction of the materials was ordered by State Investigation Bureau chief Oleksiy Sukhachov on Feb. 24-26 in the city of Khmelnytsky. Ironically, Sukhachov, who is accused of destroying the files, is personally overseeing the probe against himself.
Some of the destroyed materials concern a treason investigation into the 2010 Kharkiv agreement, which extended the Russian lease on military facilities in Crimea until 2042, as well as a case into alleged embezzlement in the army by several pro-Russian officials, including ex-President Viktor Yanukovych and ex-Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedev.
Other destroyed files are related to the treason case against pro-Kremlin lawmaker Viktor Medvedchuk and the investigation into the alleged participation of Oleksandr Yakymenko, a pro-Kremlin official and an ex-head of the Security Service of Ukraine, in the murder of dozens of protesters during the 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution.
The State Investigation Bureau has also destroyed files in several cases against ex-President Petro Poroshenko, including alleged embezzlement at Kyiv’s Rybalsky Kuznya shipyard, the allegedly unlawful appointment of Serhiy Semochko as a deputy head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, and Poroshenko’s decision to send Ukrainian sailors to Kerch Strait in 2018, when they were captured by Russia.
Sukhachov was appointed by President Volodymyr Zelensky on Dec. 31, 2021.
The decision was highly controversial.
The seat of the bureau’s head has been vacant since 2019, and the contest for a new chief had been stalled for years. However, in late 2021 the selection process was unexpectedly sped up, and most of it took place during the winter holidays lull, when media, society and foreign organizations paid little attention.
Sukhachov, a loyalist of the Zelensky administration, was seen by anti-corruption activists as the government’s favored candidate in the contest.
The selection panel for choosing the bureau's chief was entirely controlled by the President’s Office, and Ukraine’s foreign partners refused to send their representatives to the panel to avoid legitimizing a fake contest, anti-corruption activists said.
The selection panel for choosing the bureau’s head was spearheaded by Zelensky’s deputy chief of staff Oleh Tatarov, a suspect in a bribery case, according to Oleksandr Lemenov, head of anti-corruption watchdog StateWatch.