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SBU head meets with G7 ambassadors after Bihus.Info surveillance scandal

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 7, 2024 3:53 PM 2 min read
The Security Service (SBU) chief Vasyl Maliuk (SBU/Telegram)
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Vasyl Maliuk, the head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), met with ambassadors from the Group of Seven (G7) countries and answered questions "about the situation that occurred around the editorial office of Bihus.Info," the SBU reported on Feb. 7.

According to the SBU, Maliuk discussed the ways the SBU defends the country and its  "readiness to protect democratic values, one of the key pillars of which is freedom of speech." Media independence "must be ensured 100%," Maliuk reportedly said during the meeting.

"This is the standard we must hold high, especially in war."

The meeting took place a day after Ukraine's parliament voted to summon Maliuk following a report by Ukrainian investigative outlet Bihus.Info on Feb. 5 that one SBU department was behind the surveillance of its team.

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.

The SBU issued an official comment later on Feb. 5, saying it is continuing its investigation into the surveillance.

The Prosecutor General's Office then announced on Feb. 6 that the SBU would no longer conduct the investigation, which would be transferred to the State Bureau of Investigation.

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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