Ukraine fires top cyber defense officials for graft

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Two Ukrainian senior cyber defense officials were fired Monday for alleged embezzlement in the government's cybersecurity agency, a government official said.

Yurii Shchyhol, head of the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection (SSSCIP) of Ukraine, and his deputy, Viktor Zhora, were dismissed by the government, senior cabinet official Taras Melnychuk wrote on Telegram.

Melnychuk, the cabinet's representative to parliament, did not give the reason for the dismissals. Shchyhol wrote on Facebook that he was confident he could prove his innocence, Interfax Ukraine reported. There was no immediate comment from Zhora.

The SSSCIP is responsible for securing government communications and defending the state from cyberattacks.

Anti-corruption prosecutors announced they were investigating the head and deputy head of the SSSCIP over their alleged roles in a six-person plot to embezzle 62 million Ukrainian hryvnia ($1.72 million) between 2020 and 2022.

Authorities suspect the officials of buying software at an inflated price from two companies allegedly under their control in a sale that had been closed to other bidders, Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau said.

In a statement on Telegram, the SSSCIP said it was cooperating with investigators and that all agency procurement had been carried out legally.

Last September, Shchyhol told Reuters that Russian spies were using hackers to target computer systems at law enforcement agencies to identify and obtain evidence related to alleged Russian war crimes.

Ukraine has increased its efforts to stomp out corruption as it pursues membership in the European Union, which has made the fight against graft a key prerequisite for negotiations to begin.

Polish protests

Kyiv hopes to negotiate with Poland and the European Commission this week about Ukraine's export of goods through Polish routes.

About 3,000 mostly Ukrainian trucks were stuck on the Polish side of the border Sunday morning due to a lengthy blockade by Polish truckers, Ukrainian authorities said.

Earlier this month, Polish truckers blocked roads to three border crossings with Ukraine to protest what they see as government inaction over a loss of business to foreign competitors since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

FILE - Trucks line up near the Polish-Ukrainian border crossing in Dorohusk, Poland, on Nov. 10, 2023. Polish trucking representatives said on Nov. 13, 2023, that talks with Ukrainian officials had failed to end a dispute over what they call unfair competition.

FILE - Trucks line up near the Polish-Ukrainian border crossing in Dorohusk, Poland, on Nov. 10, 2023. Polish trucking representatives said on Nov. 13, 2023, that talks with Ukrainian officials had failed to end a dispute over what they call unfair competition.

Truckers from Ukraine have been exempted from seeking permits to cross the Polish border since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Polish truckers want a limited number of licenses to be issued for Ukrainian truckers, a demand Kyiv said it would not consider.

"This week we hope to have negotiations in a trilateral format," Taras Kachka, a Ukrainian trade representative, said in televised comments Monday.

He said the blockages may affect critical supplies of energy resources for Ukraine, which is suffering from constant Russian attacks.

Russian shelling increases

Russian shelling killed three people Monday and damaged power lines and a gas pipeline in Ukraine's central Dnipropetrovsk and southern Kherson regions, authorities said.

An elderly woman was killed, and a man injured in a Russian artillery strike on the town of Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk's governor Serhiy Lysak wrote on Telegram messenger.

On Monday morning, two drivers were killed when Russian forces shelled a private transport company parking lot in Kherson, regional Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.

Damage to a building is seen after a reported deadly Russian artillery strike in Kherson, Ukraine, in this still image from handout video released Nov. 20, 2023. (Kherson Regional State Administration/Handout via Reuters)

Damage to a building is seen after a reported deadly Russian artillery strike in Kherson, Ukraine, in this still image from handout video released Nov. 20, 2023. (Kherson Regional State Administration/Handout via Reuters)

Russian drones have increased their attacks on Kyiv targeting Ukrainian infrastructure as the winter is approaching.

Russia launched 20 Iranian-made Shahed drones, targeting the Ukrainian capital and the Cherkasy and Poltava regions, according to a military statement.

Ukrainian anti-aircraft systems shot down 15 of the drones.

Ukraine's Military Administration spokesperson, Serhii Popko, said that the drones attacked Kyiv from different directions in waves that were "constantly changing vectors."

In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin for his pledge of $100 million in new military aid to Ukraine.

"There is a new defense package for our country from the United States. I am grateful for it. In particular, there will be more artillery – shells that are needed right now," said Zelenskyy.

The Ukrainian president also stressed talks on expanding cross-border cooperation with Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova. "This includes the work of the maritime corridor, the Danube export cluster and the overall trade turnover between our countries," he said.

Source: VOA 

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