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Ukraine parliament fires powerful security chief

19 june 2015, 11:44
0
Head of the SBU, Ukraine's state security service, Valentyn Nalyvaychenko. ©AFP
Head of the SBU, Ukraine's state security service, Valentyn Nalyvaychenko. ©AFP

Ukraine's parliament Thursday fired the powerful head of the SBU state security service after he fell foul of President Petro Poroshenko and became embroiled in a conflict with the nation's chief prosecutor, AFP reports.

"The Verkhovna Rada (parliament) supported my proposal to dismiss Valentyn Nalyvaychenko from his post as head of the SBU," Poroshenko tweeted after 248 lawmakers in the 450-seat chamber supported the president's formal request.

Nalyvaychenko's dismissal highlights Ukraine's continued reliance on clan-style alliances and battles that critics say drain attention from far more pressing concerns.

Ukraine's State Security Service inherited sweeping arrest and domestic surveillance rights from the domestic branch of the Soviet-era KGB.

The 49-year-old Nalyvaychenko was appointed three months before Poroshenko's May 2014 election and was never seen as particularly close to the Western-backed head of state.

He also headed the SBU in 2006-2010 and is believed to have gathered reams of data related to corrupt dealings of both past and present lawmakers and members of government.

His sacking comes with Ukraine's 14-month war against pro-Russian insurgents raging and the economy continuing to implode -- the consequence of years of mismanagement and inability to pass restructuring measures long sought by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF wanted lawmakers to focus their attention on passing a raft of economic measures that could keep the Fund's $17.5-billion (15.3-billion euro) rescue for Ukraine in place when its board addresses the issue in early July.

But political intrigue and counter-accusations of corruption ruled the day Thursday in the Ukrainian capital.

  Boxer Klitschko enters fray 

The entire scandal erupted when controversial energy magnate Dmytro Firtash testified during his US extradition request hearing in Austria to having enjoyed privileged relations with the SBU chief and president.

Firtash successfully avoided extradition and both men refused to acknowledge any special connection to the influential but highly unpopular businessman.

But the charges harmed Poroshenko's efforts to portray himself as the leader who will finally clean up Ukraine's reputation as one of the world's most corrupt states.

Kiev media reports said the president then tried quickly to move Nalyvaychenko -- seen as a close ally of former boxer and current Kiev mayor Vitaly Klitschko -- to the much smaller foreign intelligence service.

Nalyvaychenko is said to have refused to move department after taking advice from Klitschko and several other insiders.

He then launched a political counter-offensive that saw the prosecutor general's office accused of covering up corruption and illegal money-making schemes operated by its most senior personnel.

He claimed to have firm evidence that a former deputy prosecutor general illicitly owned a chain of filling stations whose storage tanker exploded near Kiev last week. The disaster killed five people and set off the region's biggest fire since the 1960s.

Poroshenko then cancelled Nalyvaychenko's planned visit to Washington and ordered him to show up at the prosecutor general's office for questioning at the start of the week.

Nalyvaychenko appeared to know what was coming next. He posted a message on Klitschko's UDAR (Punch) party website Thursday pronouncing himself ready to "grit his teeth" and comply with the president's resignation request.

Klitschko said the former SBU chief now intends "to enter politics".

  'Nothing has improved' 

Some young lawmakers who played an integral part in 2014 protests that ousted a Russian-backed president whom many viewed as mired in graft warned that this week's events show Ukraine has moved on little from those painful times.

Mustafa Nayyem -- a charismatic 33-year-old blogger who helped launch the winter street protests before being elected to parliament as part of Poroshenko's team -- said many had grown disillusioned with the president's seeming failure to dislodge the grip of criminals and tycoons on politics.

"I fear that a broad coalition of oligarchs is on the horizon," Nayyem wrote on Facebook.

"The solidarity of oligarchs who had been removed from power may prove to be much stronger than we thought," said Nayyem.

Poroshenko has already fired one billionaire who built a massive empire stretching from energy products to the media, from his post as governor of Dnipropetrovsk, a peaceful and relatively wealthy region offering a buffer between Kiev and militia-controlled lands.

"I fear that by trying to remove the oligarchs from power, (Poroshenko) has only united them against himself," Kiev political analyst Mykola Davydyuk added.


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