Ukraine’s top two cybersecurity officials axed amid embezzlement probe

Two heads of Ukraine’s national cybersecurity agency were fired Monday amid accusations they took part in an interagency embezzlement scheme involving millions in public funds.

Senior cyber defense officials at the State Service Of Special Communications And Information Protection Of Ukraine (SSSCIP), Yury Shchygol and Viktor Zhora, were fired by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine Monday morning.

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

The move comes barely an hour after the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) launched an investigation into an alleged embezzlement scheme at the agency involving state funds.

Taras Melnychuk, a senior cabinet official, posted the news on Telegram.

Ukraine SSSCIP dismisses officials

NABU announced that it was investigating Shchygol and Zhora’s connection to a six-person fraud scheme that bilked roughly 62 million Ukrainian hryvnia ($1.72 M) in public funds between 2020 and 2022.

The two are suspected of purposefully overpaying for software from two companies and pocketing the difference. Part of the scheme involved rigging the bidding process for other competing companies.

Zhora posted his own statement on X and avoided mentioning the investigations “in the interests of the entire Service.” Instead, he thanked his colleagues and others he had worked with over his tenure for their support.

The former security head said his one regret was that he did not “have time to launch the national bug bounty, we didn't manage to pass the draft law 8087, which is extremely necessary for the state, didn't manage to legislate the Cyber Forces, despite the laid foundations for their creation.”

In the near future, I plan to decide how I can best be useful to the Armed Forces, he concluded.

Shchyhol posted on Facebook he was confident he could prove his innocence, Interfax Ukraine reported.

In a statement on its website Monday, the SSSCIP said it has been compliant with NABU, providing investigators with “all the necessary information” and would continue to do so, also denying allegations against the agency.

“The SSSCIP’s operation is based on the principles of openness and zero toleration of corruption,” it said.

“Since 2020, all the SSSCIP's procurements have been in line with legislation in force. Procurements in the area of state registers protection are complex, their analysis requires training and grasp,” it said.

Furthermore, the agency urged abstaining from accusations until the investigation is completed.

Some reports say the firings are also part of a broader sweep, considered standard procedure when a head of ministry changes.

The former Head of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, Oleksii Reznikov, resigned in September after a series of corruption scandals had plagued the ministry, as reported by the Kyiv Post. His successor, Rustem Umerov, took over the position last month.

Dmytro Vasyliovych Makovsky has been assigned as interim head of the SSSCIP.

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