Ukraine at D+635: Shakeup at SSSCIP.
N2K logoNov 21, 2023

Ukraine removes two senior cyber defense officials.

Ukraine at D+635: Shakeup at SSSCIP.

Russia's recent drone campaign seems designed to induce Ukraine to expend air defense missiles. "Between the 18-19 November 2023 Russia launched around 50 Iranian-designed Shahed one way-attack uncrewed aerial vehicles, primarily towards Kyiv. These were launched in waves on two axes – from the Kursk to the east, and from Krasnodar to the south-east," the UK's Ministry of Defence wrote in this morning's situation report. "One of Russia’s objectives was likely to degrade Ukraine’s air defences, to shape the battlespace ahead of any concerted winter campaign of strikes against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Russia has now refrained from launching its premier air launched cruise missiles from its heavy bomber fleet for nearly two months, likely allowing it to build up a substantial stock of these weapons. Russia is highly likely to use these missiles if it repeats last year’s effort to destroy Ukraine’s critical national infrastructure."

In what the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) calls "a known hybrid warfare tactic," Russia is pushing migrants to the Finnish border to create an artificial migration crisis for its wary and unfriendly neighbor. At at least one crossing point, "Russian border guards pushed migrants to the Finnish side of the barrier and then closed the Russian border barriers behind them. It is unlikely that these migrants would continue to remain at the Finnish border in sub-zero temperatures of their own volition after Finnish border authorities denied their entrance into Finland, suggesting that Russia is likely involved in the situation in some way." The roughly three-hundred asylum-seekers hail mostly from Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Syria. Russia and Belarus engineered a similar crisis on the Polish border in 2021.

President Putin, Reuters reports, will address the G20 summit this week virtually. He intends to hip the assembled leaders to the "deeply unstable world situation," and who is better placed to do so than the author of so much of that instability?

Ukraine removes senior security officials under suspicion of graft.

Two Ukrainian senior cybersecurity officials were removed from office yesterday, resigning as they faced criminal corruption charges. The two officials, familiar to the cybersecurity and defense sectors, are Yurii Shchyhol, head of the State Special Communications Service of Ukraine (SSSCIP) and Victor Zhora, the SSSCIP's deputy head. They're suspected of establishing two shell companies to rig bids for software, the excess charges for which were skimmed off by the principals. So far the National Anticorruption Bureau believes six persons to be involved in the scheme:

  • "Head of State Special Communications and his deputy; 
  • "general director and employee of a state-owned enterprise; 
  • "the owner of a group of companies (scheme organizer) and one of his employees."

The amount alleged to have been stolen amounts to 62 million hyrvni, or a bit more than $1.7 million US. Both senior officials deny wrongdoing and say they look forward to vindication. Their former agency, the SSSCIP, issued the following statement:

"The SSSCIP has provided the law enforcement with all the necessary information and is up to providing such information onwards as the SSSCIP’s operation is based on the principles of openness and zero toleration of corruption.

"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, and the SSSCIP is up to provide any clarifications necessary to the NABU detectives, in any format.

"We urge to abstain from accusations of certain officers or executives involved in organizing protection of Ukraine’s critical information infrastructure until the investigation is completed and the court provides its legal treatment of the investigation results.

"The SSSCIP keeps performing tasks vested in it. The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has appointed Dmytro MAKOVSKYI as the acting Head of the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine."

Mr. Zhora worked closely with US officials and agencies, notably with CISA, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. CISA, TechCrunch reports, had no comments on the dismissals beyond reaffirming the US commitment to continue cooperating with Ukraine in cyberspace.

This represents the third case of senior Ukrainian officials suspected of corruption over the past two months. Graft, it should be noted (without imputing guilt before conviction to any of the officials named in the incidents) is one of the traditions Ukraine (along with Russia) inherited from its Soviet past.