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National-Security Council Chief: Ukraine's Spy Agency Is Top Reform Priority

Oleksandr Danylyuk, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine
Oleksandr Danylyuk, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine

The reform of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) was high on the agenda at the August 13 meeting between the head of the National Security and Defense Council (RNBO) and an international advisory group composed of representatives of the European Union, NATO, and the United States.

RNBO Secretary Oleksandr Danylyuk said the group supported "the Ukrainian authorities' stance on the need to urgently reform the Security Service of Ukraine," according to a statement on the RNBO website.

Acting SBU chief Ivan Bakanov and Ruslan Ryaboshapka, deputy head of the presidential office, also attended the meeting.

Danylyuk, a former finance minister and McKinsey & Company consultant, told the BBC's Ukrainian Service on August 13 that a law is being finalized to revamp the SBU in order to "make its core functions of counterintelligence and combating terrorism stronger, not weaker."

The SBU is the country's least reformed security or law enforcement agency. It employs more than 30,000 people and is considered continental Europe's largest intelligence service.

It has little civic oversight and has powers far beyond what its Western counterparts have. Unlike other public officials, the SBU's staff is exempt from having their asset declarations accessible to the public.

Danylyuk said he wants to either shift or take away the agency's investigative powers on anti-corruption as well as economic and foreign intelligence -- functions that are duplicated elsewhere.

"It’s paramount that, this time, reform will be successful and effective," Danylyuk said.

New laws and amendments to existing ones should accompany the makeover, he said, to eliminate legislative overlaps and for functions to coalesce across different agencies.

When asked to address the SBU's reputation for shaking down businesses and the documented lavish lifestyles of some of its high-ranking officers, Danylyuk said changes should take place in a such away that the "public trusts it, so that all its actions are understood."

To succeed in the makeover, the RNBO chief said "we [must] act as one team upon the instructions of the president of Ukraine."

With reporting by the BBC’s Ukrainian Service
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