KYIV -- Ukraine said it mistakenly sanctioned more than 100 people earlier this year on suspicion of being crime bosses in a debacle for its security services.
Mikhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodoymyr Zelenskiy, told the media on October 16 that the government is investigating whether the mistake was intentional.
Ukraine freezes the assets, including the bank accounts, of individuals who are sanctioned by the government, something that could be devastating for a legitimate businessman.
In May, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) imposed sanctions on 568 crime bosses -- most of whom did not reside in the country -- as the government took steps to improve the rule of law and clean up the nation’s investment climate.
The sanctions followed a series of similar actions earlier in the year against the nation’s biggest smugglers. However, NSDC Secretary Oleksiy Danilov announced on October 15 that nearly one-fifth of those sanctioned -- 108 people -- had been done so mistakenly.
The list was drawn up by the Interior Ministry, which was run at the time by Arsen Avakov, one of the most powerful people in the country.
Avakov, the longest-serving minister in the government, announced his resignation in July. Political analysts said Avakov was forced out after he failed to back some of the president’s policies.
Oleksandra Ustinova, a Ukrainian lawmaker representing the 20-member Voice faction, said she believed the mistake was intentional and blamed Avakov. The former minister has yet to respond to the accusations.
Ukraine’s security services are considered to be corrupt and a huge impediment to the nation’s business environment.
Viktor Trepak, former deputy head of Ukraine’s Security Service, said the mistake points to “huge problems in the functioning of the state, as well as the political, arbitrary decision making that becomes the new normal.”
“It is an extraordinary event that must have serious legal and political consequences,” Trepak wrote on Facebook.