Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) intelligence agency is too powerful and must be reformed to Western standards, according to George Kent, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
Speaking to a panel of journalists in Kyiv, Kent said that the SBU has powers which far surpass similar European intelligence agencies such as the ability to fight corruption, investigate economic crimes, and enforce laws.
“If you were to ask Ukrainian businessmen what the number one concern they have… the worst issue is the SBU putting pressure on Ukrainian business. That's not the purpose of an intelligence service in a democratic country,” he added.
SBU Agents, Ukraine. Photo credit: WIKICOMMONS
The SBU is structured after and operates similarly to its predecessor – the KGB of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic – and includes nearly 30,000 employees. It is under the command of the President of Ukraine and its duties include fighting terrorism, corruption, organized crime, and anything that threatens Ukrainian national interests.
Kent said that many of these duties result “as a legacy of an earlier era” and that “the SBU also has functions which intelligence services should not have.”
Many civic activists and Western politicians accuse the SBU of abusing its power.
SBU Headquarters, Ukraine. Photo credit: WIKICOMMONS
The intelligence agency’s reform is critical to the nation’s NATO aspirations, Kent added.
“Ukraine formally wishes to join NATO. NATO is both a military alliance and a collection of countries with shared values. One of the issues about being a community of shared values is that we believe that there should be oversight of the intelligence sector,” he said.
Kent also commented on the November 2018 Kerch Strait incident, and considered the Ukrainian personnel captured by Russian forces to be prisoners of war under the Geneva convention.
“Those were Ukrainian servicemen, sailors, in uniform, on a warship. And therefore, they were attacked and detained, and they should be given consideration under the Geneva convention – people who were in uniform on a warship and attacked by another country,” he said.
/By LP Luo