An end to Department K of the SBU? Hopefully not!

June 21, 2018

With the second successful reading of Law 8608 “On National Security – a framework law to which many subservient laws will need to be written or amended, notwithstanding numerous Decrees, strategy documents and doctrines – the SBU will feel the consequences.

Rightly too.  Long has this blog called for an overhaul of the SBU remit.

However, care need be taken when that remit is redefined.

There are already wrong-headed statements spewing forth from Ukrainian parliamentarians.


Secretary of the Committee for Security and Defence, Ivan Vinnik has publicly stated that Department K of the SBU (which rightly delves into economics, but wrongly gets involved in the business of policing business) will cease to exist.

“Department K will not be needed.” Mr Vinnik has told journalists.  “The SBU loses the function of fighting corruption and will be limited to combating terrorism, counterintelligence activities, defending statehood and critical infrastructure”.


If the SBU is to effectively combat terrorism, be successful in counterintelligence activities, defend Ukrainian statehood and critical infrastructure, then Department K will still be quite necessary.

It will unquestionably have to retain active interest in industrial sized corruption and the economic effects thereof – for that is a national security issue.  Indeed, there is also an ever-converging space between terrorism, organised criminality, cyber crime and economic subversion from both without and within Ukraine all of which generate, facilitate or are end users of financial flows to the detriment of the Ukrainian state.

This not a purely Ukrainian issue but an issue for all security services the world over.

The SBU will still have to follow the money to be effective in its role.  “Follow the money” is a golden rule in policing and intelligence alike.  As such Department K will have to exist in order to keep a watchful counterintelligence eye to identify what may – or may not – be an issue of national security.

What is not necessary, and should long ago have been stopped, is the SBU being used as an instrument in the day to day policing of business (and the majority of criminal activity therein).  An entirely unnecessary and, to be blunt, extremely unsightly role that has been a daily serving on Ukrainian TV.  Daily criminal policing is the role of the police – not the SBU.

Thus, whatever the SBU may identify that is criminal but nevertheless falls outside any new, rightly tweaked and refocused remit, should nevertheless and insofar as the protection of intelligence sources will allow, simply result in the passing on of evidence to the appropriate institutions of state that have a remit to take any necessary investigative and/or prosecuting action.

Mr Vinnik is completely wrongheaded when stating “Department K will not be needed”.  It was, is, and will remain “needed” whether it continues to be called Department K or is renamed.  For the SBU to be effective in a counterintelligence role, it simply has to retain a watchful eye over economic issues that can affect the Ukrainian economy and it must also “follow the money” with regard to terrorism, organised criminality and industrial scale corruption that can adversely affect the Ukrainian economy or social cohesion etc.

Can Department K be downsized?  Probably.  Can many of its departmental staff be reassigned?  Why not.  Should it be refocused and have new parameters placed upon it?  Certainly.  But who, if not the SBU, does Mr Vinnik propose will take on the task of covertly following the money used to directly or indirectly destabilise the State, or that is involved in organised criminality and/or financing terrorism etc?

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