Ukraine has sacked two senior cyber defence officials, a government official says, as prosecutors announced a probe into alleged embezzlement in the government’s cyber security agency.
Yurii Shchyhol, head of the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine (SSSCIP), and his deputy Viktor Zhora were dismissed by the government, senior cabinet official Taras Melnychuk wrote on Telegram.
Melnychuk, the cabinet’s representative to parliament, did not mention the reasons for the dismissals.
Shchyhol wrote on Facebook that he was confident he could prove his innocence, Interfax Ukraine reported.
There was no immediate comment from Zhora.
The SSSCIP is responsible for securing government communications and defending the state from cyber attacks.
News of the firings came less than an hour before anti-corruption prosecutors said they were investigating the head and deputy head of the SSSCIP over their alleged roles in a six-person plot to embezzle 62 million Ukrainian hryvnia ($A2.62 million) between 2020 and 2022.
Authorities suspect the officials of buying software at an inflated price from two companies allegedly under their control in a sale that had been closed to other bidders, Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau said.
In a statement on Telegram, the SSSCIP said it was co-operating with investigators and that all agency procurement had been carried out legally.
Ukraine has stepped up efforts to curtail corruption as it pursues membership in the European Union, which has made the fight against graft a key prerequisite for negotiations to begin.
Recent targets for investigation have included a billionaire former patron of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the ex-head of Ukraine’s Supreme Court.
Both have denied wrongdoing.
In September, Shchyhol told Reuters that Russian spies are using hackers to target computer systems at law enforcement agencies to identify and obtain evidence related to alleged Russian war crimes.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Monday in a push to keep money and weapons flowing to Ukraine even as US and international resources are stretched by the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Austin, who travelled to Kyiv by train from Poland, met with Zelenskiy, Defence Minister Rustem Umerov and was scheduled to meet with Chief of Staff General Valerii Zaluzhnyi.
In Kyiv, Austin said Ukraine’s effort to defeat Russia’s invasion “matters to the rest of the world” and that US support would continue “for the long haul”.
Zelenskiy said Austin’s visit was “a very important signal for Ukraine”.
“We count on your support,” Zelenskiy said, thanking Congress as well as the US public for their backing.