SSU reform

The reform of the Security Service of Ukraine started in 2019 with the development of a new bill on the Security Service of Ukraine. Its main goal is to consolidate new priorities in its work and make the SSU more effective. The reform will provide the intelligence service with effective mechanisms to better respond to the new threats posed by the modern world. In particular, to successfully resist Russian hybrid warfare.


The Service is already dynamically adapting to the new reality. We are professionalising personnel services, strengthening key areas and making the organisational structure more agile. The reform should complete these processes and organise the work of the renewed Service so that it becomes most effective in protecting the security of citizens and the state.

Ivan Bakanov Head of the Security Service of Ukraine

The Bill 3196 on the reform of the Security Service of Ukraine was registered in the Parliament on March 10, 2020. It was initiated by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi. The draft law was developed by the Service's specialists, and the final version was prepared by an expert group of the President's Office. It takes into account the key proposals of international partners. On May 19, 2020, the Verkhovna Rada considered Bill 3196 and sent it for a second reading. In the process of finalising the bill, the proposals of the relevant parliamentary committees and the international advisory group of experts from the EU, NATO and the United States are being further studied. As of the beginning of June 2020, work on the draft law №3196 continues on the basis of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security, Defence and Intelligence.

You can read the text of Bill 3196 in detail here.

As a result of the reform, the Service's activities will be focused on key areas:

  • Counterintelligence counteraction to threats to state security
  • Counterterrorism
  • Cyber security
  • Protection of national statehood and territorial integrity
  • Protection of state secrets

The Service will release any extrinsic functions and there will be a clear division of competencies with other security agencies. Included in this is that the Service will not deal with economic crime, but will focus on protecting critical infrastructure facilities.

SEPARATION OF FUNCTIONS

Now it is quite common practice for law enforcement officers to involve SSU officers in searches, investigative and operational-search actions. The public, therefore, has a misconception that the case is being investigated by the SSU. For example, in 2019 alone, the SSU received about 7,000 instructions from investigators (prosecutors) from other law enforcement agencies. Most of them do not fall within the remit of the Service.

After the reform, law enforcement agencies will not be able to involve SSU officers if such criminal proceedings are not within the jurisdiction of the Service. This will be clearly prohibited by the new law.

SSU WILL NOT INVESTIGATE ECONOMIC AND CORRUPTION CRIMES

This demand was one of the key ones voiced by security experts and international partners at the start of the reform. As for now, Directorates "K" and "KZE" investigate economy and corruption crimes.

The new structure of the Service will not include units to fight organised crime, corruption and economic crimes.

If in the future the SSU detects such crimes in the course of its activities, criminal proceedings will be transferred to other bodies - NABU, DBR, National Police in accordance with their competence.

CASES OF NATIONAL SECURITY

Of course, national security cases may involve economic or corruption crimes. Therefore, it will be possible to transfer them to the SSU from other law enforcement agencies, but only in exceptional cases. Such exceptions would have to be authorised by the Attorney General or his Deputy. This will limit the current practice of transferring criminal proceedings from other law enforcement agencies to the SSU without sufficient oversight and parameters.

PROTECTION OF CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE FACILITIES

Counterintelligence and counterterrorism protection of critical infrastructure is the key priority of many European intelligence services. This means not only the readiness of such facilities to resist cyber attacks, but also the minimisation of physical threats.

GUARANTEES OF POLITICAL INDEPENDENCE

Particular attention will be paid to minimising the risks of political interference in the activities of the SSU. For example, the term of Office of the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine will not coincide with the term of Office of the President of Ukraine. The bill clearly spells out the qualification requirements for the Head of the SSU, their powers and the grounds for dismissal.

STAFF DEMILITARISATION AND OPTIMISATION

The Constitution of Ukraine defines the status of the SSU as a military institution. Today the number of the Service staff is over 27,000. Many of our servicemen and women are involved in deterring Russian armed aggression in eastern Ukraine. In the process of reform, there should be a gradual reduction of the number staff in peacetime. This will not reduce the defence potential of the SSU against Russian aggression, but will create a more agile, efficient Service. Staff reductions are planned to take place gradually until 2027.

Importantly, demilitarisation does not mean abandoning the military component of the Service - it will continue to effectively defend the country, but will be able to involve more civilians.

An optimal number of staff and an effective flexible structure will allow the Service to retain the best staff, attract new staff and provide existing staff with career growth. And most importantly, it will allow the SSU to provide its staff with decent working conditions and comparable salaries.

TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

The new law strengthens democratic civilian control over the activities of the SSU by parliament and society. This will be implemented through the establishment of a parliamentary committee in control of special and intelligence agencies, special commissions of inquiry, the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Accounting Chamber.

The declaration of property and income of employees of the Service by law will be organised jointly with the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption.




The reform must be balanced and take place in such a way as not to harm the state's defence capabilities. We must take into account both the fact that a hybrid war is being waged against our country and that our Service needs to modernise to be able to tackle new challenges that are constantly arising in the world.

Ivan Bakanov Head of the Security Service of Ukraine

Key changes in the work of the SSU after the reform:

  • Strengthening the information-analytical function
  • Transition from a reactive approach to a proactive and risk-oriented one
  • Demilitarisation with the introduction of a flexible structure
  • Gradual reduction of the number of SSU staff
  • Raising the social protection of employees to the level of newly created law enforcement agencies

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