Neighbor Versus Neighbor

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For months, rumors have spread in Ukraine about locals collaborating with the Russians. As the Washington Post reported, patriotic Ukrainians believe only a treasonous neighbor would give Russian troops information about where residents might store their guns or who among them has the most wealth. One witness told Ukrainian authorities about her neighbor who fired a flare gun that provided guidance for a column of Russian tanks that plowed through the village soon after.

The search for collaborators is growing more intense. Already, anti-corruption officials have opened more than 650 cases of high treason in law enforcement, for example.

Meanwhile, the collaborator issue generated a national scandal in the war-torn country last week when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fired his top prosecutor and domestic intelligence agency chief, wrote the Daily Beast. Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) Director Ivan Bakanov’s agencies were riddled with Russian collaborators, alleged Zelenskyy in a recent televised speech. He had lost confidence in their capacity to lead.

The sackings didn’t necessarily reflect well on Zelenskyy. Venediktova oversaw the high-profile investigation into alleged Russian war crimes in the town of Bucha near the capital of Kyiv. The job earned her the spotlight and granted her moral authority, as Radio Free Europe showed. Soon after she was fired, a court ordered an investigation into why she failed to disclose assets and declare her income, the New York Times added.

Bakanov is the president’s childhood friend and former business associate, reported CBS News with wire agencies. He came under criticism when the war started for failing to plug security breaches in his massive, 30,000-strong agency that was formerly part of the KGB under the Soviet Union, as the Kyiv Post explained.

“The threat of Kremlin agents is particularly high as many senior SBU officials began their careers in the Soviet era and are graduates of elite Moscow institutions,” wrote Andrew D’Anieri of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center in a blog post.

Zelenskyy described the terminations and investigations as parts of a “purge” or “self-purification” process that Ukraine needed to embark upon in order to survive their struggle against their stronger foe, noted the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Analysts noted that traitors likely undermined Ukraine’s defense of Kherson, which fell quickly to the invaders in contrast to Ukrainian resistance in Kyiv and elsewhere.

Many believe Zelenskyy is probably on the right track, as long as the purge doesn’t turn into a witch hunt, a line that can be hard to define.

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