KYIV – Ukraine said it mistakenly sanctioned more than 100 people earlier this year on suspicion of crime charges in a debacle for its security services.
Mikhailo Podolyak, adviser to President Volodoymyr Zelenskiy, told media on October 16 that the government was investigating whether the error was intentional.
Ukraine is freezing the assets, including bank accounts, of government-sanctioned individuals, which could be devastating for a legitimate businessman.
In May, Ukraine‘s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) imposed sanctions on 568 crime bosses – most of whom did not reside in the country – as the government took action to improve the condition law and clean up the country’s investment climate.
The sanctions followed a series of similar actions earlier in the year against the country’s biggest smugglers. However, NSDC secretary Oleksiy Danilov announced on October 15 that nearly a fifth of those sanctioned – 108 people – had been sanctioned in error.
The list was compiled by the Interior Ministry, which was then headed by Arsen Avakov, one of the most powerful people in the country.
Avakov, the government’s longest-serving minister, announced his resignation in July. Political analysts said Avakov was forced to leave after failing to support some of the president’s policies.
Oleksandra Ustinova, a Ukrainian lawmaker representing the 20 members of the Voice faction, said she believed the mistake was intentional and blamed Avakov. The former minister has yet to respond to the accusations.
Ukrainian security services are considered corrupt and constitute a huge obstacle to the country’s business environment.
Viktor Trepak, former deputy head of the Ukrainian security services, said the error indicated “huge problems in the functioning of the state, as well as the political and arbitrary decision-making which is becoming the new norm”.
“This is an extraordinary event which must have serious legal and political consequences,” Trepak wrote on Facebook.