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Draft summons used as “punishment” for Ukrainian journalist exposing SBU official’s luxury real estate

A whistleblower from Slidstvo.info had apparently faced an act of retribution from Ukraine’s Security Service for exposing the corruption of one of its chiefs
Summons slidvsto draft investigation ukrainian whistleblower
Employees of a military enlistment office followed a journalist into a shopping center to give an army summons after he released a hard-hitting investigation against an SBU chief. Photo: Slidstvo.info
Draft summons used as “punishment” for Ukrainian journalist exposing SBU official’s luxury real estate

Update: Head of SBU’s cybersecurity reassigned to frontline after investigative report exposes property discrepancies

According to an investigation by Slidstvo.Info, an employee of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) may have instructed representatives of the military registration and enlistment office to serve a draft summons to journalist Yevhen Shulhat.

Men of mobilization age in Ukraine are regularly handed out summons for military enlistment to defend the country against Russia’s invasion. Yet, this incident was no regular occurrence: the journalist was specifically singled out in a shopping mall, with the enlistment office officials receiving orders to target specifically the journalist digging into a dodgy real estate story of an SBU chief.

The investigative outlet, which focuses on digging up the corruption of top officials, alleges this was done to punish Shulhat for exposing the elite property holdings of Illya Vitiuk, head of the SBU’s cybersecurity department.

On 1 April, Shulhat was approached by Solomyanskyi military registration and enlistment office employees at a Kyiv supermarket who tried to give him a draft summons. “I was surprised that they came up to me, addressed me by name, and clearly knew me by sight,” Shulhat said.

Surveillance camera footage obtained by Slidstvo.Info shows the military personnel being accompanied by a man in civilian clothes, who appears to give them instructions. After the man points in various directions and leaves, the servicemen approach Shulhat less than a minute later.

Slidstvo.Info identified the man as Oleksiy Bilenko, who works in the SBU’s cybersecurity department under Vitiuk. Bilenko did not respond to journalists’ calls and blocked further communication after receiving messages.

The outlet plans to submit its findings to law enforcement along with a statement of persecution and obstruction of journalistic activity.

The investigation: SBU cybersecurity chief’s wife has questionable real estate

The Slidstvo.info investigation in question, “Ill-gotten gains? SBU cybersecurity chief’s $650,000+ property empire exposed,” which Shulhat worked on, found that Vitiuk’s wife and mother own real estate valued at over UAH 25.5 million ($657,558). The watchdog’s findings raised questions about the source of the family’s wealth and potential conflicts of interest.

Head of SBU’s cybersecurity reassigned to frontline after investigative report exposes property discrepancies

In December 2023, Vitiuk’s wife, Yulia, purchased a 195-square-meter apartment in an elite residential complex in Kyiv’s Pecherskyi district for a declared price of UAH 12.8 million ($330,069). However, Slidstvo.Info estimates the market value of the apartment to be around $585,000, nearly twice the declared amount.

“If the cost at which the apartment was actually purchased differs from the one indicated in the declaration […], this may be grounds for bringing them to criminal liability,” said Pavlo Demchuk, legal advisor at Transparency International Ukraine.

Whistleblower corruption ukraine
Illia Vitiuk with his wife Yulia. Photo: Slidstvo.info

Yulia Vitiuk registered as a sole proprietor just six days before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Despite the timing, she reported earnings of nearly UAH 9.5 million ($291,054) in the first 10 months of 2022 and over UAH 13 million ($346,852) in 2023, averaging more than 1 million hryvnias ($26,681) per month. Her main business activity is listed as legal services, but no public information about her clients or services is available.

Illya Vitiuk’s mother, Natalia, a doctor, also owns two apartments in Kyiv valued at approximately $277,000 combined. When contacted by Slidstvo.Info, Natalia Vitiuk declined to discuss the properties, citing her work responsibilities.

In response to the investigation, the SBU stated that Yulia Vitiuk’s income as a private entrepreneur and Natalia Vitiuk’s earnings as a medical specialist allowed them to purchase the properties. However, the agency did not address questions about the discrepancy between the declared and market values of Yulia Vitiuk’s apartment or provide details about her business.

Slidstvo.info alleges that the family’s income grew along with Illia Vitiuk’s career. After receiving a higher position, his wife made significant money and acquired luxury real estate with no conceivable way to explain her earnings.

The Slidstvo.info draft summons follows a recent similar incident, where the SBU had abused its powers to illegally surveil investigative journalists, obtaining material that allowed launching a smear campaign against them.

Read more:

Bihus exposé: Ukraine’s SBU illegally surveilled investigative journalists

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