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Ukrainian journalists reveal surveillance by security service - Investigation

Ukrainian journalists reveal surveillance by security service - Investigation Journalists have determined how they were being spied (screenshot)

Founder and chief editor of Bihus.Info, Denys Bihus, revealed who was involved in illegal surveillance of journalists, which led to accusations against the media outlet's staff of drug use.

Who was spying on the journalists

"Illegal surveillance of the Bihus.Info team was conducted by the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU). Specifically, the Department for the Protection of National Statehood," the description of the story states.

As journalists found out, from December 15 to 22, SSU employees arrived at the complex where reservations for the Bihus editorial office were already made for January 27. The Service representatives were there twice, meticulously inspecting the rooms.

"The group inspecting the facility was led by a tall thin man who identified himself as Ihor. He left the complex administration a phone number that is now disconnected. But even during the short time this temporary number was used, someone managed to tag it as 'Ihor SSU,'" the investigation says.

Журналісти Bihus.Info показали, як за ними стежила СБУ. Сюжет, гідний Оскара

A man who called himself Ihor (Photo: Bihus.Info)

30 people and cameras, even in the sauna

Journalists obtained footage from surveillance cameras and were able to uncover the identities of people involved in the surveillance. Investigators revealed the man who called himself Ihor as SSU employee Kravchenko Ihor Borysovich, whose number has several tags indicating his involvement with the Department for the Protection of National Statehood.

On December 26, 30 people arrived at the complex, supposedly for a corporate event. Some of them had large suitcases, but they left in the evening. These individuals were driving a Volkswagen Caddy, which, according to journalists, is used by the SSU for operational-technical purposes.

Others stayed overnight in the complex, specifically in the rooms where journalists arrived on December 27. According to Bihus, these individuals installed cameras everywhere, even in the sauna.

Журналісти Bihus.Info показали, як за ними стежила СБУ. Сюжет, гідний Оскара

Bihus showed where hidden cameras were installed (Screenshot)

In addition, journalists managed to identify other SSU employees, namely: Konovalenko Yevhen Oleksandrovych, Sadovnyk Taras Viktorovych, and others. All these individuals declined to comment on the situation.

Back for cameras and equipment

After Bihus journalists left the complex on December 28, another group of men moved into the same rooms. They were reserved by a different Ihor, whose number differed by 2 digits from the first one.

"This group of men, who came to collect hidden equipment, included at least one person who had previously attended the 'corporate event' with Kravchenko Ihor. Besides occupying some of the rooms, this group also visited the sauna," the journalists said.

"On January 1, 2024, another, third group returned to the complex. They occupied two rooms above the sauna. These rooms for the third group were reserved and paid for by Ihor 'number 2' on December 28. He tried to rent them on December 28 but failed due to reservations by third-party individuals," they added.

Журналісти Bihus.Info показали, як за ними стежила СБУ. Сюжет, гідний ОскараOne of the groups of men who arrived for the "corporate event" (Photo: Bihus.Info)

According to the editorial team, "hidden cameras were illegally installed in the sauna and at least 8 rooms ('Morkva,' 'Vyshenky,' 'Khata 2,' 'Khata3' chalets)." Journalists also found out that cameras were placed, including in clothing racks.

"In a written comment to Bihus.Info, the SSU ignored questions about whether court orders were obtained for the installation of hidden technical equipment in bedrooms. Also, how materials from phone tapping and video from hidden cameras in bedrooms ended up on junk sites," the journalists said.

What the Security Service says about this

After journalists published their investigation, a message appeared on the SSU's Telegram channel. Service representatives stated that "combating organized drug crime is one of the directions of the Security Service of Ukraine's activities."

"According to the available operational information, unfortunately, there were some employees of Bihus.Info among the clients of drug dealers through whom narcotic substances were supplied to other citizens. In particular, one of the operators who appeared in a criminal case regarding illegal production, manufacturing, purchase, storage, transportation, transmission, or sale of narcotic substances, psychotropic substances, or their analogs," the message reads.

Журналісти Bihus.Info показали, як за ними стежила СБУ. Сюжет, гідний Оскара

SSU comment (Screenshot)

"At the same time, the Security Service of Ukraine has opened a criminal case under Article 359 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (illegal acquisition, sale, or use of special technical means of obtaining information). Appropriate procedural actions are being taken," SSU representatives added.

Additionally, the statement emphasizes that the management of the Service has made "appropriate personnel decisions regarding the Department for the Protection of National Statehood and optimized its work areas."

"We believe that independent media are an integral part of a modern democratic society, and the actions of individuals cannot cast a shadow on any of the editorial offices or the media in general, and all SSU employees must act solely to ensure the protection of the national interests of the state and society and effectively counter the enemy," the statement concludes.