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The Verkhovna Rada on Thursday, January 28, passed at first reading a draft law launching the long-sought reform of the Security Service of Ukraine.

The conclusion of Parliament's security and defense committee says the draft law is aimed at increasing the SBU's institutional capacity to ensure state security and bringing the legislation regulating its activities in line with modern challenges and threats to the state security, which the SBU must tackle, as well as strategic and conceptual guidelines on the development of the security and defense sector, reforming the law enforcement system, and the relevant recommendations of Ukraine's foreign partners.

Read alsoNATO says new bill on SBU requires further workThe bill strengthens the agency's counterintelligence and anti-terrorist capacity and expands its powers to employ forces and means against terrorist organizations, illegal armed and paramilitary groups, and transnational criminal organizations outside Ukraine, as well as on conducting "special information operations" (psy-ops) and countering such operations by foreign actors targeting Ukraine.

The bill also proposes multilevel mechanisms for a preventive response to national security threats: proposals, official warnings, and motions. In particular, the range shall be expanded of preventive action to hinder intelligence and subversive activities targeting Ukraine. The relevant amendments are proposed to be introduced into the laws on state secrets, TV and radio broadcasting, and the electoral code.

Also, the bill defines mechanisms for countering intelligence and subversive action by foreign special services, illegal armed groups and terrorist organizations employing NGOs and political parties, as well as media.

Among other things, the bill proposes to put the SBU beyond the framework of Law "On the organizational and legal grounds for combating organized crime."

"Thus, special units combatting corruption and organized crime shall be liquidated. Countering organized and transnational crime shall be carried out from the standpoint of countering intelligence and subversive activities to the detriment of Ukraine," the committee notes.

At the same time, the law enforcement function of the SBU is significantly limited by the gradual (until 2024) transfer of the pre-trial investigation function to the State Bureau of Investigation.

The bill also contains provisions aimed at optimizing the structure, including toward personnel cuts and new standards of social guarantees for the operatives, set to be introduced in stages.

It also provides for a partial demilitarization of the agency with the transition to special, non-military ranks for the part of its employees.

Memo

In early 2016 a permanent international advisory group on the SBU reform was established with the participation of the representatives of the EU Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform Ukraine, the NATO Communication Office in Ukraine, the NATO Centre for information and documentation in Ukraine, and other international organizations, the Anti-corruption Action Center NGO reported.

The Concept of the SBU reform, based on NATO standards, was developed and finalized in July 2016 before being submitted for formal approval.

The comprehensive reform aimed specifically at transferring part of the SBU functions to the other law enforcement agencies – the National Anticorruption Bureau, the State Bureau of Investigations (after its launch), and the National Police.

The reform was also supposed to introduce civil control over the security agency.

However, the reform stalled for years.

The Atlantic Council wrote back in 2019 that the United States and Europe have an interest in a reformed SBU, which would make Ukrainian law enforcement more efficient and effective, reduce opportunities for government corruption, and bolster the SBU’s contribution to the conflict with Russia.