Ukraine ex-president accused of taking key servers with him

In this photo taken on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, Oleksandr Danylyuk, the new chairman of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council attends a meeting with the mission of the International Monetary Fund, in Kiev, Ukraine. Danylyuk discovered that all the equipment from the room where the head of the state is supposed to be discussing the most urgent matters of national security is gone. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Less than two weeks after Ukraine’s new president assumed office, his staff discovered that his predecessor had apparently gutted key computer equipment in a meeting room when he left office.

Oleksandr Danylyuk, who was appointed chairman of the National Security and Defense Council on Tuesday, said all the equipment from the situation room, where the head of the state is supposed to be discussing urgent national security matters, is gone.

Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigations quickly announced the launch of an inquiry into a misuse of classified data.

Danylyuk posted a video on Facebook, showing an empty room with power cables sticking out of the walls and marks where computer monitors used to be. He also claimed that former President Petro Poroshenko’s staff had removed servers with confidential information.

“This is the situation room at the presidential administration, this is what it looks like now,” he said in the video. “Everything was taken away during the handover of power. This is a civilized handover for you.”

Danylyuk served as finance minister under Poroshenko for a year and a half until he was fired last year. He has accused Poroshenko and his government of stalling vital reforms needed to combat corruption.

Poroshenko’s spokesman, Svyatoslav Tsegolko, insisted in a post on Facebook that all sensitive data is stored on the servers of Ukrainian intelligence and security agencies, not on servers in the situation room. Tsegolko also said Poroshenko had paid for the equipment’s rental out of his own pocket and that it had to be returned.

His comments caused a storm on Ukrainian social media, raising questions of how a country that is battling a separatist war can be so reckless as to rely on rented security equipment.

“It just happened that there was no money in the country to build a normal situation room,” Dmytro Shymkiv, former deputy chief of staff under Poroshenko, said Wednesday.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a popular television comedian with no political experience, won a runoff presidential election against Poroshenko by a landslide last month.

Zelenskiy’s popularity at polls reflected Ukrainians’ disappointment with Poroshenko, criticized for failing to deliver to stop a separatist conflict in the east and stemming the country’s endemic corruption.

Poroshenko’s longtime foe, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, arrived in Kiev Wednesday a day after Zelenskiy restored his Ukrainian citizenship.

Poroshenko had named Saakashvili the governor of Odessa region, but later fired him and in 2017 stripped him of his Ukrainian citizenship. Saakashvili has since become one of the most vehement critics of Poroshenko.

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Vasilyeva reported from Moscow.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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