The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) opened an investigation Wednesday, Jan. 17, after journalists from a prominent anti-corruption news outlet, Bihus.Info, were secretly recorded and wiretapped.

Bihus.Info is one of Ukraine’s most popular investigative news websites and has regularly probed alleged corruption involving politicians and business people.

“The entire team was monitored for at least several months,” the outlet said in a statement.

“We are currently trying to find out who is behind this attack and are considering the possibility of contacting law enforcement with a statement about monitoring our employees,” it added.

Ukraine’s SBU security services said it was looking into “illegal wiretapping” of the outlet.

“The SBU believes that transparent and unhindered work of independent and professional media is an important condition for the development of Ukraine as a democratic state,” it said.

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What happened?

A video surfaced Tuesday, Jan. 16, in which journalists from Bihus appear to be chopping and snorting some sort of powder or crystalline substance at a staff party. The revelation was brought to light by Narodnaya Pravda media, which posted the video on its YouTube channel.

Earlier in the video, audio recordings, allegedly of those same employees, are played, and requests for the procurement of either amphetamine, MDMA (also known as “ecstasy” or “molly”) and cannabis can be heard. 

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Authorities said they have identified an “organized group” comprising officials and businessmen that sold tools to Ukrzaliznytsia, Ukraine’s state-owned railway enterprise, at an inflated price.

According to the video’s description, Bihus staff members were at a country club near Kyiv for what they described as a “relaxation” event.

Kyiv Post has not been able to independently authenticate the video.

The footage suggests that security forces had allegedly wiretapped phone conversations among the editorial staff, in which they discussed the procurement of certain prohibited substances.

Shortly after the video’s release, Denis Bihus, the founder of Bihus.Info as well as a journalist himself, addressed the situation in a statement on his Telegram channel and YouTube.

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“The wiretapping and surveillance were illegal, and the goals of those who recorded are clear. But this is not an excuse for what we saw on the video – namely, the use of banned substances by several of our colleagues,” Bihus said.

Bihus pledged that everyone associated with Bihus.Info would undergo drug tests, with the results being shared separately on the Telegram channel.

The journalist claimed that the video demonstrated a year-long surveillance effort targeting Bihus.Info team members, possibly aimed at discrediting the editorial office.

“It is clear from the video published today that our team members have been followed for about a year. Probably looking for ways to discredit the editorial office,” Bihus said.

He suggested that, unable to find professional shortcomings, those behind the surveillance shifted their focus to personal matters.

“And when they found no professional ‘f**k-ups,’ they switched to personal ones. As a result, cameras were set up to watch the girls from the team room at the New Year’s staff party,” he added.

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The Mediarukh press union in Ukraine has openly urged President Volodymyr Zelensky to denounce what they claim to be a “pressure campaign” targeting journalists.

In his evening speech, Zelensky addressed the scandal, assuring that Kyiv’s security services will conduct a comprehensive investigation.

“Any pressure on journalists is unacceptable,” he said.

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