President Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed long-time Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO) Oleksiy Danilov and replaced him with the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service – Oleksandr Lytvynenko.

The RNBO is a council of ministers and top officials responsible for overall security, police, and military issues.

Officially the leader of this council is Zelensky, however, in day-to-day operations, it’s governed by the presidentially appointed secretary – who will now be Lytvynenko.

What do we know about him?

Oleksandr Lytvynenko, 52, is well prepared for his position, Kyiv Post sources said.

He has a broad education. After graduating from Kyiv National University, he did internships in Canada, Germany, and at the Royal College of Defence Studies in London.


One point in Lytvynenko’s biography – that he studied at the Russian FSB academy (the modern equivalent of the KGB) from 1989 to 1994 – has garnered its fair share of public concerns and recriminations on social media, but a muted response from opposition politicians.

“When he worked as deputy secretary of the National Security Council during [ex-President Petro] Poroshenko's time, we thought that this was the highest position he would reach – nothing more – because of his having studied at the FSB Academy,” a Kyiv Post source said.

However, those that Kyiv Post spoke to who had met Lytvynenko – who’s served in various managerial positions for the last 10-15 years – described him as professional, experienced, and patriotic.

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“The criticism about his FSB experience looks so funny and silly,” Dmytro Yarovyi, associated professor at the Kyiv School of Economics and one of the Lytvynenko’s students, told Kyiv Post. “He worked for four presidents and passed so many checks by different intelligence services that it seems ridiculous [to question his patriotism]. I never heard, from anybody who worked with him, anything but respect for his professionalism.”


In the first decade of the 2000s, Lytvynenko served in various positions in the RNBO and the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) – which is something like the Ukrainian equivalent of the CIA in the US. He also worked as a professor of international relations at Kyiv National University.

Then, from 2010 to 2014, he was a deputy director of the National Institute for Strategic Studies – which consults the president’s office.

Artem Bidenko, the ex-secretary of Ukraine’s Ministry of Information (now the Ministry of Cultural and Information) compared Lytvynenko to former Ukrainian Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, Volodymyr Horbullin – who had had a tremendous influence on Ukrainian political policy – both foreign and domestic.

“He is a brilliant analyst, he always gets as deep as possible in any problem, like Horbullin in the 90s,” Bidenko told Kyiv Post.

Former Deputy Minister of Information, Dmytro Zolotukhin, told Kyiv Post that Lytvynenko has skills in global analysis and decision-making.

“All high-level officials from different departments and ministries respect him as a broad-minded man,” Zolotukhin said.


In office

From 2014 to 2019, Lytvynenko served as deputy secretary of the RNBO, lending him familiarity with the office that he is now heading. During this time, he met Denys Yermak, the brother of the head of the President’s Office Andrii Yermak, who’s thought of as the second most powerful man in Ukraine after Zelensky.

According to an investigation by the Babel news publication, in 2015 and 2019, Lytvynenko appointed Denys as his adviser.

Then, in 2019, after Zelensky had become president, Lytvynenko was promoted to director of the National Institute for Strategic Studies.

And in 2021, he was appointed as chief of Ukraine’s Foreign Intelligence Service.

Kyiv Post sources said however that it was not Lytvynenko’s relationship with Yermak that lead to the progression of his career, as being in good relations with top officials isn’t sufficient to attain a high position, particularly during the war.

“Security council secretary holds a lot of responsibilities and duties.  He runs all the analytics of the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. He prepares decision drafts and projects for improving sanctions, which is very necessary now,” Zolotukhin said.


Zolotukhin said said that Lytvynenko is currently the best-prepared specialist for the job.

Bidenko also told Kyiv Post that this appointment was a huge surprise for everyone. Kyiv Post sources in the Presidential Office confirm that.

 Now, as Bidenko said, Zelensky is probably expecting more initiative from Lytvynenko and less publicity.

“He was too public. Lytvynenko has to work [in the office] more,” a source told Kyiv Post.

Lytvynenko has largely avoided the spotlight, rarely making public comments over the past 15 years. 

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Comments ( 1)
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Thank you for your past service Oleksiy Danilov. Thank you for all the seemingly miraculous achievements you help guide Ukraine's forces in, during your tenure as Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (RNBO)

Thanks as well for the ongoing support of Ukraine's defence which we know you will provide in your future roles.

I suspect your knowledge, skills and thoughtful analysis of the enemy's operations will be much appreciated by the former head of the Foreign Intelligence Service – Oleksandr Lytvynenko as he rotates into this new high stakes role.

Slava Ukraini!