Ukraine is Not a Piano
What links the President of the Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to protests in Belarus against strongman Aleksander Lukashenko, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and occupation of areas in Donbas?
In the first of a new investigative series, BELLINGCAT aims to unravel several threads which hold together an extraordinary mystery involving Ukraine’s moron president, Russia’s secret services, conspiracies at the highest level, and at least one moving target, now running for his life with a million dollar price on his head.
One protagonist of this epic fuck-up is Vasyl Burba, ex-head of Ukraine’s Military Intelligence Directorate, who last week was evicted from his state-owned residence after turning down an offer to become ambassador to Australia. Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov provides details here.
Fugitive ex-Deputy SBU chief Dmytro Neskoromny said on his Telegram channel that it was Burba who ratted out details of the operation to a Russian agent named Kharitonov (who starred in a minute-long YouTube clip published by the SBU chatting up battles in Donbas with a Wagner PMC commander).
Mykhailo Podoliak, advisor to President’s Office Head Andriy Yermak, said on Facebook that Skoromny is a suspect in a plan to assassinate the head of the SBU’s internal security directorate Andriy Naumov.
“After [the murder attempt] failed, the standard propaganda scenario along the lines of ‘Who yells louder to arrest the thief’ ensued. Conclusions? There are almost none. It’s just the end of a banal months-long special investigation,” Podoliak said.
Whatever. Welcome to the world of ultra-competitive Ukraine-style politics.
Past is prologue
Secret state security services these days are walking a tightrope. Any miscalculation, could result in a hilarious failure, such as the recent botched attempt to liquidate Alexey Navalny, or a bloody mess, like the Battle of Kassam.
OPSEC fuck ups in former Soviet states in recent years have been manifold. They demonstrate nothing is more corrosive than official anonymity, a TOP SECRET clearance with access to sensitive compartmented information (SCI). Not leaving digital clues has become harder, further complicating the enterprise of carrying out clandestine fuckery without without getting caught.
Crusaders like Julian Assange and Eduard Snowden a decade ago warned about Big Brother wanting to monitor our phone calls and track our movements. The information age has instead allowed anyone with a computer, a decent Internet connection and a couple thousand dollars to keep track of would-be guardians of the state. Shadowing inept operatives has never been easier or more entertaining.
Which brings us to Ukraine’s state security services and their year-long operation against Russian agents and Wagner PMC (Private Military Company).
The plan was to force an emergency landing of the contractor's plane from Minsk in July 2020 as it flew through Ukrainian airspace. The mercenaries - several of whom had fought in eastern Ukraine - would have been arrested. Russian President Putin said the stunt was the brainchild of a joint U.S.-Ukrainian intelligence operation. The President’s Office of Ukraine denies any such operation existed.
All this is apropos of the list of Wagner PMC fighters Ukraine’s ex-State Security Service (SBU) chief made public during a press conference on January 28, 2019. A group of volunteers and investigators from BELLINGCAT checked the lists and corroborated info linking Wagner PMC employees with the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (abbreviated G.U., formerly the Main Intelligence Directorate, and still commonly known by its previous abbreviation GRU).
Russia’s GRU agents and contractors, like Wagner PMC, are responsible generally for wet ops, including assassinations, abroad, while agents employed by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have been put in charge of liquidating Putin’s enemies within Russia’s state borders.
The order given in July 2020 to scupper an attempt by Ukraine’s security services to lure Wagner PMC fighters to Kyiv in order to arrest them has amazed intelligence agencies in western capitals. The months-long state-sponsored cover up of the decision has irritated the Zelensky’s critics in Ukraine’s parliament. BELLINGCAT’s volunteer sleuths, meanwhile, have announced plans to publish their report in March. and produce a documentary film about the chicanery, air it on NETFLIX and win an Oscar.