Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 19.08.2020
A masterful operation by the Security Service of Ukraine to capture Russian terrorists failed at the last moment. Ukraine's President Zelenskyy and his chief of staff Yermak are being accused of betraying the operation to Belarus' President Lukashenka. The Russians ended up going home instead of facing charges in Ukraine for taking part in the Russian Federation's invasion and illegal occupation of Ukraine. Zelenskyy, Yermak, or someone very high up in the Presidential administration committed treason against Ukraine.
Vasyl Burba was head of Ukrainian military intelligence. He blew the whistle on the failure of the operation to capture the "Wagnerians" – members of the Wagner private military company who were to have been caught up in the catfishing operation. The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine (Ukrainian military intelligence) and the Security Service of Ukraine (the SBU) are livid that their brilliantly conceived and executed operation was foiled at the last moment by someone in the Presidential administration. For its part, "the Bankova" – the Office of the President of Ukraine – is in crisis, scrambling to fend off charges of treason, and has summarily fired Vasyl Burba.
Launched more that a year ago, the SBU came up with a large-scale disruption operation to strike at the heart of the Russian terrorist/mercenary network. This deliberately confused mix of soldiers sustains the Russian Federation's war against Ukraine in Donbas. Search, find, and capture 28 terrorists living in Russia was the goal. The hope was they could be put on trial in Ukraine and possibly be used in a prisoner exchange with Russians. Such a prisoner exchange would be a way to free some of the P.O.W.s and political prisoners being held hostage in Donbas dungeons. The targeted Russian militants/mercenaries/
The SBU created a false front to "recruit" the Russians. The Ukrainians resurrected the private military company "MAR" that was established in 2014 in Saint Petersburg. Pretending to be carrying out a contract to guard oil rigs in Venezuela, the SBU agents telephoned the 28 targets. The mercenaries don't care who they fight for, and they jumped at the job offer. Most gave detailed references and bragged about their crimes in Ukraine.
With an additional 5 people to avoid suspicion, 33 mercenaries were transported to Minsk, Belarus. The plan was to have a flight leave Minsk for Istanbul, Turkey, on July 25th. But the plane would make an "unexpected" landing in Ukraine and the 28 targets would be detained.
Belarus is prime real estate for a luring operation. The Russian Federation's FSB lured Ukrainian teenager Pavel Hryb to Homel, Belarus in late October, 2017, abducted him, and took him across the border into the Russian Federation. There the Russians tortured him by denial of medical treatment. Hryb was eventually released in a prisoner exchange. Now the Ukrainians wanted to use Belarus as a transit for their own operation to capture Russian terrorists.
Everything worked up to the arrival in Minsk. But that's when President Zelenskyy and his inner circle had to be informed of the up-until-then secret operation. And that's when the plan was betrayed.
Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak was furious when he heard about the operation. He demanded that the flight leaving Minsk be delayed. He told Vasyl Burba and Ruslan Baranetskiy (First Deputy Chairman of the SBU) that capturing the Russian terrorists would prevent the ceasefire planned for July 27 from happening because it would upset Russian dictator Putin.
Andriy Yermak is a former operative for the Yanukovych Clan who is ineligible to hold public office in Ukraine because of the lustration law. Nevertheless, Zelenskyy has brought him into his inner circle along with several other Yanukovych Clan members, oligarch representatives, and sympathizers with invader-of-Ukraine Russia. He hasn't included any Ukrainian patriots, civil society reformers, or Revolution of Dignity veterans. Yermak is one of the the architects of the three military capitulations Zelenskyy has made to invader Russia: unilateral withdrawal, ceasefire and disarmament. Zelenskyy ordered the Ukrainian army to withdraw from three tracts of Ukrainian territory in October last year; the Russians moved up and filled the void. The one-sided ceasefire and disarmament – imposed on Ukrainian defenders but not observed by Russian invasion/occupation forces – was in fact carried out on July 27.
Yermak got his delay, until July 30. But on July 29, on the eve of departure and of the planned overflight of Ukraine, the entire group of Russian mercenaries was snatched up by Belarus special services. Someone had tipped off Lukashenka, who made a prominent announcement that the Wagner group mercenaries planned to take part in August 9 election riots in Belarus. Only the top Ukrainian leadership – Zelenskyy or Yermak – could have reached Lukashenka directly in order to betray the SBU operation.
Zelenskyy made a show of asking for the extradition of the "Wagnerians" and Lukashenka made a show of agreeing. But on August 14 Lukashenka made Putin happy and sent the Russian terrorists home.
Yanina Sokolova released intercepts of recruitment phone calls between an SBU agent and Russian mercenaries who had fought in Ukraine in the first year of the war. The targets treated the calls like a job interview, telling of their experiences fighting in Donbas against the Ukrainian army, including who their commanding officers were.
One of the targets of SBU op was Denis Yurevich Kharitonov. He was part of the detachment of Russian soldiers that shot down two Ukrainian Air Force SU-25s near Saur-Mohyla in Donetsk oblast, Ukraine, on 23 July 2014 – six days after Russian armed forces shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 from nearby Snizhne.
Ms Sokolova wonders why the SBU operation failed. She asks pointedly: "Did someone from the Ukrainian leadership warn the Wagnerians [mercenaries hired by the Wagner private military company] about the ambush?" Someone caused the Russian mercenaries to be delayed in Belarus, knowing that Lukashenka was prostrating himself before Putin.
The July 24 meeting of the military intelligence and SBU chiefs with Zelenskyy and Yermak is the key to treason. Either Zelenskyy or Yermak or an unknown spy very close to them thought about what Putin wants and thought nothing of what Ukraine needs.
Ruslan Demchenko, deputy head of Ukraine's Council on National Security and Defence, and Head of Committee for Intelligence
For almost a year, loyal Ukrainians have cried "Treason! Surrender! Shame!" at Zelenskyy for his consistent actions in favour of aggressor Russia and against defender Ukraine. Now a very direct act of treason is evident, and it comes from the Presidential administration.
The Russian mercenaries who were to have been captured committed terrible war crimes. They killed 298 people on MH17. They killed 49 people when they shot down the Il-76. They killed and injured and destroyed throughout the part of Donbas the Russian Federation invaded, starting in April 2014. These war criminals deserved to be brought to justice. Instead, it is a traitor in the Zelenskyy administration – perhaps Zelenskyy himself – who needs to be exposed and face the judgement of Ukrainians. Maidan or Viche, that day will come.