Bellingcat and The Insider have published the first part of an investigation into the disruption of the Ukrainian special operation to detain Wagner PMC mercenaries. The first part of the investigation is posted on the website The Insider. Bellingcat published the full version.
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According to the investigation, Ukrainian intelligence officers, disguised as a security company under Rosneft, managed to take out of Russia dozens of key Wagner PMC militants involved in war crimes in Ukraine. The special operation was supposed to end with a forced landing of an aircraft with militants in Ukraine. But at the last moment, the scouts met with the political leadership, and the operation was “postponed.”
Initially, the idea of Ukrainian intelligence officers was to lure four or five Wagnerians into Hungary under the pretext that in order to work in a new PMC, one had to undergo training in a special training camp. In Hungary, they would have been detained, extradited to Ukraine and tried.
Investigators believe that this idea had a great chance of a successful implementation. The scouts knew that the Wagnerians were often involved in the protection of valuable cargo or assets of Russian companies abroad. It was under the guise of such a company that Ukrainian intelligence officers were going to act.
By September 2019, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense had collected personal data from more than a thousand mercenaries, the vast majority of whom fought in eastern Ukraine between 2014 and 2018. Of this thousand, they were especially interested in those who were involved in any war crimes on the territory of Ukraine – these are several dozen specific individuals, the investigation says.
A group of intelligence officers was formed to recruit these mercenaries. The project was codenamed “Avenue”.
The Ukrainian special services have created a website on behalf of the discontinued PMC MAR, which previously supplied militants to the Donbass. The team also registered the domain name office-rosneft.org in order to use the domain for email correspondence with candidates.
An important participant in the project was the former middle-level officer of the GRU RF “Sergei Petrovich”, recruited by Ukrainian intelligence. He became an important team member who could provide information, warn of risks.
In order to promote the site for recruiting PMCs on Russian sites where militants had previously been recruited, a number of vaguely worded announcements of vacancies in security services were posted.
After analyzing the applications received, the former GRUshnik conducted interviews and identified two militants who fought in the Donbass. One of them is Artem Milyaev, born in 1981, who was “the deputy commander of the assault brigade in the DPR.”
On the instructions of “Sergei Petrovich” Milyaev recruits fighters with combat experience, especially snipers and experience of anti-aircraft and artillery spotters – these qualifications increased the likelihood that the selected would be related to war crimes in eastern Ukraine.
By the end of May 2020, the fake PMC received dozens of new applications with full personal data of the applicants.
After the curator approved the candidacy, he asked the fighter to send his detailed resume along with copies of any evidence of military experience. And the applicants did it. By the beginning of June 2020, GURMO had received hundreds of pages of detailed, handwritten confessions of militants about their role in illegal hostilities in Donbas, the names of commanders, videos and photographs of war crimes. Some of the names were already known to the SBU.
The news is supplemented …
Ahead of the publication of Bellingcat’s investigation, the Interim Commission of Inquiry (TIC) of the Verkhovna Rada statedthat in July 2020 the president Vladimir Zelensky did not give instructions to postpone the special operation, and the head of his office Andrey Ermak did not have such powers. TSK was unable to establish whether there was a leak of information about the special operation from Ukraine, but it does not rule out that the Russian Federation and Belarus might have known about it.
- July 29, 2020 near Minsk detained 33 mercenaries the Kremlin PMC Wagner. Ukraine requested their extraditionbut Belarus let them go to Russia.
- Journalist Yuriy Butusov said that the Ukrainian special services allegedly developed a special operation to detain these mercenaries, but a “mole” on Bankova tore it off. In the summer of 2020 Zelensky called it “nonsense”, but on June 24, 2021 saidthat the idea of the special operation belonged to “other countries,” and Ukraine was “dragged into it as much as possible.”
- In the spring of 2021, Bellingcat leader Hristo Grozev came to Ukraine. In September, the investigating partners, CNN, stated that the operation was carried out with the consent of the United States: Washington gave funds, technical assistance and recommendations from the CIA.
- In May, the parliament created TSK to investigate possible crimes of officials, which also deals with the case of the Wagnerites. This TSK includes eight deputies SN, the pro-Russian people’s deputy HLE Shufrich, on the deputy from the groups Trust and For the Future. TSK stated that the operation was Ukrainian, and exchanged data with foreign partners.
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