The Ukrainian side consulted with the Americans on the operation of bringing and arresting Russian soldiers in Ukraine who were to be involved in the crimes committed during the war in Donbas, CNN reports. The United States was to support the operation financially and technically, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) advised Ukrainian services on how to lure Russians to the country. The US official denied these reports.
CNN writes on Wednesday the story behind the detention of 33 Russian mercenaries by Belarus. The incident took place at the end of July last year, just before the presidential elections in this country. The Belarusian authorities then claimed that the soldiers were part of a plan to interfere in the elections, but in reality – as reported by CNN – they were actually supposed to be finally arrested in Ukraine, lured by the Ukrainian services under false pretenses. Information about the operation was already reported last year by Ukrainian and foreign media, but CNN reports that the operation took place with the knowledge and, according to Ukrainian TV sources, with the support of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Former Ukrainian intelligence officials say the operation was supported by the US financially and technically, and that the CIA was to provide advice on how to best attract soldiers, writes the US portal. According to the cited US official, the US was aware of the operation but did not help. He also suggested that this was an attempt to share or blame the failed action altogether.
The action of Ukrainian services
CNN cites three anonymous informants, former Ukrainian intelligence officers. The first element of the plan was to lure Russian soldiers through a fictitious company recruiting mercenaries to protect the oil fields in Venezuela. Future bodyguards were offered a lucrative contract of $ 5,000 a month.
Hundreds of people took the bait, giving Ukrainian services an unprecedented opportunity to identify and intercept those responsible for the crimes in the Donbass. “We started calling them and telling them,” Hi buddy, tell them something about yourself. Maybe you’re not really a military man, you are a plumber, “one former officer told CNN. As he added, “then they began to reveal information about themselves, they sent us documents, military IDs, evidence showing where they fought”. – We thought: bingo, we can use it – explained the interlocutor.
Soon, the fictional company had abundant material on Russian mercenaries, including potentially incriminating documents, photos, and videos from eastern Ukraine. One of the recordings shows a group of fighters holding fragments of the wreckage, which, according to CNN sources, was a recently shot down Ukrainian military plane.
Other applicants have exposed their connection to the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014. 298 people were killed then, all on board. – Two of them were present when the rocket that knocked down the MH17 was fired. Four others were members of the group responsible for shooting down our military plane, said another CNN interlocutor.
Ukrainians prejudiced, consternation in Minsk
The Ukrainians chose 28 Russian mercenaries allegedly related to the activities in eastern Ukraine and five other people without any connections, so as not to arouse suspicions, the CNN source explained. The group was told that they would fly to Turkey, and from there they would travel directly to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. The actual plan, however, was to transport the recruits to Ukraine where they could be arrested, the informants explained.
The Ukrainians’ plans were thwarted by Russia’s decision to close the borders in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. Only the border with Belarus remained open, so the soldiers were transported to Minsk, from where they were told to continue their journey. While waiting for the flight, they were sent to the “Belorusochka” sanatorium in Żdanowicze near Minsk.
According to CNN sources, the delay to the flight to Turkey was long enough for the Belarusian services to act. As the informants add, the action took place just a few hours before the scheduled departure. The scenes of the arrest of the Russians were broadcast by Belarusian television. Their documents were shown to the public as evidence of Russian military origin. – We have confirmed information that these Russians have combat experience and actually participated in armed conflicts – the masked commander of the Belarusian services told journalists at the time.
Former aide to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, speaking on condition of anonymity, told CNN that the authorities in Minsk initially believed that a group of mercenaries had been sent to Belarus on the orders of the Kremlin to destabilize the country ahead of the upcoming presidential elections. He added that there was confusion among members of the Belarusian administration because the situation seemed to be aggression on the part of the Russian ally. The Kremlin later denied sending people to Belarus.
Lukashenka’s conversation with Putin. The mercenaries return to the country
The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, soon became involved in the case. According to the authorities in Kiev, during a conversation with Lukashenka, he expressed the hope that “all suspects of terrorist activity on the territory of Ukraine will be handed over to the Ukrainian authorities so that they can be prosecuted.” – The conversation was constructive, but so far we have not received any official information that Belarus agrees to transfer these people to Ukraine – said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. He confirmed that Kiev had officially requested the extradition of 28 of the detained Russians.
After a few days, Lukashenka rejected Kiev’s request. As reported in the Kremlin statement, the President of Belarus talked about the matter with Vladimir Putin and both leaders “expressed confidence that this issue will be resolved.” A week after the interview, Russia announced that 32 detainees had returned home. One of the mercenaries, who had dual citizenship of Russia and Belarus, remained in the other country.
In June 2021, President Zelensky returned to the matter, denying that Ukraine had organized the operation and had only been “dragged” into the matter. – As I understand it, the idea of this operation was born in other countries, but certainly not in Ukraine – he declared.
The FSB confirms. Kiev: It speaks for itself
A representative of the Russian Federal Security Service, quoted anonymously on Wednesday by TASS, said the information provided by CNN was “completely reliable” and the FSB “fully confirms it.” He stated that “the episode with the so-called vagnerists is (…) the planned kidnapping of Russian citizens from the territory of a third country and everything that is happening, what we see from the secret services of Ukraine, we cannot evaluate otherwise than as acts of state terrorism. (…) “.
Mykhailo Podolak, the representative of the office of the President of Ukraine, drew attention to the immediate reaction of the Russian services to these reports. “It wasn’t a few hours before the official FSB representative praised CNN for this material,” Podolak told Interfax-Ukraine. According to him, “you should not pay attention to what was published, but to the synchronization with the statement of the FSB representative.” “This is actually a signal to the entire Russian propaganda system,” he added. He also assessed that “the situation speaks for itself” and pointed out that “it happened on the eve of the scheduled meeting between Lukashenka and Putin”. Podolak also announced that no new information appeared in the material.
Main photo source: Belarusian KGB via State TV and Radio Company of Belarus