Category Archives: Ukraine

Coffee & Covid Saturday, May 14, 2022 RAND PAUL

…excerpts..

It wasn’t a terrific week for the NATO gang. In summary:

— The European Union tried to ban the purchase of Russian oil; the move was blocked by EU member Hungary. Russia continues to sell oil into the EU — but now, requiring payment in Rubles, which makes Putin laugh like a maniacal cartoon hyena. At these sky-high oil prices, the EU is basically paying Russia for the Ukraine war.

— This week NATO voted to admit Finland and Sweden as new members, which infuriated Russia, to say the least, but NATO member Turkey vetoed the proposal. So the vote failed. Russia has warned it will expand its nuclear weapons installations if NATO admits either nordic country, but NATO has continued pursuing the admissions anyway. Some experts think NATO can flank Turkey’s veto, but you have to hand this round to Putin.

By all reports, Turkey’s Erdogan is aligned with the Kremlin.

— Yesterday, Reuters ran an article headlined, “Russia’s Inter RAO to Halt Power Exports to Finland Due Lack of Payment.” In other words, they’re cutting the power off. Finland says it doesn’t care, it only gets 10% of its power from Russia anyway and insists it DID send the check.

— Heroic Senator Rand Paul has managed to block the fast-tracking of the new $40B appropriation for Ukraine in the Senate. That means arms shipments to Ukraine could end by May 19th unless the bill is finally approved.

Paul explained it on the Senate floor this way: “If this gift to Ukraine passes, our total aid to Ukraine will almost equal the entire military budget of Russia. And it’s not as if we have that money lying around, we will have to borrow that money from China to send it to Ukraine.”

Twitter avatar for @RandPaulRand Paul @RandPaul

My oath of office is to the U.S. Constitution, not to any foreign nation. And no matter how sympathetic the cause, my oath of office is to the national security of the United States of America. We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the U.S. economy. https://t.co/UEyKbgadXF

Daily Wire @realDailyWire

‘We Cannot Save Ukraine By Dooming The U.S. Economy’: Rand Paul Blocks Immediate Vote On Billion-Dollar Ukraine Package https://t.co/raH0OSQRAm https://t.co/S9T9FV8ykf

If you believe that helping Ukraine is admirable, but the U.S. has already helped a lot, and we can’t afford to be borrowing MORE money from China right now, and you’re concerned whether the $40B will even make its way to the frontlines of the Ukraine war effort and do any good anyway, it’s time to message your senator. I suggest doing it right now. I just did mine.

— Russia began a new phase in the war, now encircling the large Donbas region in southeastern Ukraine, about the lower half of the country. I keep hearing in corporate media about how Russia is always having devastating losses in Ukraine but then, Russia always seems to keep gaining ground there.

An Economist article yesterday admits “Russia now controls [] most of Donbas.” But don’t worry, the Economist reassured everybody that Putin’s “grip is precarious and Ukraine is determined to liberate its territory.” Well, it’s okay then. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, who recently bragged about helping Ukraine kill Russian generals, said Ukrainian forces are mounting “a stiff and an effective” resistance to the latest moves.

From personal experience, “stiff and effective” is always better than limp and ineffective. So.

Reports this morning also concede that Russia now controls the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which corporate media previously promised would be a disaster of epic proportions for the Kremlin. No so much, apparently.

— Ukraine’s application to join the European Union failed. Not enough votes in favor.

https://www.coffeeandcovid.com/p/-coffee-and-covid-saturday-may-14?token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjoyODc2Mzg5NSwicG9zdF9pZCI6NTQ4OTEwMTIsIl8iOiJyT0t6cCIsImlhdCI6MTY1Mjg4MDk1NiwiZXhwIjoxNjUyODg0NTU2LCJpc3MiOiJwdWItNDYzNDA5Iiwic3ViIjoicG9zdC1yZWFjdGlvbiJ9.dIOETUh0b7MvqQDkZ0S-aYtR9bVk93xnF_hOayrB9P0&s=r

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Pandora Papers Reveal Offshore Holdings of Ukrainian President and his Inner Circle

I have not corroborated this story. It’s too bad that the claims made are not referenced with hyperlinks to the sources. mrossol

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rode to power on pledges to clean up the Eastern European country, but the Pandora Papers reveal he and his close circle were the beneficiaries of a network of offshore companies, including some that owned expensive London property.

Key Findings

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his partners in comedy production owned a network of offshore companies related to their business based in the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus, and Belize.
  • Zelensky’s current chief aide, Serhiy Shefir, as well as the head of the country’s Security Service, were part of the offshore network.
  • Offshore companies were used by Shefir and another business partner to buy pricey London real estate.
  • Around the time of his 2019 election, Zelensky handed his shares in a key offshore company over to Shefir, but the two appear to have made an arrangement for Zelensky’s family to continue receiving money from the offshore.

Actor Volodymyr Zelensky stormed to the Ukrainian presidency in 2019 on a wave of public anger against the country’s political class, including previous leaders who used secret companies to stash their wealth overseas.

Now, leaked documents prove that Zelensky and his inner circle have had their own network of offshore companies. Two belonging to the president’s partners were used to buy expensive property in London.

The revelations come from documents in the Pandora Papers, millions of files from 14 offshore service providers leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and shared with partners around the world including OCCRP.

The documents show that Zelensky and his partners in a television production company, Kvartal 95, set up a network of offshore firms dating back to at least 2012, the year the company began making regular content for TV stations owned by Ihor Kolomoisky, an oligarch dogged by allegations of multi-billion-dollar fraud. The offshores were also used by Zelensky associates to purchase and own three prime properties in the center of London.

The documents also show that just before he was elected, he gifted his stake in a key offshore company, the British Virgin Islands-registered Maltex Multicapital Corp., to his business partner — soon to be his top presidential aide. And in spite of giving up his shares, the documents show that an arrangement was soon made that would allow the offshore to keep paying dividends to a company that now belongs to his wife.

A comedian and actor who had been famous since the 2000s, Zelensky began his political rise a few years after taking on a starring role in the political satire “Servant of the People,” which began airing on the oligarch’s network in 2015. The show starred Zelensky as a humble history teacher whose anti-corruption rant in class is filmed by a student, goes viral online, and wins him national office.

In a case of life imitating art, Zelensky ended up winning the real-world Ukrainian presidency just three-and-a-half years after the show’s launch, with more than 73 percent of the vote.

Zelensky capitalized on widespread public anger at corruption, but his 2019 campaign was dogged by doubts over his anti-graft bona fides, given that his campaign was boosted by media belonging to Kolomoisky — who is accused of stealing US$5.5 billion from his own bank and funneling it offshore in concert with his partner, Hennadiy Boholiubov.

In the heat of the campaign, a political ally of incumbent President Petro Poroshenko published a chart on Facebook purporting to show that Zelensky and his television production partners were beneficiaries of a web of offshore firms that allegedly received $41 million in funds from Kolomoisky’s Privatbank.

That ally, Volodymyr Ariev, didn’t provide evidence, and his accusations have never been proven. But the Pandora Papers show that at least some of the details in this alleged scheme correspond to reality. The leaked documents show information on 10 companies in the network that match structures detailed in Ariev’s chart.

The new documents show that part of the network was managed with help from Fidelity Corporate Services, an offshore consultancy that was one of 14 firms whose documents make up part of the Pandora Papers leak. The documents show that Zelensky and his partners used companies based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Belize, and Cyprus.

Two of Zelensky’s associates in the offshore network, who were also part of his TV production company, now hold powerful positions. Serhiy Shefir is Zelensky’s top presidential aide, while Ivan Bakanov heads the Security Service of Ukraine.

These powerful positions also come with risks. Shefir narrowly escaped an apparent assassination attempt when his car was fired on outside Kyiv on September 22. He was unharmed, but his driver was wounded.

Zelensky has repeatedly pledged to rein in oligarchs. The day after the attack on Shefir, the country’s parliament passed a bill that would create a register of oligarchs and bar them from financing political parties or taking part in privatizations. Zelensky said that the attempt on Shefir’s life will receive a strong response and will not influence his fight against vested interests.

A spokesman for Zelensky declined to comment. Shefir and Bakanov did not respond to questions.

Serhiy Shefir and Volodymyr Zelensky
Credit: ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo Serhiy Shefir (right) and Volodymyr Zelensky (left) at Zelensky’s presidential campaign headquarters in 2019.

Serhiy Shefir’s brother Borys, who is a part-owner of Maltex Multicapital Corp, said he may indeed be an owner, but was unaware of the details of the offshore arrangement, which was largely the work of Ukraine’s now-Security Service chief, Bakanov.

“Bakanov was our financial director, he set up the financial schemes of our company. Speaking honestly, I’m not ready to respond to you,” he said.

Borys Shefir said such offshore arrangements were necessary because of the threat to the company of “authorities and bandits.” Kvartal 95’s members were moving to divest themselves of offshores, but it was a slow and difficult process, he said.

Mr. Holmes’ New Neighbors

It is unclear what most of the offshore network was used for, but a partial answer to the mystery can be found on London’s Baker Street, near the residence of another famous fictional character: Sherlock Holmes.

Pandora Papers documents show a network company was used to purchase an apartment in London just a short walk from the museum that now stands at 221b Baker Street, the address of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective. The area is one of several pricey parts of London favored by foreign investors using anonymous shell companies.

The exterior of the Chalfont Court building in London
Credit: Aubrey Belford/OCCRP The Chalfont Court building on London’s Baker Street where Serhiy Shefir bought an apartment.

That apartment, a three-bedroom flat on Glentworth Street, was bought for 1.58 million pounds ($2.28 million) in 2016 by a Belize company owned by Shefir, SHSN Limited. A two-bedroom flat nearby in Baker Street’s Chalfont Court building, which was bought by Shefir for 2.2 million pounds (US$3.5 million) in 2014, was also transferred to SHSN Limited in 2018.

The documents also show that another Kvartal 95 shareholder, Andrii Iakovlev, obtained a roughly 1.5-million-pound ($2.3 million) apartment in the Westminster Palace Gardens building, a short walk from the Houses of Parliament, in 2015 after his BVI company purchased another BVI company that owned the property.

When contacted by a reporter, Iakovlev said: “Young lady, I don’t speak with people I don’t know. Contact our lawyers.”

Iurii Azarov, a Ukrainian lawyer who has worked for Zelensky and his partners and whose name appears on some of the documents found in the Pandora Papers, also declined to comment.

Mid-Election Maneuvering

There is no sign that Zelensky himself was a part of the London property deals. However, the documents show that he was a key player in other parts of the offshore network.

At the center of the web of foreign firms is Maltex Multicapital Corp, which has never before been linked to Zelensky.

By 2017, Maltex was divided equally between shell companies belonging to Zelensky, Iakovlev, and brothers Serhiy Shefir and Borys Shefir. Ivan Bakanov, another Kvartal 95 partner who now serves as Ukraine’s secret police chief, was the beneficiary of another company that acted as nominee and trustee for the four other men’s ownership of Maltex.

Zelensky, together with his wife, owned a quarter of Maltex through a Belize-registered firm called Film Heritage. But in 2019, in the heat of Zelensky’s election campaign, Film Heritage transferred its ownership of Maltex to another company owned by Serhiy Shefir, the soon-to-be presidential chief assistant. The transfer documents were prepared by Iurii Azarov.

The deal provided Zelensky with a measure of distance from the offshore network, while costing him nothing.

“The share certificate demonstrates that no money was paid by the receiving party. Therefore the ownership was merely transferred from one name to another,” said Martin Woods, a financial crime consultant who reviewed the documents for OCCRP.

Roughly six weeks later, the same lawyer, Azarov, signed another document that stipulated that Maltex would continue to pay dividends to Zelensky’s Film Heritage — even though it no longer owned any stake in the company. The document, a client profile of Maltex prepared for Fidelity, disclosed that the company’s five largest sources of revenue were Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Belize, and Cyprus.

The Pandora Papers documents do not contain details on the size of any dividend payments, or how many may have been made. Since 2019, Zelensky’s wife, Olena Zelenska, has been the sole beneficial owner of Film Heritage, according to the online registry of officials’ asset declarations, meaning any subsequent payments would have flowed to her.

Financial crime consultant Woods said the share transfer was possibly a “charade” aimed at hiding a stake in Maltex while still being able to make money off it. Zelensky has not mentioned Maltex in any of his public asset declarations, including one filed for 2018, when he still owned 25 percent of the company.

In such an arrangement, “the real owner has placed another person to act as his or her proxy to pretend to be the shareholder,” Woods said.

“The person making the transfer wants to retain the shares and the benefit of the shares, but doesn’t want other people to know that that is the situation.”

In response to questions sent by Pandora Papers reporters, Fidelity confirmed it was the registered agent for Maltex Multicapital Corp, but it said that Zelensky was not currently an owner or beneficiary of any company under its administration.

“The present Ukrainian president is not our client, nor does he have any ownership or any other position in any entity under our administration,” Fidelity said.

The company also argued that there would have been nothing wrong to have worked for Zelensky prior to his ascent to political office in 2019. “We don’t see any valid reason why such a private citizen should be precluded from venturing to conduct his business internationally, including through a BVI [British Virgin Islands] business Company, if so deemed fit.”

The company did not respond to follow-up questions about Zelensky’s other partners, as well as the transfer of his shareholding in Maltex Multicapital Corp to Shefir’s partners.

A Wider Web

The documents in the Pandora Papers also contain details that dovetail with broader allegations of offshore machinations leveled against Zelensky and his partners during the 2019 election.

During the campaign, the pro-Poroshenko member of parliament Ariev claimed that Zelensky and his partners were the beneficiaries of an offshore network of companies that received $41 million in payments that originated from Privatbank, the Ukrainian financial institution that the oligarch Kolomoisky is alleged to have looted.

Ariev’s allegations were detailed in a chart he publicized on Facebook showing a complex web of transactions between layers of companies based in offshore havens including the BVI, Cyprus, and Belize. The chart showed money flowing from the bank via a series of apparent shell entities to companies alleged to have been owned by Zelensky and associates.

Ariev has not provided documentation to back up his claims.

However, the Pandora Papers documents do provide the first corroboration for elements of his allegation: that 10 of the companies that allegedly received the money really did belong to Zelensky and his partners. Such information has not previously been publicly available.

The new documents do not, however, corroborate Ariev’s claims that the offshores received funds from Kolomoisky’s Privatbank. They provide only fragmentary information about how money moved through Zelensky and his partners’ offshore network. The financial flows that are visible from the documents appear to be connected to their television production business, of which Kolomoisky was a client.

The leaked documents show the offshore network was set up by individuals behind Kvartal 95 in 2012, the same year in which local media reported that Kvartal 95 entered into a production deal with Kolomoisky’s 1+1 Group.

The Pandora Papers show that SVT Films Ltd, a company that was as of May 2013 half-owned by the BVI holding company Maltex, was to be paid $1.2 million in licensing fees by January 2013 by an offshore company linked to Kolomoisky’s 1+1 network for the television program “Make a Comedian Laugh.”

In 2015, a company called Gimentiano Holdings Ltd, which was ultimately owned by Zelensky’s friend Andriy Iakovlev, also received $750,000 into its account at the Cyprus branch of Kolomoisky’s Privatbank. The money came from SVT Films Ltd. for “payment of interim dividends.”

OCCRP has previously reported that the Cyprus branch played a key role in Kolomoisky and his partner’s alleged multi-billion-dollar theft from the bank. Kolomoisky’s partner, Boholiubov, declined to respond to questions sent by reporters that were addressed to both men.

Even as Zelensky pushes his anti-oligarch campaign, some continue to doubt his sincerity. Among them is Ruslan Ryaboshapka, who was picked by Zelensky as the country’s top prosecutor in 2019, but ousted from the role in early 2020. He told OCCRP he believes this was due to pressure from the oligarch Kolomoisky.

“A president shouldn’t own offshore companies. In general offshore companies are bad, whether they’re owned by a president or not,” Ryaboshapka said.

He called moving money offshore “an old tradition” in Ukraine, because the country was perceived as a dangerous place with “no rule of law.” But still, the use of such companies today raises red flags of “tax evasion or the legalization of dirty money,” he said.

“That’s the essence of offshore companies.”

Aubrey Belford (OCCRP), Margot Gibbs (ICIJ), Luke Harding (The Guardian), and Simon Goodley (The Guardian) contributed reporting.

https://www.occrp.org/en/the-pandora-papers/pandora-papers-reveal-offshore-holdings-of-ukrainian-president-and-his-inner-circle

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The Military Situation in the Ukraine—An Update

The Military Situation in the Ukraine—An Update

Jacques Baud

The Operational Situation

As of March 25, 2022, our analysis of the situation confirms the observations and conclusions made in mid-March.

The offensive launched on February 24 is articulated in two lines of effort, in accordance with Russian operational doctrine:

1) A main effort directed toward the south of the country, in the Donbass region, and along the Azov Sea coast. As the doctrine states, the main objectives are—the neutralization of the Ukrainian armed forces (the objective of “demilitarization”), and the neutralization of ultra-nationalist, paramilitary militias in the cities of Kharkov and Mariupol (the objective of “denazification“). This primary push is being led by a coalition of forces: through Kharkov and Crimea are Russian forces from the Southern Military District; in the center are militia forces from the Donetsk and Lugansk republics; the Chechen National Guard is contributing with engagement in the urban area of Mariupol;

2) A secondary effort on Kiev, aimed at “pinning down” Ukrainian (and Western) forces, so as to prevent them from carrying out operations against the main thrust or even taking Russian coalition forces from the rear.

This offensive follows, to the letter, the objectives defined by Vladimir Putin on February 24. But, listening only to their own bias, Western “experts” and politicians have gotten it into their heads that Russia’s objective is to take over the Ukraine and overthrow its government. Applying a very Western logic, they see Kiev as the “center of gravity” (Schwerpunkt) of Ukrainian forces. According to Clausewitz, the “center of gravity” is the element from which a belligerent derives his strength and ability to act, and is therefore the primary objective of an adversary’s strategy. This is why Westerners have systematically tried to take control of capitals in the wars they have fought. Trained and advised by NATO experts, the Ukrainian General Staff has, predictably enough, applied the same logic, focusing on strengthening the defense of Kiev and its surroundings, while leaving its troops helpless in the Donbass, along the axis of the main Russian effort.

If one had listened carefully to Vladimir Putin, one would have realized that the strategic objective of the Russian coalition is not to take over the Ukraine, but to remove any threat to the Russian-speaking population of the Donbass. According to this general objective, the “real” center of gravity that the Russian coalition is trying to target is the bulk of the Ukrainian armed forces massed in the south-southeast of the country (since the end of 2021), and not Kiev.

Russian Success or Failure?

Convinced that the Russian offensive is aimed at Kiev, Western experts have quite logically concluded that (a) the Russians are stalling, and that (b) their offensive is doomed to failure because they will not be able to hold the country in the long term. The generals who have followed each other on French TV seem to have forgotten what even a second lieutenant comprehends well: “Know your enemy!”—not as one would like him to be, but as he is. With generals like that, we don’t need an enemy anymore.

That being said, the Western narrative about a Russian offensive that is bogged down, and whose successes are meager, is also part of the propaganda war waged by both sides. For example, the sequence of maps of operations, published by Libération from the end of February, shows almost no difference from one day to the next, until March 18th (when the media stopped updating it). Thus, on February 23rd, on France 5 [TV station], the journalist Élise Vincent evaluated the territory taken by the Russian coalition as the equivalent of Switzerland or the Netherlands. In reality, we are more in the area of Great Britain.

As an example, let us observe the difference between the map of the situation on March 25, 2022, as published by Ouest-France:

… and as published by the French Ministry of the Armed Forces:

In addition, it should be noted that Ukrainian forces do not appear on any map (presented in our media) of the conflict-situation. Thus, if the map of the French Ministry of Armed Forces gives a slightly more honest picture of reality, it also carefully avoids mentioning the Ukrainian forces encircled in the Kramatorsk cauldron.

In fact, the situational map, as of March 25, should look more like this:

The Situation as of March 25, 2022. [“Poussée principale”= main thrust;
“poussée secondaire”= secondary thrust].
The bone-shaped, blue area marks the location of the mass of the Ukrainian army (in reality, this “massed” Ukrainian army is split into several smaller cauldrons). The red-lined arrows show the overall offensive of the Russian army. The orange-lined arrows show the thrust of the Donbass forces. The red dotted line shows the maximum advance of Russian coalition forces.

Moreover, Ukrainian forces are never indicated on our maps, as this would show that they were not deployed on the Russian border in February 2022, but were regrouped in the south of the country, in preparation for their offensive, the initial phase of which began on February 16th. This confirms that Russia was only reacting to a situation initiated by the West, by way of the Ukraine, as we shall see. At present, it is these forces that are encircled in the Kramatorsk cauldron and are being methodically fragmented and neutralized, little by little, in an incremental way, by the Russian coalition.

The vagueness maintained in the West about the situation of the Ukrainian forces, has other effects. First, it maintains the illusion of a possible Ukrainian victory. Thus, instead of encouraging a negotiation process, the West seeks to prolong the war. This is why the European Union and some of its member countries have sent weapons and are encouraging the civilian population and volunteers of all kinds to go and fight, often without training and without any real command structure—with deadly consequences.

We know that in a conflict, each party tends to inform in order to give a favorable image of its actions. However, the image we have of the situation and of the Ukrainian forces is based exclusively on data provided by Kiev. It masks the profound deficiencies of the Ukrainian leadership, even though it was trained and advised by NATO military.

Thus, military logic would have the forces caught in the Kramatorsk cauldron withdraw to a line at the Dnieper, for example, in order to regroup and conduct a counteroffensive. But they were forbidden to withdraw by President Zelensky. Even back in 2014 and 2015, a close examination of the operations showed that the Ukrainians were applying “Western-style” schemes, totally unsuited to the circumstances, and in the face of a more imaginative, more flexible opponent who possessed lighter leadership structures. It is the same phenomenon today.

In the end, the partial view of the battlefield given to us by our media has made it impossible for the West to help the Ukrainian general staff make the right decisions. And it has led the West to believe that the obvious strategic objective is Kiev; that “demilitarization” is aimed at the Ukraine’s membership in NATO; and that “denazification” is aimed at toppling Zelensky. This legend was fueled by Vladimir Putin’s appeal to the Ukrainian military to disobey, which was interpreted (with great imagination and bias) as a call to overthrow the government. However, this appeal was aimed at the Ukrainian forces deployed in the Donbass to surrender without fighting. The Western interpretation caused the Ukrainian government to misjudge Russian objectives and misuse its potential of winning.

You don’t win a war with bias—you lose it. And that’s what is happening. Thus, the Russian coalition was never “on the run” or “stopped” by heroic resistance—it simply did not attack where it was expected. We did not want to listen to what Vladimir Putin had explained to us very clearly. This is why the West has thus become—volens nolens—the main architect of the Ukrainian defeat that is taking shape. Paradoxically, it is probably because of our self-proclaimed “experts” and recreational strategists on our television sets that the Ukraine is in this situation today.

The Conduct of Battle

As for the course of operations, the analyses presented in our media come most often from politicians or so-called military experts, who relay Ukrainian propaganda.

Let’s be clear. A war, whatever else it is, is drama. The problem here is that our strategists in neckties are clearly trying to overdramatize the situation in order to exclude any negotiated solution. This development, however, is prompting some Western military personnel to speak out and offer a more nuanced judgment. Thus, in Newsweek, an analyst from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the American equivalent of the Direction du Renseignement Militaire (DRM) in France, noted that “in 24 days of conflict, Russia has carried out some 1,400 strikes and launched nearly 1,000 missiles (by way of comparison, the United States carried out more strikes and launched more missiles on the first day of the Iraq war in 2003).”

While the West likes to “soften up” the battlefield with intensive and prolonged strikes, before sending in ground-troops, the Russians prefer a less destructive, but more troop-intensive approach. On France 5, the journalist Mélanie Tarvant presented the death of Russian generals on the battlefield as proof of the destabilization of the Russian army. But this is a profound misunderstanding of the traditions and modes of operation of the Russian army. Whereas in the West, commanders tend to lead from the rear, their Russian counterparts tend to lead from the front—in the West they say, “Forward!” In Russia, they say, “Follow me!” This explains the high losses in the upper echelons of command, already observed in Afghanistan—but it also tells of the much more rigorous selection of staff-personnel than in the West.

Furthermore, the DIA analyst noted that “the vast majority of the airstrikes are over the battlefield, with Russian aircraft providing ‘close air support’ to ground forces. The remainder—less than 20 percent, according to U.S. experts—has been aimed at military airfields, barracks and supporting depots.” Thus, the phrase “indiscriminate bombing [that] is devastating cities and killing everyone” echoed by the Western media seems to contradict the U.S. intelligence expert, who said, “If we merely convince ourselves that Russia is bombing indiscriminately, or [that] it is failing to inflict more harm because its personnel are not up to the task or because it is technically inept, then we are not seeing the real conflict.”

In fact, Russian operations differ fundamentally from the Western concept of the same. The West’s obsession with having no fatalities in their own forces leads them to operations that are primarily in the form of very lethal air strikes. Ground troops only intervene when everything has been destroyed. This is why, in Afghanistan or in the Sahel, Westerners killed more civilians than terrorists did. This is why Western countries engaged in Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa no longer publish the number of civilian casualties caused by their strikes. In fact, Europeans engaged in regions that only marginally affect their national security, such as the Estonians in the Sahel, go there just to “get their feet wet.”

In the Ukraine, the situation is very different. One only has to look at a map of linguistic zones to see that the Russian coalition operates almost exclusively in the Russian-speaking zone; thus, among populations that are generally favorable to it. This also explains the statements of a US Air Force officer: “I know that the news keeps repeating that Putin is targeting civilians, but there is no evidence that Russia is intentionally doing so.”

Conversely, it is for the same reason—but in a different way—that the Ukraine has deployed its ultra-nationalist paramilitary fighters in major cities, such as Mariupol or Kharkov—without emotional or cultural ties to the local population, these militias can fight even at the cost of heavy civilian casualties. The atrocities that are currently being uncovered remain hidden by the French-speaking media, for fear of losing support for the Ukraine, as noted by media close to the Republicans in the United States.

After “decapitation” strikes in the first minutes of the offensive, the Russian operational strategy was to bypass the urban centers, and to envelop the Ukrainian army, “pinned down” by the forces of the Donbass republics. It is important to remember that the “decapitation” is not intended to annihilate the general staff or the government (as our “experts” tend to understand it), but to sunder the leadership structures so as to prevent the coordinated maneuver of forces. On the contrary, the aim is to preserve the leadership structures themselves in order to be able to negotiate a way out of the crisis.

On March 25, 2022, after having sealed the cauldron of Kramatorsk which denied any possibility of retreat to the Ukrainians and having taken most of the cities of Kharkov and Marioupol, Russia has practically fulfilled its objectives—all that remains is to concentrate its efforts on reducing the pockets of resistance. Thus, contrary to what the Western press has claimed, this is not a reorientation or a resizing of its offensive, but the methodical implementation of the objectives announced on February 24.

The Role of the Volunteers

A particularly disturbing aspect of this conflict is the attitude of European governments that allow or encourage their citizens to go and fight in the Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelensky’s call to join the International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine, which he recently created, has been greeted with enthusiasm by European countries.

Encouraged by the media that present a routed Russian army, many of these young people head off, imagining they are going—literally—on a hunting trip. However, once there, disillusionment is high. Testimonies show that these “amateurs” often end up as “cannon fodder,” without having any real impact on the outcome of the conflict. The experience of recent conflicts shows that the arrival of foreign fighters brings nothing to a conflict, except to increase its duration and lethality.

Moreover, the arrival of several hundred Islamist fighters from the Idlib region, an area under the control and protection of the Western coalition in Syria (and also the area in which two Islamic State leaders were killed by the Americans) should arouse our concern. Indeed, the weapons we are very liberally supplying to the Ukraine are already partly in the hands of criminal individuals and organizations and are already beginning to pose a security problem for the authorities in Kiev. Not to mention the fact that the weapons that are being touted as effective against Russian aircraft could eventually threaten our military and civilian aircraft.

The volunteer proudly presented by the RTBF on the 7:30 p.m. news of March 8, 2022 was an admirer of the “Corps Franc Wallonie,” Belgian volunteers who served the Third Reich; and he illustrates the type of people attracted to the Ukraine. In the end, we will have to ask ourselves, who gained the most—[in this case] Belgium or the Ukraine?

Distributing weapons indiscriminately could well make the EU—volens nolens—a supporter of extremism and even international terrorism. The result—we are adding misery to misery, in order to satisfy the European elites more than the Ukraine itself.

Three Points Deserve to be Highlighted by Way of Conclusion

1. Western Intelligence, Ignored by Policymakers

Military documents found in Ukrainian headquarters in the south of the country confirm that the Ukraine was preparing to attack the Donbass; and that the firing observed by OSCE observers as early as February 16 heralded an imminent outbreak in days or weeks.

Here, some introspection is necessary for the West—either its intelligence services did not see what was happening and they are thus very bad, or the political decision-makers chose not to listen to them. We know that Russian intelligence services have far superior analytical capabilities than their Western counterparts. We also know that the American and German intelligence services had very well understood the situation, since the end of 2021, and knew that the Ukraine was preparing to attack the Donbass.

This allows us to deduce that the American and European political leaders deliberately pushed the Ukraine into a conflict that they knew was lost in advance—for the sole purpose of dealing a political blow to Russia.

The reason Zelensky did not deploy his forces to the Russian border, and repeatedly stated that his large neighbor would not attack him, was presumably because he thought he was relying on Western deterrence. This is what he told CNN on March 20th—he was clearly told that the Ukraine would not be part of NATO, but that publicly they would say the opposite. The Ukraine was thus instrumentalized to affect Russia. The objective was the closure of the North Stream 2 gas pipeline, announced on February 8th, by Joe Biden, during the visit of Olaf Scholz; and which was followed by a barrage of sanctions.

2. Broken Diplomacy

Clearly, since the end of 2021, no effort has been made by the West to reactivate the Minsk agreements, as evidenced by the reports of visits and telephone conversations, notably between Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin. However, France, as guarantor of the Minsk Agreements, and as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has not respected its commitments, which has led to the situation that the Ukraine is experiencing today. There is even a feeling that the West has sought to add fuel to the fire since 2014.

Thus, Vladimir Putin’s placing of nuclear forces on alert on February 27 was presented by our media and politicians as an irrational act or blackmail. What is forgotten is that it followed the thinly veiled threat made by Jean-Yves Le Drian, three days earlier, that NATO could use nuclear weapons. It is very likely that Putin did not take this “threat” seriously, but wanted to push Western countries—and France in particular—to abandon the use of excessive language.

3. The Vulnerability of Europeans to Manipulation is Increasing

Today, the perception propagated by our media is that the Russian offensive has broken down; that Vladimir Putin is crazy, irrational and therefore ready to do anything to break the deadlock in which he supposedly finds himself. In this totally emotional context, the question asked by Republican Senator Marco Rubio during Victoria Nuland’s hearing before Congress was strange, to say the least: “If there is a biological or chemical weapon incident or attack inside the Ukraine, is there any doubt in your mind that 100% it would be the Russians behind it?” Naturally, she answered that there is no doubt. Yet there is absolutely no indication that the Russians are using such weapons. Besides, the Russians finished destroying their stockpiles in 2017, while the Americans have not yet destroyed theirs.

Perhaps this means nothing. But in the current atmosphere, all the conditions are now met for an incident to happen that would push the West to become more involved, in some form, in the Ukrainian conflict (a “false-flag” incident).


Jacques Baud is a former colonel of the General Staff, ex-member of the Swiss strategic intelligence, and specialist on Eastern countries. He was trained in the American and British intelligence services. He has served as Policy Chief for United Nations Peace Operations. As a UN expert on rule of law and security institutions, he designed and led the first multidimensional UN intelligence unit in the Sudan. He has worked for the African Union and was for 5 years responsible for the fight, at NATO, against the proliferation of small arms. He was involved in discussions with the highest Russian military and intelligence officials just after the fall of the USSR. Within NATO, he followed the 2014 Ukrainian crisis and later participated in programs to assist the Ukraine. He is the author of several books on intelligence, war and terrorism, in particular Le Détournement published by SIGEST, Gouverner par les fake newsL’affaire Navalny. His latest book is Poutine, maître du jeu? published by Max Milo.

This article appears through the gracious courtesy of Centre Français de Recherche sur le Renseignement, Paris. Translated from the French by N. Dass.

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Zelensky oversees campaign of assassination, kidnapping and torture of political opposition

“One less traitor”: Zelensky oversees campaign of assassination, kidnapping and torture of political opposition

No, Russia may not be guiltless, but carefully consider if you would support Ukrainian government, military, etc. mrossol

The Grayzone, by Max Blumenthal and Esha Krishnaswamy, April 17, 2022

While claiming to defend democracy, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky has outlawed his opposition, ordered his rivals’ arrest, and presided over the disappearance and assassination of dissidents across the country.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has framed his country’s war against Russia as a battle for democracy itself. In a carefully choreographed address to US Congress on March 16, Zelensky stated, “Right now, the destiny of our country is being decided. The destiny of our people, whether Ukrainians will be free, whether they will be able to preserve their democracy.”

US corporate media has responded by showering Zelensky with fawning press, driving a campaign for his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and inspiring a flamboyant musical tribute to himself and the Ukrainian military during the 2022 Grammy awards ceremony on April 3.

Western media has looked the other way, however, as Zelensky and top officials in his administration have sanctioned a campaign of kidnapping, torture, and assassination of local Ukrainian lawmakers accused of collaborating with Russia. Several mayors and other Ukrainian officials have been killed since the outbreak of war, many reportedly by Ukrainian state agents after engaging in de-escalation talks with Russia.

“There is one less traitor in Ukraine,” Internal Affairs Ministry advisor Anton Geraschenko stated in endorsement of the murder of a Ukrainian mayor accused of collaborating with Russia.

Zelensky has further exploited the atmosphere of war to outlaw an array of opposition parties and order the arrest of his leading rivals. His authoritarian decrees have triggered the disappearance, torture and even murder of an array of human rights activists, communist and leftist organizers, journalists and government officials accused of “pro-Russian” sympathies.

The Ukrainian SBU security services has served as the enforcement arm of the officially authorized campaign of repression. With training from the CIA and close coordination with Ukraine’s state-backed neo-Nazi paramilitaries, the SBU has spent the past weeks filling its vast archipelago of torture dungeons with political dissidents.

On the battlefield, meanwhile, the Ukrainian military has engaged in a series of atrocities against captured Russian troops and proudly exhibited its sadistic acts on social media. Here too, the perpetrators of human rights abuses appear to have received approval from the upper echelons of Ukrainian leadership.

While Zelensky spouts bromides about the defense of democracy before worshipful Western audiences, he is using the war as a theater for enacting a blood-drenched purge of political rivals, dissidents and critics.

“The war is being used to kidnap, imprison and even kill opposition members who express themselves critical of the government,” a left-wing activist beaten and persecuted by Ukraine’s security services commented this April. “We must all fear for our freedom and our lives.”

Torture and enforced disappearances “common practices” of Ukraine’s SBU

When a US-backed government seized power in Kiev following the Euromaidan regime change operation of 2013-14, Ukraine’s government embarked on a nationwide purge of political elements deemed pro-Russian or insufficiently nationalistic. The passage of “decommunization” laws by the Ukrainian parliament further eased the persecution of leftist elements and the prosecution of activists for political speech.

The post-Maidan regime has focused its wrath on Ukrainians who have advocated a peace settlement with pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east, those who have documented human rights abuses by the Ukrainian military, and members of communist organizations. Dissident elements have faced the constant threat of ultra-nationalist violence, imprisonment, and even murder.

The Ukrainian security service known as the SBU has served as the main enforcer of the post-Maidan government’s campaign of domestic political repression. Pro-Western monitors including the United Nations Office of the High Commission (UN OHCR) and Human Rights Watch have accused the SBU of systematically torturing political opponents and Ukrainian dissidents with near-total impunity.

The UN OHCR found in 2016 that “arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment of such conflict-related detainees were common practice of SBU… A former Kharkiv SBU officer explained, ‘For the SBU, the law virtually does not exist as everything that is illegal can be either classified or explained by referring to state necessity.”

Yevhen Karas, the founder of the infamous neo-Nazi C14 unit, has detailed the close relationship his gang and other extreme right factions have enjoyed with the SBU. The SBU “informs not only us, but also Azov, the Right Sector, and so on,” Karas boasted in a 2017 interview.

Kiev officially endorses assassinating Ukrainian mayors for negotiating with Russia

Since Russia launched its military operation inside Ukraine, the SBU has hunted down local officials that decided to accept humanitarian supplies from Russia or negotiated with Russian forces to arrange corridors for civilian evacuations.

On March 1, for example, Volodymyr Strok, the mayor of the eastern city of Kreminna in the Ukrainian-controlled side of Lugansk, was kidnapped by men in military uniform, according to his wife, and shot in the heart.

On March 3, pictures of Strok’s visibly tortured body appeared. A day before his murder, Struk had reportedly urged his Ukrainian colleagues to negotiate with pro-Russian officials.

Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs, celebrated the mayor’s murder, declaring on his Telegram page (see below): “There is one less traitor in Ukraine. The mayor of Kreminna in Luhansk region, former deputy of Luhansk parliament was found killed.” 

According to Geraschenko, Strok had been judged by the “court of the people’s tribunal.”

Telegram post by Anton Gerashchenko, advisor to the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs, celebrating the assassination of “traitor” and Kreminna Mayor Volodymyr Struk

The Ukrainian official therefore delivered a chilling message to anyone choosing to seek cooperation with Russia: do so and lose your life.  

On March 7, the mayor of Gostomel, Yuri Prylipko, was found murdered. Prylipko had reportedly entered into negotiations with the Russian military to organize a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of his city’s residents – a red line for Ukrainian ultra-nationalists who had long been in conflict with the mayor’s office.

Next, on March 24, Gennady Matsegora, the mayor of Kupyansk in northeastern Ukraine, released a video (below) appealing to President Volodymyr Zelensky and his administration for the release of his daughter, who had been held hostage by agents of the Ukrainian SBU intelligence agency.   https://videopress.com/embed/JjOO47L8?hd=1&cover=1&loop=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=1&muted=0&controls=1&playsinline=0

Then there was the murder of Denis Kireev, a top member of the Ukrainian negotiating team, who was killed in broad daylight in Kiev after the first round of talks with Russia. Kireev was subsequently accused in local Ukrainian media of “treason.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s statement that “there would be consequences for collaborators” indicates that these atrocities have been sanctioned by the highest levels of government. https://videopress.com/embed/vXMNwPxf?hd=1&cover=1&loop=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=1&muted=0&controls=1&playsinline=0

As of today, eleven mayors from various towns in Ukraine are missing. Western media outlets have been following the Kiev line without exception, claiming that all mayors been arrested by the Russian military. The Russian Ministry of Defense has denied the charge, however, and little evidence exists to corroborate Kiev’s line about the missing mayors.  

Zelensky outlaws political opposition, authorizes arrest of rivals and war propaganda blitz

When war erupted with Russia this February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a series of decrees formalizing Kiev’s campaign against political opposition and dissident speech.

In a March 19 executive order, Zelensky invoked martial law to ban 11 opposition parties. The outlawed parties consisted of the entire left-wing, socialist or anti-NATO spectrum in Ukraine. They included the For Life Party, the Left Opposition, the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, the Socialist Party of Ukraine, Union of Left Forces, Socialists, the Party of Shariy, Ours, State, Opposition Bloc and the Volodymyr Saldo Bloc.

Openly fascist and pro-Nazi parties like the Azov National Corps were left untouched by the presidential decree, however.

“The activities of those politicians aimed at division or collusion will not succeed, but will receive a harsh response,” President Zelensky stated.

As he wiped out his opposition, Zelensky ordered an unprecedented domestic propaganda initiative to nationalize all television news broadcasting and combine all channels into a single 24 hour channel called “United News” to “tell the truth about war.”

Next, on April 12, Zelensky announced the arrest of his principal political rival, Viktor Medvedchuk, by Ukraine’s SBU security services. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=maxblumenthal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1513975057739042819&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrayzone.com%2F2022%2F04%2F17%2Ftraitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition%2F&sessionId=616f708faec424cf623554ed6130504f80ad8487&siteScreenName=TheGrayzoneNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=c8fe9736dd6fb%3A1649830956492&width=550px

The founder of the second largest party in Ukraine, the now-illegal Patriots for Life, Medvedchuk is the de facto representative of the country’s ethnic Russian population. Though Patriots for Life is regarded as “pro-Russia,” in part because of his close relations with Vladimir Putin, the new chairman of the party has condemned Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine.

Members of the state-sponsored neo-Nazi Azov Battalion’s National Corps attacked Medvedchuk’s home in March 2019, accusing him of treason and demanding his arrest.

In August 2020, Azov’s National Corps opened fire on a bus carrying representatives of Medvedchuk’s party, wounding several with rubber-coated steel bullets.

Zelensky’s administration escalated the assault on his top opponent in February 2021 when he shuttered several media outlets controlled by Medvedchuk. The US State Department openly endorsed the president’s move, declaring that the United States “supports Ukrainian efforts to counter Russia’s malign influence…”

Three months later, Kiev jailed Medvedchuk and charged him with treason. Zelensky justified locking away his leading rival on the grounds that he needed to “fight against the danger of Russian aggression in the information arena.”

Medvedchuk escaped house arrest at the onset of the war between Russia and Ukraine, but is a captive once again, and may be used as collateral for a post-war prisoner swap with Russia.

Under Zelensky’s watch, “the war is being used to kidnap, imprison and even kill opposition members”

Since Russian troops entered Ukraine on February 24, Ukraine’s SBU security service had been on a rampage against any and all iterations of internal political opposition. Leftist Ukrainian activists have faced particularly harsh treatment, including kidnapping and torture.

This March 3 in the city of Dnipro, SBU officers accompanied by Azov ultra-nationalists raided the home of activists with the Livizja (Left) organization, which has organized against social spending cuts and right-wing media propaganda. While one activist said the Azov member “cut my hair off with a knife,” the state security agents proceeded to torture her husband, Alexander Matjuschenko, pressing a gun barrel to his head and forcing him to repeatedly belt out the nationalist salute, “Slava Ukraini!”

“Then they put bags over our heads, tied our hands with tape and took us to the SBU building in a car. There they continued to interrogate us and threatened to cut off our ears,” Matjuschenko’s wife told the leftist German publication Junge Welt.

The Azov members and SBU agents recorded the torture session and published images of Matjuschenko’s bloodied face online.

The torture of left-wing activist Alexander Matjuschenko on March 3 in Dnipro, recorded by Azov members and posted on Telegram by the city of Dnipro

Matjuschenko was jailed on the grounds that he was “conducting an aggressive war or military operation,” and now faces 10 to 15 years in prison. Despite enduring several broken ribs from the beating by state-backed ultra-nationalists, he has been denied bail. Meanwhile, dozens of other leftists have been jailed on similar charges in Dnipro. Among those targeted by the SBU were Mikhail and Aleksander Kononovich, members of the outlawed Leninist Communist Youth Union of Ukraine. Both were arrested and jailed on March 6 and accused of “spreading pro-Russian and pro-Belarusian views.” In the following days, the SBU arrested broadcast journalist Yan Taksyur and charged him with treason; human rights activist Elena Berezhnaya; Elena Viacheslavova, a human rights advocate whose father, Mikhail, was burned to death during the May 2, 2014 ultra-nationalist mob attack on anti-Maidan protesters outside the Odessa House of Trade Unions; independent journalist Yuri Tkachev, who was charged with treason, and an untold number of others; disabled rights activist Oleg Novikov, who was jailed for three years this April on the grounds that he supported “separatism.” The list of those imprisoned by Ukraine’s security services since the outbreak of war grows by the day, and is too extensive to reproduce here. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=maxblumenthal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-1&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1512783497605361665&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrayzone.com%2F2022%2F04%2F17%2Ftraitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition%2F&sessionId=616f708faec424cf623554ed6130504f80ad8487&siteScreenName=TheGrayzoneNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=c8fe9736dd6fb%3A1649830956492&width=550px

Perhaps the most ghastly incident of repression took place when neo-Nazis backed by the Ukrainian government kidnapped Maxim Ryndovskiy, a professional MMA fighter, and brutally tortured him for the crime of training with Russian fighters at a gym in Chechnya. Ryndovskiy also happened to be Jewish, with a Star of David tattooed on his leg, and had spoken out on social media against the war in eastern Ukraine. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=maxblumenthal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-2&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1500195518697328646&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrayzone.com%2F2022%2F04%2F17%2Ftraitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition%2F&sessionId=616f708faec424cf623554ed6130504f80ad8487&siteScreenName=TheGrayzoneNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=c8fe9736dd6fb%3A1649830956492&width=550px

Ukraine’s SBU has even hunted opposition figures outside the country’s borders. As journalist Dan Cohen reported, Anatoly Shariy of the recently banned Party of Shariy said he was the target of a recent SBU assassination attempt. Shariy has been an outspoken opponent of the US-backed Maidan regime, and has been forced to flee into exile after enduring years of harassment from nationalists.

This March, the libertarian politician and online pundit received an email from a friend, “Igor,” seeking to arrange a meeting. He subsequently learned that Igor was held by the SBU at the time and being used to bait Shariy into disclosing his location.

For his part, Shariy has been placed on the notorious Myrotvorets public blacklist of “enemies of the state” founded by Anton Geraschenko – the Ministry of Internal Affairs advisor who endorsed the assassination of Ukrainian lawmakers accused of Russian sympathies. Several journalists and Ukrainian dissidents, including the prominent columnist Oles Buzina, were murdered by state-backed death squads after their names appeared on the list.

Common Ukrainian citizens have also been subjected to torture since the start of the war this February. Seemingly countless videos have appeared on social media showing civilians tied to lamp posts, often with their genitals exposed or their faces painted green. Carried out by Territorial Defense volunteers tasked with enforcing law and order during wartime, these acts of humiliation and torture have targeted everyone from accused Russian sympathizers to Roma people to alleged thieves. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=maxblumenthal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-3&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1506003332015398918&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrayzone.com%2F2022%2F04%2F17%2Ftraitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition%2F&sessionId=616f708faec424cf623554ed6130504f80ad8487&siteScreenName=TheGrayzoneNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=c8fe9736dd6fb%3A1649830956492&width=550px

This is the human rights that Zelensky brought to Ukrainian civilians#Mariupol #StandWithUkraine #RussiaUkraineWar pic.twitter.com/EWFC048M2q

— UN voice of Justice (@TheUN_voice) April 3, 2022

Ukraine’s SBU studies torture and assassination from the CIA

Vassily Prozorov, a former SBU officer who defected to Russia following the Euromaidan coup, detailed the post-Maidan security services’ systemic reliance on torture to crush political opposition and intimidate citizens accused of Russian sympathies. 

According to Prozorov, the ex-SBU officer, the Ukrainian security services have been directly advised by the CIA since 2014. “CIA employees have been present in Kiev since 2014. They are residing in clandestine apartments and suburban houses,” he said. “However, they frequently come to the SBU’s central office for holding, for example, specific meetings or plotting secret operations.”

Below, Russia’s RIA Novosti profiled Prozorov and covered his disclosures in a 2019 special. https://videopress.com/embed/XHPlaSCf?hd=1&cover=1&loop=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=1&muted=0&controls=1&playsinline=0

Journalist Dan Cohen interviewed a Ukrainian businessman named Igor who was arrested by the SBU for his financial ties with Russian companies and detained this March in the security service’s notorious headquarters in downtown Kiev. Igor said he overheard Russian POWs being beaten with pipes by Territorial Defense volunteers being coached by SBU officers. Pummeled to the sound of the Ukrainian national anthem, the Russian prisoners were brutalized until they confessed their hatred for Putin.

Then came Igor’s turn. “They used a lighter to heat up a needle, then put it under my fingernails,” he told Cohen. “The worst was when they put a plastic bag over my head and suffocated me and when they held the muzzle of a Kalashnikov rifle to my head and forced me to answer their questions.”

Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the first head of the SBU after the Euromaidan regime change operation of 2013-14, nurtured close ties to Washington when he served as general consul to the Ukrainian embassy to the US during the George W. Bush administration. During that time, Nalyvaichenko was recruited by the CIA, according to his predecessor at the SBU, Alexander Yakimenko, who served under the Russian-oriented government of deposed President Viktor Yanukovych.

In 2021, Zelensky appointed one of Ukraine’s most notorious intelligence figures, Oleksander Poklad, to lead SBU’s counterintelligence division. Poklad is nicknamed “The Strangler,” a reference to his reputation for using torture and assorted dirty tricks to set-up his bosses’ political rivals on treason charges.

This April, a vivid illustration of the SBU’s brutality emerged in the form of video (below) showing its agents pummeling a group of men accused of Russian sympathies in the city of Dnipro. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=maxblumenthal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-5&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1511301270820343809&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrayzone.com%2F2022%2F04%2F17%2Ftraitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition%2F&sessionId=616f708faec424cf623554ed6130504f80ad8487&siteScreenName=TheGrayzoneNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=c8fe9736dd6fb%3A1649830956492&width=550px

“We will never take Russian soldiers prisoner”: Ukraine’s military flaunts its war crimes

While the Western media has focused squarely on alleged Russian human rights abuses since the outbreak of war, Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Ukrainian social media accounts have proudly exhibited sadistic war crimes, from field executions to the torture of captive soldiers.

This March, a pro-Ukrainian Telegram channel called White Lives Matter released a video of a Ukrainian soldier calling the fiancee of a Russian prisoner of war, seen below, and taunting her with promises to castrate the captive. https://videopress.com/embed/wnzk7oQc?hd=1&cover=1&loop=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=1&muted=0&controls=1&playsinline=0

Ukrainian soldiers’ use of the cellphones of dead Russian soldiers to mock and hector their relatives appears to be a common practice. In fact, the Ukrainian government has begun using notoriously invasive facial recognition technology from Clearview AI, a US tech company, to identify Russian casualties and taunt their relatives on social media. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=maxblumenthal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-6&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1508046216420020225&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrayzone.com%2F2022%2F04%2F17%2Ftraitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition%2F&sessionId=616f708faec424cf623554ed6130504f80ad8487&siteScreenName=TheGrayzoneNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=c8fe9736dd6fb%3A1649830956492&width=550px

This April, a pro-Ukrainian Telegram channel called fckrussia2022 posted a video depicting a Russian soldier with one of his eyes bandaged, suggesting it had been gouged during torture, and mocked him as a “one-eyed” pig. 

Perhaps the most gruesome image to have appeared on social media in recent weeks is the photo of a tortured Russian soldier who had one of his eyes gouged before he was killed. The accompanying post was captioned, “looking for Nazis.”

Photos distributed by pro-Ukraine Telegram channels showing captured, tortured and executed Russian soldiers

Video has also emerged this April showing Ukrainian soldiers shooting defenseless Russian POWs in the legs outside the city of Kharkov. A separate video published by Ukrainian and US-backed Georgian Legion soldiers showed the fighters carrying out field executions of wounded Russian captives near a village outside Kiev.

Ukrainian and Georgian Legion fighters celebrate after executing captive Russian soldiers on video

It is likely that these soldiers had been emboldened by their superiors’ blessings. Mamula Mamulashvili, the commander of the Georgian Legion, which participated in the field executions of wounded Russian POW’s, boasted this April that his unit freely engages in war crimes: “Yes, we tie their hands and feet sometimes. I speak for the Georgian Legion, we will never take Russian soldiers prisoner. Not a single one of them will be taken prisoner.” 

Similarly, Gennadiy Druzenko, the head of the Ukrainian military medical service, stated in an interview with Ukraine 24 that he “issued an order to castrate all Russian men because they were subhuman and worse than cockroaches.” 

Ukrainian officials present woman tortured and killed by Azov as victim of Russia

While Western media homes in on Russian human rights violations at home and inside Ukraine, the Ukrainian government has authorized a propaganda campaign known as “Total War” that includes the planting of bogus images and false stories to further implicate Russia.

In one especially cynical example of the strategy, Ukraine 24 –  a TV channel where guests have called for the genocidal extermination of Russian children – published a photo this April depicting a female corpse branded with a bloody swastika on her stomach. Ukraine 24 claimed that it found this woman in Gostumel, one of the regions in the Kiev Oblast that the Russians vacated on March 29.  

Lesia Vasylenko, a Ukrainian member of parliament, and Oleksiy Arestovych, the top advisor to President Zelensky, published the photo of the defiled female corpse on social media. While Vasylenko left the photo online, Arestovych deleted it eight hours after posting when confronted with the fact that he had published a fake.

In fact, the image was pulled from footage originally recorded by Patrick Lancaster, a Donetsk-based US journalist who had filmed the corpse of a woman tortured and murdered by members of the Ukrainian Azov Battalion in a Mariupol school basement they had converted into a base. 

At 2:31 in Lancaster’s video, the woman’s corpse can be seen clearly. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=maxblumenthal&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-7&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1511053915088990215&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fthegrayzone.com%2F2022%2F04%2F17%2Ftraitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition%2F&sessionId=616f708faec424cf623554ed6130504f80ad8487&siteScreenName=TheGrayzoneNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=c8fe9736dd6fb%3A1649830956492&width=550px

As weapons pour into Ukraine from NATO states and the war intensifies, the atrocities are almost certain to pile up – and with the blessing of leadership in Kiev. As Zelensky proclaimed during a visit to the city of Bucha this April, “if we do not find a civilized way out, you know our people – they will find an uncivilized way out.”

Azov BattalionC14CIANazisneo-NazisRussiaSBUtortureUkraineUkrainian neo-NazisUkrainian SBUVolodymyr Zelensky

Max Blumenthal Editor-in-Chief

The editor-in-chief of The Grayzone, Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of several books, including best-selling Republican GomorrahGoliath, The Fifty One Day War, and The Management of Savagery. He has produced print articles for an array of publications, many video reports, and several documentaries, including Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded The Grayzone in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.

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