On May 22, 2020 detectives of the Main Investigation Department of the National Police notified three suspects, i.e. Andriy Antonenko, Yuliia Kuzmenko, and Yana Dugar, of completion of a pre-trial investigation in a criminal proceeding regarding murdering Pavlo Sheremet, a Russian reporter. Prior to that the suspects had been served a modified notice of suspicion, which will presumably become the basis for the indictment to be sent to court.
In a half a year that passed since serving the first version of the notice (which took place on December 12, 2019), the investigation couldn’t manage to obtain direct evidence that it was these very people who on July 20, 2016 blew up a car belonging to Alyona Prytula, an owner of Ukrayinska Pravda website. The car was driven by her lover Pavlo Sheremet, a host at the Russian speaking Radio Vesti belonging to Oleksandr Klymenko, a former Minister of Revenues and Duties who fled to Russia. Instead, the whole theory of the crime is different now.
Whereas in December of 2019, a then Prosecutor General Ruslan Riaboshapka and his first deputy Vitaly Kasko (they took turns in heading a group of prosecutors in this proceeding and led the pre-trial investigation from September of 2019 to early March of 2020) named Antonenko an organizer of the crime who, “being carried away by ultranationalistic ideas, cultivating the superiority of the Aryan race, longing to make his views a subject of public attention, while still residing in ATO area, decided to create an organized group out of volunteers and persons who got military training inside volunteer battalions and who were skilled with firearms and explosives, in order to murder Sheremet, Pavlo Grygorovych, a reporter and radio host,” now, once Riaboshapka and Kasko got ousted from the prosecutor’s office, Antonenko became a mere perpetrator. Instead, mysterious “unidentified persons” appeared in the case, who, “acting out of a number of personal motives, decided to organize a high-profile event in order to trigger numerous subsequent protests.” These persons organized the murder of Sheremet and involved Andriy Antonenko, Yana Dugar, and Yuliia Kuzmenko in executing the crime. Moreover, these three were not paid a penny (!) and weren’t even informed why they were planting the explosive (otherwise, the notice of suspicion would refer to Paragraphs 6 and 11 of Part 2 of Article 115 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).
The second version of the notice, written under the supervision of a Deputy Prosecutor General Ihor Mustetsa (he’s been leading the investigation since April 23, 2020), appears to be a little bit more plausible than the first one, but even now the case won’t stand a chance in court because the burden of proving motive for the crime falls on the prosecution, and referrals to an “unidentified person,” who hired the suspects to commit a motiveless murder for free, cannot be taken seriously neither by the court not by the general public. By the way, it is precisely for this reason that prosecutors of the Prosecutor General’s Office refused to approve the notice of suspicion to that very Antonenko prior to appointing Riaboshapka a Prosecutor General, even though the Prosecutor General’s Office was informed about his potential involvement in Sheremet’s murder by detectives of the Main Investigation Department of the National Police as early as July of 2018.
The next time detectives got active in “Sheremet’s case” was in spring of 2019 when they again suggested naming Antonenko the organizer of the murder, but prosecutors again turned down this proposal, because not only direct evidence was missing but any logical explanations of the motive as well.
The tables turned in September of 2019, when International Solomon University alumnus took charge of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine. Since the prosecutors refused to approve the notice of suspicion for Antonenko, Kuzmenko, and Dugar, Riaboshapka, cheered by professional “civil activists,” sacked all the prosecutors who had been carrying out procedural guidance in this proceeding for three years, and suggested that Oleksandr Lukashenko, a Head of the Office of the Oversight of Law Compliance by the National Police of Ukraine of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, sign the notices himself, promising in return not to fire him like his former subordinates. Lukashenko agreed, Riaboshapka moved his attestation from December 11 to December 19, 2019, but after the notices were signed on December 12, Lukashenko lost the job anyway.
Such activity of Riaboshapka in the “Sheremet’s case” can be easily explained. Ruslan Heorhiiovych was very eager to help Arsen Avakov, a Minister of Internal Affairs, to save his face with President Zelenskyi, who accused Petro Poroshenko during the elections of not being able to solve Sheremet’s murder. Now, Volodymyr Zelenskyi decided to demonstrate his achievements in office and started demanding from Avakov to find the murderers of the Russian reporter. Arsen Borysovych was afraid to open the monarch’s eyes to the truth and chose not to tell Volodymyr Oleksandrovych that as of November 7, 2015 the Ministry of Internal Affairs is not a pre-trial investigation agency, and no minister (including the Minister of Internal Affairs) is allowed to influence the investigation of specific criminal proceedings, let alone consult the case files, and that as of November 20, 2012 all pre-trial investigations in the country are actually led by the prosecutor’s office.
Riaboshapka also chose not to explain the contents of the Constitution of Ukraine and the Criminal Procedural Code of Ukraine to Arbiter of the Nation. Instead, on December 12, 2019 he held a news conference together with Zelenskyi and Avakov, where he not only named Antonenko an organizer of Sheremet’s murder and Kuzmenko and Duger his accomplices, but even attributed complicity in this crime to the married couple of Inna and Vladyslav Hryshchenko who were arrested as part of a completely different criminal proceeding (preparation for murdering a businessman from Ivano-Frankivsk region).
What was Avakov up to when he held a news conference together with Riaboshapka and Zelenskyi devoted to solving Sheremet’s murder, given that the investigation could not demonstrate neither convincing evidence nor a motive for the crime? Could it really be the case that the omnipotent minister ordered detectives of the Main Investigation Department of the National Police (who are absolutely unrelated to him and whom, according to the law, he cannot influence) to grab random people and throw them in jail? — It is unlikely. Possibly, Avakov knew for sure that the reporter’s murder was organized by top officials of the Security Service of Ukraine with the help of agents of the Counterintelligence Department of the SSU recruited on ideological and political grounds. Therefore, the hope was that either a scared Lieutenant Bakanov adds Article 258 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (“act of terrorism”) to the “Sheremet’s case” and persuades the Prosecutor General to change the jurisdiction and transfer the case for further investigation (or, to be more precise, for fabrication and “burial”), just like it had been done with a criminal proceeding regarding murdering an unarmed person by Serhiy Sternenko, a non-staff undercover agent of the Department of Protection of National Statehood of the SSU. Or, alternatively, the suspects will eventually crack and testify under oath about their formal and informal relations with the officers of the Fifth Office of the Counterintelligence Department of the SSU.
It is apparent to any experienced person that Antonenko, Kuzmenko, and Dugar, as well as the married couple of Hryshchenkos (who never became suspects in the “Sheremet’s case”), are non-staff undercover agents of the CID of the SSU, and the word “agent” is written on their faces in huge letters. Otherwise they simply could not get to the war zone, volunteer, and carry out other public service. Therefore, the first thing any investigation ought to have done (should Ukraine have a proper Prosecutor General) would be to get a decision of the investigative judge and, with the help of the Rapid Operational Response Unit (KORD) of the National Police of Ukraine, seize agents’ files from the Counterintelligence Department, establish, which tasks these agents were carrying out, and interrogate their handlers in order to reconstruct every single hour of the agents’ lives at the time when Ukrayinska Pravda’s owner’s car was being blown up. It might turn out that the suspects are not involved in the murder at all, or it might turn out that they are, but were following the orders and were in the dark as to what they were planting in the car, whose car that was, and why they were doing it.
Seizing documents from the SSU is even more pressing for the investigation, considering that by the time Sheremet died, he’d been under visual surveillance by at least two crews of the Department of Operational Documentation of the SSU, and immediately following his death, the SSU removed without a trace all the tapes from surveillance cameras in the vicinity of the scene of the crime.
But since there hasn’t been a Prosecutor General in Ukraine since 1998 (whoever was around cannot be called a prosecutor), on January 30, 2020 the National Police (presumably authorized by Avakov) released, through a blogger and activist Andriy Portnov, investigative materials, namely, a phone call between Vladyslav Hryshchenko and his handler from the CID of the SSU. Portnov had no clue about what he was releasing, which is clear from the fact that the blogger and activist called this recording an “interception” (there was no signal interception and could not be in principle; in fact, a stool pigeon brought a specially equipped phone into the Hryshchenko’s cell at the detention facility, which recorded the sound from the microphone and the speaker and transmitted it to the “right place”). Also, he once called Hryshchenko’s vis-à-vis an officer of the First Division of the Fourth Office of the CID, whereas on another occasion he called him an officer of the First Division of the Fifth Office of the CID, which are really apples and oranges.
On February 1, 2020 Avakov, in the same way, using Portnov, leaked a phone call between Yuliia Kuzmenko and her friend, a wife of an officer of the Fifth Office of the CID. During the call, ladies discuss rumors that this division of the Company might be discontinued:
Already on February 10, 2020 a Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Anton Gerashchenko, who can solve any crime from a photo in under 15 minutes, told in the interview that ties of the suspects to the special service had already been proved: “These are not “potential ties” but quite tangible ones. It is their contacts and their communications, which were beyond friendly. These more than friendly communications suggest to the investigation that it is necessary to probe more than 10 SSU officers for their collaboration. This is what is being carried out right now.” However, Herashchenko, who has nothing to do and couldn’t have anything to do with investigating any criminal proceeding whatsoever, failed to explain how this probing is being carried out. And, above all, he didn’t explain why did the Security Service of Ukraine have to organize Sheremet’s murder? And, by the way, how can officers of such a law enforcement agency as the SSU engage in illicit activities? What is wrong with Lieutenant Bakanov?
For the record, Lieutenant Bakanov should have known for sure what the “law enforcement agency” he leads is engaged in. Anyway, two weeks after appointing a head of Studio Kvartal 95 LLC a First Deputy Head of the SSU, Ivan Gennadiyovych met with one Ukrainian MP who suggested initiating internal investigation of illicit activities inside the SSU and left a note to Lieutenant, prepared by the author of these lines. This was the opening paragraph:
“In the past five years, the Security Service of Ukraine, primarily the Department of Protection of National Statehood and the Counterintelligence Department, conducted proactive operations, in particular, in order to compromise political opponents of a then President of Ukraine. Among the most famous operations are organizing explosions in Kharkiv in February of 2015; organizing mass unrest near Verkhovna Rada in August of 2015 when four National Guard soldiers were killed; an “attempt” on the life of Prosecutor General of Ukraine V. Shokin in November of 2015; liquidation of a sabotage and intelligence group of the Defence Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence in Obolon District of Kyiv in December of 2015; “attempted murder” of a Russian reporter A. Babchenko, etc. Even though, according to existing information, operative documents and agents’ files proving SSU’s involvement in these events have been destroyed by now, it is still possible to find out the truth by conducting an internal investigation.”
But Lieutenant Bakanov turned out to be even dumber than he looked, and instead of ordering an internal investigation, resorted to reassigning Oleksiy Petrov, a Head of the Counterintelligence Department, to a position of a Head of the Kirovohrad Regional SSU Department in late August of 2019. Moreover, Petrov got demoted not because of his involvement in organizing bloody provocations but because of released information about him privatizing a service apartment in the Kyiv center, 170 square meters in area, and about his relatives owning a house in a gated community near Kyiv and three houses in Sanzhiika, a vacation settlement near Odesa.
For the record, the internal investigation should have started with checking activities of that very Fifth Office of the CID that appears on the tapes released by the blogger and activist Portnov. This division was established by the then Colonel Petrov, a former Deputy Head of a Department at the Main SSU Office in Kyiv and Kyiv Region in 2010–2012 who performed “counterintelligence protection of interests of the State” in the Ukrspyrt state enterprise. And the first question this internal investigation should have answered would have been understanding the reasons why Oleksiy Gennadiyovych left this high-paying job in 2012 and, after having worked as an active reserve officer at Ukrenergo NPC and the Ministry of Regional Development and Construction, turned up at the Center for Special Operations A as a Deputy Head of the “Shaitan battalion,” a Sixth Office of the CSO A led by that very Valeriy Shaitanov who on April 14, 2020 was arrested by officers of the same CID of the SSU on suspicion of treason and working for special services of the Russian Federation.
Word is that Petrov was fired from the position of the Deputy Head of the Department of Counterintelligence Protection of the National Economy of the MO of the SSU in Kyiv and Kyiv Region and was placed at disposal after he had been allegedly caught accepting a UAH 2M bribe from Pavlo Borulko. But Bakanov chose not to conduct an internal investigation and inquire into origins of Petrov’s relatives’ property. Also, Bakanov chose not to verify information about potential involvement of Shaitanov, his deputy Petrov, and a then Head of the CSO A Gennady Kuznetsov (who was twice ousted from the SSU for corruption offences and who was sentenced by Pechersk District Court in 2011, and up until recently was a representative of Ukraine in the Minsk Trilateral Contact Group) in organizing illicit alcohol shipments to the occupied territory to ensure smooth operation of distilleries in Donetsk and Luhansk.
I can’t help recollecting how on December 19, 2014 Mykhailo Labutin, a director of Ukrspyrt, was kidnapped from a hospital by men in camouflage uniforms with Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine chevrons who called themselves soldiers of Aidar Battalion of Ukraine’s Armed Forces (probably, they donned the only uniform that was around).
Later, in August of 2018, Labutin said in an interview from abroad that in fact he was taken by officers of the Security Service of Ukraine: “It was pure kidnapping. What happened immediately after that, I won’t say for now. I will tell only this: during all these four years, I’ve been repeatedly threatened, in particular, I was reminded I had parents, family, children left in Ukraine. And then, when they said they were allegedly searching for me (I was already abroad at that time), officers the whole time knew my whereabouts perfectly well. They just weren’t going to investigate this criminal case. They only intended to make me pay.”
A little later, having got military experience at the contact line (remember the story when on March 21, 2015, Denys Gordieiev, an aide to Andryi Denysenko, MP, shot and killed in Volnovakha an SSU officer Viktor Mandzyk, with whom he couldn’t split the cash from smuggling vodka?), Oleksiy Petrov initiated establishing that very Fifth Office of the CID he was leading at the time of Sheremet’s murder. Officially, the Office was being created to conduct murders and sabotage on the uncontrolled territory with the help of undercover agents. Unofficially though, just as the whole Security Service of Ukraine, the Office was involved in creating and catering to criminal business schemes and organizing bloody provocations.
(to be continued)