It took place near Mayorske checkpoint on the contact line next to a young and proud “People’s Republic of Donetsk” two days before the New Year of 2020. Ruslan Baranetskyi, a First Deputy Head of the Security Service of Ukraine, was utterly bewildered by a sight worthy of a military prosecutor. Several SSU officers were dragging a rare miniature schnauzer into a car belonging to a Major General Gennady Kuznetsov, a Chief of Staff of the Anti-Terrorist Center of the SSU. Kuznetsov ordered to kidnap this dog at one of the gas stations in Donetsk region. As the so-called “prisoner exchange” was underway, Dzerzhinsky’s great-grandchildren were guarding Kuznetsov’s new four-legged friend and were pondering how to transfer the kidnapped doggie to Gennady Ivanovych’s luxury mansion in Osokorky neighborhood of Kyiv. Nevertheless, this responsible assignment was honorably accomplished, and the dog was escorted to Kyiv, where Kuznetsov profitably resold him to a subsequent owner.
So, that’s how the “prisoner exchange” was taking place on December 29, 2019, for the first time in two years. It was arranged by Andriy Yermak, an aide to the President, and his ally and confident Gennady Kuznetsov. And in another few days, it got out that the Ukrainian party traded spots in the “exchange list” and even freed from “captivity” not only several officers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but also terrorist henchmen thrown in jail by the PRD’s authorities for looting.
Legally speaking, of course, there is no such thing as prisoner exchange, because legally speaking, there are no prisoners of war, as Ukraine hasn’t recognized an armed conflict on its territory. Actually, what’s going on is human trafficking in the center of Europe at the beginning of the III millennium. These activities bring money both to the officers of the Security Service of Ukraine and to the fighters from the so-called “people’s republics.” The warring parties have long established successful cooperation and distribution of money earned together.
This criminal business functions according to the following scheme. For instance, the PRD and the People’s Republic of Luhansk are holding a couple of dozen Ukrainian army officers in captivity, and the fighters are willing to exchange them for their own combatants. However, the list of the ones Ukrainian party is willing to take back is compiled in the headquarters of the Anti-Terrorist Center of the SSU, and the SSU Major General Gennady Kusnetsov, its Chief of Staff, widely known in narrow circles as a “Dog Guy,” includes only 2 or 3 Ukrainian soldiers in that list. Other 15 to 20 people are entrepreneurs, residents of the occupied territory, held captive by the fighters with the sole purpose to make them pay the “Dog Guy” for being included in the Ukrainian part of the exchange list. These people can even be former fighters and their henchmen who somehow fell from grace and were thrown in jail by the occupation authorities. A spot in the list costs $30–80K, and during the “exchange” on December 29, 2019 every other person taken by Ukraine from the prisons in the PRD or the PRL paid a certain sum.
A person in charge of the “prisoner exchange” from the Ukrainian side, the one who decides who will be released, and who sets the fees for being included in the exchange lists, is so extraordinary that deserves not only a detailed report but also a ballet or an opera. You must agree that it is not every day that you might meet a habitual corrupt official with a criminal record under his belt and epaulets of a Major General on his shoulders.
General of Dog Breeding
The current Chief of Staff of the Anti-Terrorist Center of the SSU Gennady Kuznetsov was nicknamed the “Dog Guy” by his fellow officers because he is a dog handler by trade, i.e. he is a service dog caretaker and is capable of nothing else. Kuznetsov was ousted twice from the Security Service of Ukraine for corruption offences, but each time he reinstated on “commercial grounds,” according to sources from the SSU.
And this is despite the fact that on February 24, 2011, the Pecherskyi District Court of Kyiv issued a sentence against Gennady Kuznetsov for his negligence in military duties.
But as soon as the criminal regime of Yanukovych was toppled, the new honest and incorruptible government located convicted Kuznetsov and, despite his criminal record, appointed Gennady Ivanovych a Head of the Center for Special Operations A on March 7, 2014. And in January of 2015, Kuznetsov became the Chief of Staff of the Anti-Terrorist Center of the SSU.
That said, Kuznetsov’s subsequent career path was not only paved with flowers but strewn with thorns as well. In early 2019, the Main Department of Internal Security of the SSU conducted two internal investigations against Kuznetsov. The first internal investigation found that in 2016–2018, Kuznetsov was providing security for Sviatoslav Vakarchuk’s shows, disguising it as anti-terrorist training. To provide security at these gigs, Kuznetsov illegally recruited his subordinates, who were allegedly sent to ATO area. He forged the documents, according to which during this period, the officers got double paychecks, and the time of service, necessary for certain fringe benefits, was counted with a triple coefficient. But in reality, these officers never visited ATO area, didn’t perform any combat missions; instead, they were serving Vakarchuk’s gigs, and Vakarchuk paid Kuznetsov cash “in an envelope.”
The second internal investigation found that Kuznetsov, together with his family, used the service road transport to go to Europe for vacation.
And one could even shoot a mystery series about how Kuznetsov embezzled his subordinates’ earnings, forged accounting records, purchased Fury unmanned aircraft systems for the ATC of the SSU from his drinking buddy, or waited over a year for kickbacks before equipping a Renault Master, bought for the ATC of the SSU, with means of communications.
Kuznetsov is squeezing every single penny out of his official position, and this pettiness can be illustrated if only by the fact that the ATC cars drive Kuznetsov’s children, wife, and mother-in-law on a daily basis. In particular, a First Lieutenant Davydenko, a personal driver of the mother-in-law of the Chief of Staff of the ATC, hadn’t been showing up at work for over 2 years, because he he’d been working as Kuznetsov’s household servant. For this service, he not only received his regular paycheck, but also bonuses at Ukrainian taxpayers’ expense. In the spring of 2018, the police confiscated this Davydenko’s driver’s license for driving the service car under the influence of alcohol, but even after that he carried on caring for Kuznetsov’s pets. However, after the internal investigation, when these flashy facts came out, Davydenko was transferred from the position of a driver to the position of a situation coordinator with a working schedule every third day, so that he could carry out chores in Gennady Ivanovych’s mansion.
Thanks to his tireless efforts in the “prisoner exchange” field, Kuznetsov was able to move from an apartment at Kharkiv Highway to a separate mansion in Osokorky neighborhood on the banks of Dnieper, 550 square meters in area. Moreover, Gennady Ivanovych possesses a luxury Land Rover, a private speedboat, and a number of other things that escaped the serviceman’s declaration. Naturally, all of this is being maintained and fueled with the gas written off at the Staff of the ATC based on forged documents.
But Kuznetsov managed to strike a deal (I guess for nothing in return) with Vasyl Hrytsak, a then Head of the SSU, who hid the internal investigation file from the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office. As a result, Kuznetsov, for embezzling state budget funds, forging documents, and providing security at Vakarchuk’s shows, was only severely reprimanded with a notice of incomplete suitability for service.
A nice illustration for what is going on at the Anti-Terrorist Center of the SSU, which had been conducting ATO for over three years, and currently is engaged in the so-called “prisoner exchange,” is a story of a Lieutenant Colonel Kovtun.
Oleg Kovtun joined the SSU in October of 1997 and served 20 years as an officer. In May of 2013, a Major Kovtun was appointed an officer-in-charge of the sector for material provision of the Staff of the Anti-Terrorist Center of the SSU. When the Russian aggression started, Kovtun, like all the other ATC officers, took part in the anti-terrorist operation, got the combatant status, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel ahead of schedule, in July of 2014.
However, in late January of 2015, Vasyl Hrytsak, then a Head of the Anti-Terrorist Center of the SSU who’d been an ATO commander since July 7, 2014, brilliantly organized Ilovaisk and Debaltseve cauldrons, and triumphantly surrendered the territory of Donetsk airport to the fighters, decided to equip the ATC of the SSU with experienced staff. In particular, Hrytsak took his friend and drinking buddy Kuznetsov from Alpha and appointed him (the order was signed by the Head of the SSU Nalyvaichenko, but the decision was really made by his first deputy Hrytsak) the Chief of Staff of the Anti-Terrorist Center. Gennady Ivanovych immediately set out to control the material sector, so that he could fuel his personal car at public expense and use the service car for driving his wife and mother-and-law. But Kovtun refused to take part in corrupt shenanigans of the new Chief of Staff. Then, Kuznetsov got the support from Hrytsak, who didn’t miss an opportunity to capitalize on his official position himself, and reduced the cash allowance to Kovtun four times as of April 4, 2015. Then, he arranged the Head of the SSU Nalyvaichenko’s signature on the order to fire Kovtun and place him at the disposal as of April 8, 2015. Finally, in August of 2015, he stopped paying him any allowance at all. More precisely, money was allocated but never reached Kovtun, because Kuznetsov decided he didn’t need them no more.
Moreover, to let the staff know what happens to those officers who refuse to cater to corrupt whims of their superiors, Kuznetsov and Hrytsak arranged Nalyvaichenko’s signature (he never realized what he was signing) on yet another order—this time the order for promoting Kovtun to Lieutenant Colonel was rescinded as mistakenly issued. According to subsequent testimony in court by the representatives of the SSU and the ATC of the SSU, no one ever complained about Kovtun’s service, and the order to demote him was issued not as a disciplinary action, but “just for fun,” since the Head of the SSU Nalyvaichenko changed his mind and decided that Kovtun better remain a Major for some time.
For a year, the Lieutenant Colonel Kovtun, who was being called a “Major” from then on, had been going to work demanding some job and asking to get his cash allowance, because the only source of income for him was a pension received by his disabled mother. Finally, Kovtun filed a lawsuit with the Kyiv District Administrative Court demanding that he be given any job or be paid cash allowance arrears. But the Security Service of Ukraine refused to pay the SSU officer his two-year earnings, and instead Kuznetsov presented to the court some fabricated documents stating that Kovtun allegedly got paid all the money, which were wired to his card account. When the court requested the bank to provide the proof, the Chief of Staff of the Anti-Terrorist Center of the SSU arranged with the deputy military prosecutor of the Kyiv Garrison that the latter would register a criminal proceeding and notify Kovtun of suspicion of desertion should the SSU officer continue to demand a job and cash allowance arrears.
Blackmailing and threats weren’t successful, and the court ruled in favor of the claimant. But the Security Service of Ukraine refused to promote Kovtun back to Lieutenant Colonel and repay the money. As it turned out—and this was confirmed by the bank at the request of the court—the Chief of Staff of the ATC of the SSU Gennady Kuznetsov fabricated the documents and embezzled Oleg Kovtun’s two-year earnings.
Then Kuznetsov rushed to negotiate with the Sixth Administrative Court of Appeal. We don’t know how much money Judge Yuliia Isaienko took from him. Moreover, there are rumors going on at the appellate court that Yuliia Anatoliyivna served Kuznetsov for free, responding to a call from the Administration of the President, where she was told that Gennady Ivanovych is a man who’s keeping the whose “prisoner exchange” thing together, and so the image of the state would get seriously tarnished should it become public knowledge that he embezzled the earnings of his subordinates. Anyway, the board of judges presided over by Yuliia Isaienko reversed the ruling of the court of the first instance and refused to pay out the arrears because, you see, Kovtun didn’t meet the statute of limitations that this prostitute in judge’s robes made up. But since there is no statute of limitations when it comes to collecting salary arrears, Isaienko committed another crime and forbade to publish her ruling, having sent a fabricated document to the Unified State Register of Court Decisions claiming that Kovtun’s lawsuit allegedly contained classified information and was heard in a closed session.
As for now, the Supreme Court reversed Isaienko’s handiwork and sent the case for retrial.
Russian Federal Security Service is perfectly informed of Gennady Ivanovych’s behavior and keeps him “on the hook.” Moreover, on March 25, 2019, on the SSU officers’ professional holiday, a Lieutenant Colonel of the SSU Vasyl Prozorov, a former subordinate of Kuznetsov, held a briefing in Moscow. Prozorov told that since May of 2014, he’s been serving at the Staff of the ATC of the SSU headed by Kuznetsov and sharing information on activities of Ukrainian security forces, including in ATO area, with the intelligence services of the Russian Federation.
Soon after Kuznetsov’s subordinate held a news conference in Moscow, Ukraine got a new commander-in-chief, and Ivan Bakanov, a Head of the Studio Kvartal 95 LLC, became in the lead of the SSU. So, what was the response of the new president and Lieutenant Bakanov to the corrupt scandals at the Staff of the Anti-Terrorist Center? Zelenskyi, instead of ousting a corrupt officer, whose subordinates worked for the Russian intelligence services, from the SSU, entrusted Kuznetsov to single-handedly manage all the issues surrounding the so-called “prisoner exchange”; on February 11, 2020 he signed an executive order and included Kuznetsov in the Minsk Trilateral Contact Group instead of Valeriya Lutkovska; and on March 24, 2020 he granted Kuznetsov, convicted for a service related misdemeanor, the Order of Danylo Halytsky. At that, it never occurred neither to Zelenskyi nor to Bakanov that Kuznetsov, cloaked in corrupt scandals and with a criminal record under his belt, poses a low-hanging fruit for the Russian intelligence services.
Such staffing decisions led to quite predictable outcome. During the so-called “prisoner exchange” organized by Kuznetsov under the direction of Andriy Yermak in December of 2019, half of the people taken by Ukraine from the uncontrolled territory were entrepreneurs who paid for the spot in the list compiled by Kuznetsov. Moreover, the Major General of the SSU Kuznetsov, taking advantage of impunity and complete trust from Andriy Yermak, a Head of the Office of the President, pulled several fighters and their henchmen out of the PRD’s prison, who had been thrown in jail by the occupants for looting on the uncontrolled territory.
Among them was Yevgeniy Brazhnikov, who was an inmate at the Isolation prison and used to beat other inmates up and take food and clothes away from them. In particular, he tortured a Donetsk reporter Stanislav Asieiev arrested by the occupation authorities; both of them were freed on December 29, 2019 and sent to Kyiv. In a similar fashion, earlier, in 2017, Kuznetsov managed to free a former fighter Oleksii Kuskov, who was arrested by the occupation authorities for some sins and who spent his time in prison, together with Brazhnikov, torturing other inmates, and in November of 2017 punched Asieiev in the kidney.
In exchange for such characters, the Chief of Staff of the ATC of the SSU handed over to the PRD a woman named Chernykova, Galyna Oleksandrivna, who was killing Ukrainians in the occupied Donbas. Here is her being interrogated after having been captured in Mariupol in 2017:
Also handed over were officers of Berkut special unit who were being tried on the charge of firing at the protesters in February of 2014, and Volodymyr Tsemakh, a man who could have become an important witness in the case of a Malaysian Boeing shot down by the terrorists in 2014, and who was kidnapped on the uncontrolled territory and brought to Kyiv as a result of a special operation. By the way, Oleksandr Kolodiazhnyi, an officer of the 74th Separate Reconnaissance Battalion, died when Tsemakh was being moved to the controlled territory.
Not only random entrepreneurs are forced to pay to get included in the exchange list; even non-staff SSU officers captured by the FSS face the same choice, e.g. Denys Sekatskyi was charged $32K. But as they say, appetite comes with eating. During the subsequent “Easter exchange” in April of 2020, Kuznetsov, convinced in his impunity, included Oleksandr Sadivskyi in the list of people that Ukraine wants to fetch from certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. This Sadivsky was convicted by the occupants for murdering a pregnant woman during the robbery of a currency exchange unit. Sadivskyi committed the crime even before the occupation, was arrested by Ukrainian authorities, and at the time when the fighters occupied Donetsk, he was being kept in a detention facility.
“Thus, Sadivskyi, Oleksandr Petrovych, committed the murder, i.e. intentional unlawful infliction of death on another person, of the woman whose pregnancy was known to the offender, for personal gain, coupled with the robbery aimed at grand theft of property, coupled with grievous bodily harm and breaking into the vault, i.e. criminal offences under Paragraphs 2 and 6 of Part 2 of Article 115, Part 4 of Article 187 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine”.
Moreover, during his imprisonment on the territory of the PRD, Sadivskyi organized a crime gang out of his inmates that was carrying out fraudulent activities on the uncontrolled territory of Ukraine by sending out text messages to victims that their bank cards had been locked or that they had allegedly won a car. Citing this, the National Police of Ukraine put out an APB on Sadivskyi. And as soon as this Sadivskyi was brought to Kyiv as a result of the exchange, he was arrested by the Shevchenkivskyi District Court on April 30, 2020.
Beside Sadivskyi, on April 16, 2020 another person freed from imprisonment in the PRD was Volodymyr Karas, who served on the occupant police force, but was somehow punished. All in all, out of 20 people freed by the SSU during the so-called “Easter exchange,” only three can be dubbed as people who protected the territorial integrity of Ukraine. We are referring to two servicemen, Mykola Hrynenko and Viktor Shaidov, and a student Sergiy Rusynov convicted by the occupation authorities for his comments on social media. Other 17 are either fighters’ henchmen or people of the so-called “commercial exchange.”
At the same time, the Major General of the SSU Kuznetsov handed the following people to the PRD. The first one is Dmytro Yakob, who was tried in the Podilskyi District Court of Kyiv for attempt on the life of Anton Herashchenko, a Ukrainian MP of the 8th convocation; the second one is Leonid Kharytonov suspected in attempted sabotage at the military airfield in Cherkasy (the SSU claimed that Kharytonov, a chemist by training, tried to create a homemade bomb). Since both cases were not just criticized but even ridiculed in the media and had ve-e-ery slim chances in court, one can assume that by handing over Yakob and Kharytonov to the PRD, subordinates of Lieutenant Bakanov simply tried to avoid them being acquitted.
On the other hand, the valiant Security Service of Ukraine can’t get around to freeing those servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who remain in the occupants’ prisons. Likewise, the SSU has no intention of looking for its agents captured by the fighters. This is, for instance, Kuznetsov’s response regarding Viacheslav Zasypko. Zasypko is a non-stuff officer of the SSU who was captured by the fighters; he got wounded, burned, suffered a concussion, and had been being tortured for a long time. But the Major General of the SSU Kuznetsov writes that “the fact of unlawful imprisonment of Zasypko is not confirmed.”
For the time being, only a few people left on the occupied territory can be deemed “prisoners of war,” albeit by a long shot. For instance, as of July 1, 2020 only seven servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are being kept in the PRD, most of them deserters who left their military units and crossed the contact line by accident. But Kuznetsov promised Zelenskyi that he would exchange the “prisoners” in hundreds. So one should think that Russian handlers have already come up with a plan to earn quick money for Kuznetsov and his counterpart from the PRD Darya Morozova, and all we have to do is just observe how deftly the Major General Gennady Kuznetsov, the Chief of Staff of the Anti-Terrorist Center of the SSU, is about to stuff his pockets with money.