On December 17, 2020 the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine posted information in its Telegram channel about a tragedy that shook the whole progressive mankind. Late at night in Lviv, unidentified attackers set fire to a car belonging to a NABU detective.
“A private car (a 2012 Skoda Octavia) has been significantly damaged. We do not exclude that this may be related to professional activities of our employee. On this fact, investigators of the National Police entered the information into the Unified Register of Pre-trial Investigations (Part 2 of Article 347 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). NABU is looking forward to a prompt and effective investigation of the crime. We ask witnesses possessing information about these events to contact the Shevchenkivskyi Police Department of the Main Division of the National Police in Lviv Region.”
Within a few minutes, a pretentiously named “Anti-Corruption Action Centre” advertising firm, which is catering to a NABU Director Artem Sytnyk and is praising virtues of this blatant corrupted official, clarified that the car belonged to “one of the detectives who exposed Avakov’s son’s for his embezzlement of UAH 14M during procuring backpacks for the army. However, eventually Avakov’s son got out of this. By the way, the police planted drugs and fabricated several criminal proceedings against an expert, 65, who identified losses in that case.”
Indeed, Roman Petrovych Dohoida, a senior detective of the Fourth Detectives Division (located in Lviv) of the Main Detectives Department of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, whose car was burned in Lviv on the night of December 17, 2020, was the very detective who in 2017 was entrusted by the Director of the NABU Artem Sytnyk and the Head of the Main Detectives Department Andriy Kaluzhynskyi (as a matter of fact, Kaluzhynskyi is the head of the NABU as a law enforcement agency; Sytnyk, a godfather of his child, holds only an administrative position and manages janitors and accountants) with investigation of the “Avakov backpacks” case. And not only investigation: as a senior member of the group of detectives in this criminal proceeding, Dohoida had to take this case to court and ensure conviction of the omnipotent minister’s son. In exchange for that, Sytnyk promised to make Roman Petrovych’s cherished dream come true and promote him to a senior detective position and transfer to Lviv, closer to his family (Dohoida himself is a native of Lutsk, where his wife is residing).
However, it would be an exaggeration, to put it mildly, to use the word “exposed” as it was applied by Sytnyk’s publicity agents to Mr. Dohoida. In fact, the originator and organizer of the “Avakov backpacks” case was a then President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. Also, professional “civil activists” neglected to explain, how exactly Roman Petrovych, who previously worked as an ordinary detective at the Second Detectives Division and lived in Kyiv, ended up in Lviv as a senior detective. The thing is, Dohoida is a native of Volyn, and when he joined the NABU and moved to Kyiv, his wife was left behind in Lutsk.
The Main Detectives Department of the NABU consists of four divisions, three of which are located in Kyiv, and the Fourth one has branches in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, and Odesa. So Dohoida started asking to get transferred from the Second division to the Fourth and be sent to Lviv, closer to his family. But Sytnyk made a counteroffer and promised to get Dohoida his cherished position and promotion in case he puts Avakov’s son behind bars. Roman Petrovych did everything he could and was rewarded by Sytnyk, who delivered on his promise even though the criminal proceeding against Avakov Jr. had to be closed on demand of the U.S. Embassy.
But before recounting how George Kent, a deputy chief of mission in Kyiv, and Christopher W. Smith, an International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Director at the U.S. Embassy, close the “Avakov backpacks” case, let me remind you how this proceeding originated.
Caught in the Middle
A criminal proceeding widely known as the “Avakov backpacks case” was registered by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine in July of 2015, and till late March of 2016, it was being investigated by the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office. According to the proceeding storyline, in February of 2015, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine contracted Dniprovend LLC to procure 5 thousand backpacks for the National Guard of Ukraine at UAH 2,989 each. Another thousand backpacks, UAH 2,100 each, were procured from private entrepreneur Plyhachov. Considering the backpacks’ quality and the size of the shipment, the price was obviously excessive. Besides, at the time, the MIA of Ukraine was probing into Dniprovend LLC activities suspecting it of being a conversion center.
But a real scandal erupted in February of 2016, when an anonymous author published a video, taped in 2014 with a hidden camera planted in an office of a Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Serhiy Chebotar, where Mr. Chebotar and a minister’s son Oleksandr Avakov were discussing a prospective scam involving procuring backpacks.
It immediately turned out that the hidden camera was planted by the officers of the Department of Operational and Technical Measures of the Security Service of Ukraine, let inside the MIA by Vasyl Pisnyi, a former Head of the Department of Fighting Economic Crime of the MIA of Ukraine. Moreover, this is precisely why Avakov fired Pisnyi from the police in January 2015. Nevertheless, as a reward for his suffering, on September 1, 2015 Vasyl Mykhailovych was hired by the SSU and was appointed a Deputy Head of the Main Department for the Fight Against Corruption and Organized Crime. Then he organized release of the controversial video.
Given that Anatolii Matios, a Chief Military Prosecutor, was determined to take this case to court, the only way out for Avakov was to transfer the criminal proceeding to the NABU, whose director Artem Sytnyk was known as a habitual corrupt official even since his tenure at the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region’s Office and was being kept “on the hook” for his land and apartment scams. Therefore, professional “civil activists,” for a hefty compensation, immediately initiated a noisy campaign demanding change of jurisdiction. Articles and videos would appear almost every day, in which Matios would be vilified because he wasn’t able to cuff Avakov, and which would argue that the case had to be immediately transferred to the NABU. Funds allocated to the “civil activists” were so large that even after the jurisdiction was changed on March 30, 2016, the campaign wouldn’t stop. In April, May, and even in early June of 2016, “activists” would tell stories at every turn that Matios was blowing the “Avakov backpacks case,” which was in fact already being investigated by the NABU.
But in June of 2016, the campaign came to an abrupt halt, and no one would mention backpacks anymore. Moreover, one year hence, in April of 2017, the NABU started procuring sports suits and shirts for its special agents from that very Volodymyr Lytvyn who, according to the case outline, conspired with Avakov’s son to sell substandard backpacks to the National Guard at an excessive price.
This was the last straw for Poroshenko, who was seeking ways to get rid of the omnipotent minister. In order to show Sytnyk who was the boss, in May of 2017, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine started investigating Artem Sytnyk’s purchase of a one-bedroom apartment in Brovary in 2008 (at that time he was a head of the investigations division of the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region’s Office). Actually, Sytnyk never bought the apartment. It was given to him as a “gift” by a charity fund established by prosecutors and their accomplice, a Kozyn village head, to collect bribes from participants of criminal cases. In particular, housing for Artem Sergiyovych was bought using the money paid by Ms. Vinokurova for closing the case, opened regarding forging state titles to land. At that, Sytnyk, having received this gift, neglected to pay the tax on the apartment’s value.
Having realized the prospects waiting for him, director of the NABU promised Poroshenko to put Avakov’s son behind bars. He summoned detective Dohoida and ordered him to quickly finish investigation of the backpacks case. Dohoida started working like crazy and was about to arrest Oleksandr Avakov, Serhiy Chebotar, and Volodymyr Lytvyn, when it turned out that Avakov had a trusting relationship with the U.S. Embassy and was untouchable.
What happened next, how Sytnyk got caught in the middle (between Poroshenko and the U.S. Embassy), can be found on the “fish tank tapes,” i.e. conversations between Nazar Kholodnytskyi, a Head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, and his subordinates. These talks were taped for Sytnyk by Volodymyr Hutsuliak, a Head of the Department of Investigating Major Economic Crimes of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, recruited by the NABU. The talks were taped using a microphone planted by officers of the Operative and Technical Department of the NABU on the outside surface of the fish tank in Kholodnytskyi’s office.
“Sytnyk calls Avakov, he doesn’t pick up…”
In March of 2018, yet another “anti-corruption” scandal shook Ukraine. The Head of the SAPO Nazar Kholodnytskyi discovered a hidden recording device in his office. The microphone was planted on Sytnyk’s request as part of a fake criminal proceeding investigated by the Kononenko-Hranovskyi Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office in order to conduct covert investigative actions against Kholodnytskyi. This way Artem Sergiyovych was hoping to disgrace Nazar Ivanovych in the eyes of the U.S. Embassy, where he would bring records of covert investigative and search actions, and to ensure sacking of the Head of the SAPO, since Kholodnytskyi would impede Sytnyk’s selling of criminal cases and taking bribes and even would take interest as to why criminal proceedings were not being investigated in years. Not to mention that Kholodnytskyi wouldn’t sign obviously groundless motions to the court to allow covert investigative and search actions.
It is utmost pleasure to read the transcripts of the conversations taped in Kholodnytskyi’s office. I immediately recall a phrase that Leonid Kuchma said on “Major Melnychenko tapes” after reading transcripts of phone conversations between Ukrainian politicians: “My God, when you look at all this, it’s all like, like maggots.” Perhaps this is the most precise description of Ukrainian corruption fighters, “like maggots.”
These “fish tank tapes” also feature the key to the “Avakov backpacks case,” discussed by the Head of the SAPO Nazar Kholodnytskyi and Sergiy Kozachyna, a Head of the Division of the SAPO, on February 9, 2018. To quote the record of covert investigative and search actions:
As part of covert investigative and search actions, a conversation was recorded between the Head of the SAPO of the PGOU Kholodnytskyi, N.I. (hereinafter “Kh.”) and the Head of the Division of the SAPO of the PGOU Kozachyna, S.S. (hereinafter “K.”), which took place on 02/09/2018 at 3:50 pm in the office of Kholodnytskyi, N.I., on the second floor of the administrative building of the SAPO of the PGOU at 17 Isaakian St., Kyiv. The conversation is as follows:
Kh. — I’ll tell you; I’ll tell you alone. Even Kryvenko doesn’t know. So Chris summoned me and Sytnyk, you know, first deputy ambassador, and says: “You know, we support Avakov, fucking national police, what do you mother fuckers do … this is not corruption, you are a newly created agency, people trust you.” And the guy sits there saying that it wasn’t us, it was Kholodnytskyi. And then something … somewhere … based on … truthfully surfaced, when Sytnyk … you know, he spent the whole year with those backpacks, blackmailed, bargained with Avakov, you know that we … bags, and you will give us … Nasirov. And you give us coverts, and you give us this, give us that … Heard that they are fighting there at Bankova, Sytnyk’s playing politics, I don’t want … which will help them if it suits them, they are playing politics. When in October happened whatever happened between Petro and Arsen, they entered into a dick measuring contest … and decided to knock down one by one.
Kholodnytskyi was mistaken when he called Mr. Chris a first deputy ambassador. At the time, it was George Kent who was a deputy chief of mission in Kyiv. Apparently, the conversation refers to Christopher W. Smith, an International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Director at the U.S. Embassy, who was de facto overseeing the NABU. However, there was yet another Chris at the Embassy, namely Christian Daly Graff, born January 2, 1976, a Deputy Chief of CIA Legal Station in Ukraine. But only Christopher Smith could summon Sytnyk and Kholodnytskyi and have them report to him.
According to Kholodnytskyi, taped using covert surveillance equipment, Sytnyk had been bargaining with Avakov for a year, promising not to investigate the backpacks case, and had been blackmailing the omnipotent minister. But in October of 2017, he was pressured by Poroshenko to intensify the investigation, which caused an outrage at the embassy. Mr. Smith summoned Kholodnytskyi and Sytnyk and ordered them to close the “Avakov backpacks case.”
Which is not surprising—according to a former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, speaking at the hearings in the House of Representatives in October of 2019, Arsen Avakov was unofficially cooperating with the U.S. intelligence agencies; shared with the U.S. embassy information on movements around Ukraine of two guys named Parnas and Fruman, associates of a Trump’s attorney Rudolph Giuliani; and personally informed Ms. Yovanovitch about meetings between Giuliani and Yuriy Lutsenko, a Prosecutor, for Christ’s sake, General.
Sure enough, since Poroshenko had Sytnyk by the balls, the latter couldn’t explain to his overseas handler that the Prosecutor General’s Office exposed him as a briber and that he was forced to run errands for a Venerable Hetman. Instead, Artem Sergiyovych convinced Chris that he had no intention of investigating the “backpacks case,” but was being forced by a so-and-so Kholodnytskyi. Then, Sytnyk was called on the carpet by George Kent, a Yovanovitch’s deputy.
The record of covert investigative and search actions continues:
Kh. — So Sytnyk, when Kent kicked his butt, told that it was SAPO, that it was all Nazar. They don’t summon me, they invite me, you know, Kent and Chris … and when I showed evidence, when I showed a record of conversations with Sytnyk that I taped … they were fucking surprised. And he says that that’s all you.
Notice that when talking to his subordinates, Nazar Ivanovych stresses that whereas Sytnyk is summoned to the embassy, he is invited. But what a move—having listened to Kent and Chris’s complaints, the Head of the SAPO fetched a recorder and played his conversation with Sytnyk, taped secretly to prove that it was not Kholodnytskyi who demanded the NABU to investigate the “Avakov backpacks case,” but on the contrary, it was Sytnyk who was forced to follow Poroshenko’s orders after he had been caught taking bribes.
Caught in the middle, i.e. between Poroshenko, whom Sytnyk promised to arrest Avakov’s son, and the U.S. Embassy, where Sytnyk promised to close the backpacks case, the Director of the NABU sent his deputy Anatoly Novak to Oleksij Takhtay, a State Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, to forewarn Arsen Borysovych that nothing bad was going to happen to his offspring, and the “arrest” of Avakov Jr. to take place in 8 hours by detective Dohoida would be just a farce to calm down Poroshenko.
Kh. — Then they sent Novak to Avakov, you don’t know that story when they notified Avakov 8 hours before his son was arrested. Sytnyk calls Avakov, he doesn’t pick up. Then he calls Takhtay and asks if he can come. Takhtay is like, you won’t get in. Then I’ll send Novak. Novak goes to Takhtay, they meet him … near MIA. I’ve got SSU traffic, where at 10:26, Novak is tracked to be at Bohomolets St., and at 11:04 he’s gone. Then I summoned Takhtay, he was very shaken up. Takhtay told me that the NABU informed that this was all the SAPO’s idea, that the SAPO forced the NABU to provide a SWAT team. Then he said that no one could force the NABU SWAT to do anything…
After “arrested” Avakov’s son spent a comfortable night of November 1, 2017 at the NABU (clearly, no one took him to a temporary detention facility), a deputy chief of mission in Kyiv George Kent kicked the prosecutors of the SAPO in the ass and sent them to the Solomyansky District Court to arrange with the “Granny” (i.e. the head of the court Liudmyla Sheremetieva) that the minister’s son be released on personal recognizance. And shortly after to close the very proceeding against Oleksandr Avakov.
As for detective Roman Dohoida, whom Sytnyk promised promotion and a position in Lviv should Avakov’s son be convicted, the director of the NABU delivered on his promise and transferred Roman Petrovych to a position of a senior detective of the Fourth Detectives Division (located in Lviv). After all, it is not Dohoida’s fault that the U.S. Embassy ordered to close the “Avakov backpacks case.” However, Sytnyk didn’t warn his subordinate that he’d better not buy cars any time soon. Because Danylovych was right at the end of the day: “When you look at all this, it’s all like, like maggots.”