translated by Engländer, corrected by Eugenia, for the Saker Blog
Komsomolskaya Pravda has become aware of sensation details about how Ukrainian spies tried to sow discord between Belarus and Russia.
Investigation by Alesandr Kots
On the 29th July 33 Russians were detained in Minsk. They were all dubbed members of a unit of the “Wagner” PMC (private military company), accused of “preparing to take part in mass unrest” and tied to the case of the local opposition leaders Sergei Tikhanovskiy and Nikolai Statkevich, who had been detained earlier. Most of this group had fought in Donbass for a militia, and Kiev had already requested their extradition. Meanwhile a thorough examination of Russian law-enforcement agencies shows that the men, who had decided to earn some money working abroad as guards, had without knowing it been used.
So, this is how these “33 warriors” ended up in Minsk.
//When the Belarussian secret services detained the Russians, they didn’t even suspect that it was for pictures like this that the men had been lured to Minsk. Frame from a video-capture.///
According to the information of our source in the Russian secret services, the group’s recruitment began with a call from Syria. A certain “Sergei Petrovich” was ringing around former (and that’s important) soldiers of the so-called “Wagner” private military company with a tempting offer to work as guards on oil installations in Syria.
The number that showed up on the soldiers’ cellphones did indeed contain the dialling code of the Arab Republic (+963-931-42-562), however, as became clear later, it was a virtual number. It’s not registered in any cellular communication networks, and determining its location is impossible; only its outgoing calls are accessible.
“Sergei Petrovich” spared no effort in calling around the “soldiers of fortune” and enquiring about their military past. He pretended that had to show a certain level of their experience and preparation. Like a sophisticated psychologist, he practically conducted reconnaissance interviews, flaunting his knowledge of events and facts such that one could conclude that this definitely was one of the bosses of the “Wagner” PMC, or even a high-ranking official at the Ministry of Defence. A colonel, at minimum! Because of this no one was even put on guard when he asked about their skills in operating “Buk” missile-systems, or about their contacts with the Russian military personnel in the area of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO).
One of the veterans of military action in Donbass, Artem Milyarev (codenamed “Shaman”) was so fired-up by his discussion with “Sergei Petrovich” that he volunteered to help him recruit a group for the “work abroad”. This guy was serious, it seemed, an impression that was strengthened when in the middle of May such serious personage as a “Rosneft security manager”, Sergei Viktorovich Bezinskiy, joined in the negotiations (although a person with such details is not registered in Russia, and such a person is absent from Rosneft’s staff). Even his email-address was on the oil company’s domain, as if anyone knew anything about these domains. The address ([email protected]), by the way, is not registered in Russia and stopped working on 31st July – two days after the Russians’ arrest.
But that would come later.
And in the meantime “Shaman” started looking for volunteers, turning to an old acquaintance, a retired lieutenant-colonel of the Russian army, Krivenko, whom he’d fought together with in Donbass. The “client” needed 90 men – some the lieutenant-colonel found himself, some were recommended by Milyaev. Krivenko personally conducted interviews with the applicants on WhatsApp. He once even got a call from “Sergei Petrovich”, who made a thoroughly pleasant impression on him.
At the end of May it was recommended to “Shaman” that he double the group-size, to 180 men. Which he duly did, and sent all the filled-out application forms with photographs and bankcard details to the “Rosneft address”, for future salary calculation. In enlisting the men Milyaev for some reason used the attributes of a PMC, “Mar”, which had been dissolved in 2018.
On the 6th, July “Shaman” received a most unpleasant piece of news from “Rosneft”. “Sergei Petrovich” had died a valiant death in Libya. After a few days he was approached by a new curator, who called now from a Venezuelan number (+5-841-291-01-091). And Artem Milyaev may even have checked this number out – it really is the number of the consular department of the Russian embassy in Caracas. Only it’s the number of the duty attendant, which isn’t able to make outgoing international calls – i.e. it was just as much of a wholly virtual number as the Syrian one.
The new “curator Artur” suggested that they re-orient themselves towards “Rosneft projects” – as it happened 180 men were needed for those. But they needed to be split up into 5 groups, which they duly were. Each one had its own commander: “Shaman” (Milyaev), “Yurich” (Krivenko), “Sanych” (Belik), “Paradox” (real name unknown), “Admin” (real name unknown).
//This bearded fellow at an Alpha-Bank ATM in July 2020 transferred money to the group’s chief, Milyaev.//
Four of the units were supposed to arrive in Minsk on 24th July, 26th July, 4th August and 6th August. The “Yurich’s” group was then to deploy by sea to Venezuela. According to what our source in the Russian secret services said, the recruitment services of “Shaman” were valued at fourteen-thousand USD, a sum which was placed in his account through an ATM by an unknown man with a beard.
The first group – that of “Shaman” – consisted overwhelmingly of men who before had had Ukrainian citizenship and fought in Donbass. It was joined by Andrei Bakunovich, who was already in Minsk.
TICKETS BOUGHT… IN LVIV
Departure from the Belarusian capital along the route Istanbul – Havana – Caracas was set for 25th July. Ten days before that Milyaev was sent copies by email of plane-tickets for a Turkish Airlines flight with departure from Minsk on 25th July of this year. The plane-tickets looked like they’d been obtained through the website-company “Must Go” (registered in Kiev, tel. +380509468296), but shown on the tickets were the details of the travel agent “Coral Travel”. However, through Turkish Airlines’ office in Moscow it was established that they were obtained “at an authorised agency registered on the territory of Ukraine, which follows from the response of the Moscow office of the Turkish airline.”
//It is clearly stated in the airline’s official response that all ticket operations were carried out on the territory of Ukraine.///
At booking, contact information was given in the form of a phone number, +380509468296, which is the number of the firm “Travel Set”, situated in Kiev at the address: Vatslav Havel Boulevard, house 6, building 17A, office 706/1, which is confirmed by documents from the Moscow office of the Turkish airline. The said firm and its director, Ukrainian citizen Nina Leonidovna Kalyuzhnaya, have been identified. The firm was registered in January 2020.
On top of that, it’s been established that a Ukrainian company “Easy Travel Ukraine” (registered in Lviv, tel. +380975500325) was inserted under the “Must go” brand into the chain of ticket-purchasers. The consolidator of the above group of tickets is indicated in the booking-system as Anna Aleinik, tel. +380442228500 and +380952945511.
The tickets for the “Sanych’s” group were also bought by a Ukrainian firm “Air Life Logistic” (Kiev, Pecherskiy district, Predslavinskaya Street 11). Its director is Alena Aleksandrovna Kashperskaya, and the firm was also registered in January 2020.
//Aleksandr Tokarenko’s e-ticket. “Must go“ is a Ukrainian e-commerce firm, but the details shown are for Moscow and Yekaterinburg, and they anyway pertain to the Russian travel agent “Coral Travel”. These tickets aren’t in Coral Travel’s booking system. //
And while “Shaman’s” group were getting ready to set off, their tickets to Istanbul had been cancelled and rebooked for 30th July, which the travellers were not even informed about. And anyway, while the unit was travelling from Moscow to Minsk, even the bookings for the 30th had been cancelled for the majority of its members.
//Anna Aleinik – she was shown as the consolidator for the group of passengers with regard to the booking and management of tickets.//
At the Belarusian border the Russians showed their copies of contracts with the company “RN-Zapad” (Rosneft-West). The tickets were with the meeting party – the Belarusian citizen Gennadiy Kompan, and had been sent to him from the same unregistered “Rosneft address” ([email protected]) and printed out in a petrol-station right near the border. Kompan (our source assumes that in the concluding stage of the operation he was brought in by the Belarusian secret services) did drive the guys to Minsk in two minibuses. It goes without saying that these contracts were a sham, the details and stamps forged, and the person who allegedly signed them, the firm’s director Rustamov, has long lived in Samara, not Minsk. I.e. it was a complete and total fabrication.
//Genadiy Kompan was responsible for transporting and accompanying the group on Belarusian territory.//
THEY MESSED UP WITH ROSNEFT
The person who framed the Russians in Belarus definitely knew what hewas doing. After collecting the application forms, which contained among other things bank details, from all the applicants for the overseas work, the “employer” put together an employment contract for each of the 33 warriors. It looked almost like a real one!
It had the Rosneft logo on the letterhead of the Belarusian company “RN-Zapad”, the company’s director Sergei Rustamov listed as one party of the agreement and such-and-such a citizen as the other. It also had the job-title listed as “employee of the security service”, the contract length – 1 year, employee’s rights, duties, bonus payments, and wage tables. It was stamped and signed.
And here’s what didn’t add up: firstly, the stamp was forged. Secondly, whoever had drawn up the document had slightly out-of-date information. The problem was that Sergei Rustamov hadn’t worked for this company for a year. He is at present the general director of “Samaranefteprodukt” PJSC “Rosneft”. And he has absolutely nothing to do with the signing of this document. The “autograph” itself was faked.
An example of Sergei Rustamov’s real signature has come into the possession of “Komsomolskaya Pravda” (see photo). The difference couldn’t be more obvious.
//This employment contract was sent to the men for them to show the Belarusian border-guards. Sergei Rustamov is a real person, but he hasn’t worked in Minsk for a year. The stamp, signature and details are counterfeit.///
//Sergei Rustamov’s real signature//
DESTROY THE TICKETS AND EVIDENCE!
The person who dealt with the Russians’ accommodation in Minsk was Larisa Nikolaevna Samarina – “an employee of the Russian embassy in Istanbul”, who moonlighted as a “specialist” for Rosneft. This, of course, doesn’t match up in any way with reality. (Her name is listed sometimes as Samokhina, sometimes as Yegorova; we are still trying to establish her identity.) This “employee” used a false phone number registered on 15th July, +7-903-399-96-97, which is also virtual and not registered in any cellular networks.
//Larisa Samarina, who dealt with the accommodations of the Russians in Minsk.//
This Samarina sent “Shaman” an identification card with supposedly her photo for a meeting in Istanbul airport.
She booked the health resort “Belorusochka” for the group from 24th to 29th July, explaining to the manager that she was accommodating a group of passengers whose flight had been postponed (something the group had no idea about). They were held up slightly longer at the border, so they were late for check-in and moved to a hotel in Minsk.
Just before departure on the 25th July, “Shaman” was nevertheless told about the flight cancellation, and given instructions to destroy the old tickets. They told him the group would fly on a different flight on the 30th July. After ripping up the tickets, the Russians similarly destroyed important pieces of evidence, the thread of which would have led to Lviv and Kiev, and to somewhere in the SBU (Ukrainian Security Service) headquarters. That’s why all payments having to do with the “project” were made by the “curators” exclusively in cash.
//Two staff forms. Note how on the first one from 03.04.2020 the word “rospis’” (a colloquial word for signature), which isn’t normal for a Russian-language document, appears at the bottom. The second, later one, has here the word “podpis’” (the standard word for signature).//
Now we all know what happened next. On the 29th July, the“Alpha” unit of the Belarusian KGB detains the “Shaman’s” group, but was , holds Bakunovich separately, which sort of implies that Minsk has been given a list of the “passengers” by Kiev.
Belarusian media reports that the 33 men “didn’t turn up for their flight on 25th July”, even though by that point their tickes had been cancelled.
During this time a worried “Sanych” is trying unsuccessfully to contact Samarina. She recommends that he dissolve the group while “the curators solve the problem”.
Immediately after the arrests, a list of the detainees was passed on to the Ukrainian embassy in Minsk, which actually explains the quick adjustment to the “Mirotvorets” website, where the names of the 12 men from the “Shaman’s” group had been added to it. Sixteen others were already displayed there.
Here we can only presume that the Belarusian intelligence services were already in close contact with their Ukrainian counterparts, and that they’d received information about the arrival of “saboteurs”. It wasn’t for nothing that Aleksandr Lukashenko, during a visit to a special forces brigade on the 24th July, mentioned “foreign PMC’s” which were planning to introduce disorder to Belarus.
In summary, it can be stated that the Ukrainian intelligence services managed to pull off creating a fake project, which they got 180 Russian citizens involved in, with veterans of the war in Donbass included in the first group. One could also perfectly reasonably assume that the Belarusian side was informed of this whole intriguing and instructive story only in a very truncated form – without the details about the plane tickets. By way of this whole operation the SBU, it seems, was intending to kill several birds with one stone – the omnipresent, nightmarish and terrifying “Wagner” PMC, and then as collateral damage it was hoped that “Rosneft”, as one of the largest Russian companies, would be hurt. But the main blow was undoubtedly meant for Russian-Belarusian relations. And this is before we even get to the possible extradition of Russian citizens to Ukraine, which Kiev would be indescribably happy about – it would be a chance to get revenge for their seamen, whom Poroshenko sent “to slaughter” in the Kerch Strait.
According to our information, the material pertinent to this whole special operation has already been passed over to the Investigation Committee, which, in the words of our interlocutor, will make a legal evaluation of this “spectacle”.
All we can do now is hope that it will also be examined seriously in Minsk.