The Wagnergate scandal .. This is how Ukraine planned to arrest 33 Russian mercenaries

The case of espionage related to the attempt to kidnap 33 Russian mercenaries by Ukrainian intelligence against the background of the clash between Ukraine and Russia remained vague, and turned into a serious political issue for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, until a lengthy investigation published it – yesterday, Wednesday, November 17 – appeared. The Bellingcat investigation group.

The French newspaper “La Croix” said in a report For her, the Bellingcat investigation group revealed the secrets of the failure of one of the most daring modern espionage operations, which the Ukrainian media called “Wagnergate”, in reference to the most famous private military company in Russia.

mysterious operation

Wagnergate began – as the newspaper says – on July 29, 2020, with the arrest of 33 Russian mercenaries in a sanatorium not far from the Belarusian capital, Minsk, and the Belarusian government said at the time that it had thwarted a foreign plot aimed at destabilizing the country before the presidential elections.

But soon, a rumor began to spread in neighboring Ukraine and swelled, that Russian mercenaries, some of whom fought in eastern Ukraine, had been lured to Belarus by the Ukrainian intelligence with the intention of arresting them by intercepting the Minsk-Istanbul flight they were going to take. However, the Russian spy who was planted in The highest echelons of the Ukrainian state apparatus, it is said, ultimately thwarted the process.

This story combines – according to the newspaper’s comment – between the patriotic suggestions of a very bold operation and accusations of treason to a president who is often accused by the opposition of lacking courage in confronting Russia, and thus the details of the case remain vague, and are lost between the pages of political liquidation and angry exile.

In cooperation with the Russian media, a new investigation by the Bellingcat investigative group – which previously investigated the crash of Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, and the poisoning of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny in August 2020 – revealed some of the mysteries of what was a spying operation that turned out to be Very ambitious.

ambitious plan

And it was found – according to the newspaper – from this long investigation, which is about 30 pages, and what included interviews with the participants in the operation, as well as data that can be accessed for free, that the Ukrainian military intelligence had already carried out a complex operation whose goal was to arrest the mercenaries who fought on the side of the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine between 2014 and 2020, some of whom are accused of having committed war crimes.

By adopting the name of a private Russian military company that was abandoned years ago, the Ukrainian intelligence was able to launch a fake recruitment campaign in 2019, during which it received hundreds of CVs that are not without confessions, and the owners of the candidates for employment sometimes brag about photos and videos of their fight in the Donbass region. Ukrainian, and it turns out that most of them previously served under the banner of the Wagner Group, a Russian private military company deployed in Syria, Libya and the Central African Republic.

The newspaper pointed out that the amount of information was sufficient for the success of the operation, and therefore the Ukrainian intelligence decided in 2020 to invent an important invention to secure the Russian oil facilities in Venezuela, and to it he would transport the mercenaries on a flight from Minsk through Istanbul, to receive the flight a false threat of a bomb when the plane was over Ukraine, and so is done The arrest of Russian mercenaries as soon as the plane landed in Kiev.

The first stage of the process is proceeding smoothly; The 33 mercenaries arrived in Minsk on July 24, 2020, but they did not travel to Istanbul because they were arrested by the Belarusian special forces after 5 days, so the controversy began quickly on the issue, as the famous Ukrainian journalist Yuri Potosov revealed the existence of the operation in August 2020, He accused the entourage of the Ukrainian president of “deliberate leakage of information”, speaking of “betrayal” at the highest level, although the Bellingcat investigation believes that the failure of the operation was rather the result of external circumstances that would push the Ukrainian leadership to make a grave mistake.

catastrophic timing

The investigation warned that Eastern Europe was turbulent at the end of July 2020, as Ukrainian and Russian diplomats finalized a ceasefire agreement in the Donbass region, and in Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko was watching with increasing concern the approaching presidential elections on August 9, He is afraid of destabilization before the elections, and he does not rule out that this will come from the Russian big brother.

Specifically, on the day Lukashenko warned a number of officers that “external forces” could try to create a revolution using “professional soldiers”, on July 24, 2020, 33 Russian mercenaries by bus crossed the borders of Russia and Belarus, and the Belarusian security services were able to Russian mercenaries, and thus the operation ended, according to the Bellingcat investigation.

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