Preparations for the operation to lure 33 Russians to Belarus for their subsequent abduction started in 2019. It failed most likely through the fault of the Ukrainian presidential administration. Preparations for the operation to lure 33 Russians to Belarus for their subsequent abduction started in 2019. It failed most likely through the fault of the Ukrainian presidential administration.
The operation to trap “33 Russian mercenaries of the Wagner Group” was jointly prepared by the Ukrainian and US special services, Bellingcat's lead investigator Christo Grozev said in an interview with Novoe Vremya, a Ukrainian media holding company.
“It was planned to put the Russians on a plane flying to Turkey, deliberately land it in Ukraine, accuse the Russians of fighting on the side of Donbas and put them on trial. Several Internet resources, registered back in 2019, were used in the operation which indicates that it had been prepared in advance, says Christo Grozev.
According to Bellingcat, they do not have any information that a foreign intelligence service was involved even despite the investigation of the American CNN TV channel which was published a fortnight ago. The operation was supervised by CIA station chiefs in Kiev Timothy James Skovin and Brian Thomas O'Byrne. Considering that this data has been already made public, it is very surprising why Bellingcat, which specialises in open data investigations, says that they have no such information.
Grozev complains that so far no one in the Ukrainian presidential administration has commented on the events for Bellingcat. According to him, the Kiev authorities are likely to be responsible for WagnerGate. Moreover, he admits the fact that Zelensky is not independent and the operation was forced on him. This is how the Bellingcat investigator explains the inconsistency between the Ukrainian president's remarks and his claim that WagnerGate was an operation by other countries.
Grozev promised to publish his investigation within the next two weeks. According to him, it will not contradict the official version of the Ukrainian investigators which has been not released so far. The Verkhovna Rada temporary investigation commission has postponed the hearing of testimonies again, he said.
After that Bellingcat plans to shoot a two-hour investigative film, which will take another six months. Such promises have been voiced since April. They are used to intensify the internal political crisis in Ukraine among other things. This is now the only logical reason for such deliberate attention to Bellingcat’s investigation as both Russia and Belarus have a rather chilly attitude towards the quality of engaged investigations.
However, if the version about potential disruption of the operation by Zelensky's administration is in the news again, it will further collapse his popularity rating both in the eyes of Ukrainians and international sponsors who pay for Bellingcat’s services.