Special parliamentary commission investigating a failed Wagner mercenaries capture has reported its first findings at a briefing Friday.
The results of parliamentary investigation were announced by Maryana Bezugla, ‘Servant of the People’ MP and chair of the commission.
A plot to lure Wagner mercenaries to Ukraine was crafted by the SBU
According to Maryna Bezugla, the SBU came up with a plan in July 2020. Devised as a ‘special intelligence action’ by its Main Directorate of intelligence, the plan targeted persons who were involved in the military actions staged by Russia in Donbas. Collecting data on mercenaries subsequently led to further ‘study of private military companies’ that were part of military aggression of the Russian Federation in the east [of Ukraine].
‘A fake website was set up, intelligence directorate at Ukraine’s defense ministry reached out [to earlier identified mercenaries] to collect information on how private military companies operate and who joins them,’ explained Bezugla.
‘In June the SBU approached intelligence directorate with an idea to put this information that was filed for active work. It assumes luring some of those persons who allegedly were involved in military conflicts. .. luring them from the Russian Federation to the Ukrainian territory. Following the SBU initiative a special action was launched.’
Ukraine’s intelligence scrapped the idea of forceful landing of a plane with lured Wagner mercenaries
Commission chair argued, ‘There was no sanctioned special operation for forceful landing of a Turkish flight with Wagner mercenaries in Ukraine’ admitting that the option was on the table but failed to make it into the plan after ‘risks were assessed and they were obvious’.
‘It would be international isolation, and the prospects of a conflict with our strategic partner’, added she.
Who was Ukraine drawing in?
With the special ‘action’ on track , Ukrainian intelligence focused on several dozens of the mercenaries who took part in Donbas war conflict.
‘All of them were Russian citizens though it doesn’t cancel out their possible dual citizenship. Eight of those were Ukrainian nationals. 17 were affiliated with Wagner private military company, ..and 28 out 33 were involved in the combat in Donbas.’
According to initial findings, among those were ‘witnesses of MH17 flight downing’, stressed Bezugla.
Russians got a wind of a possible trap after Ukrainian intelligence launched a networking effort targeting alleged mercenaries
The parliamentary report shows that at some point the intelligence campaign saw interference of Russia.
Bezugla claimed it became clear the moment Ukraine’s intelligence operatives started pitching the idea of a new private military company to the mercenaries who earlier took the bait.
Commission chair put in question Ukraine was ‘in full control of the situation at that point’ claiming ‘Russia let those 32 men easily leave, and Belarus gave them a chance to freely enter its territory.. meaning Russian Federation got involved [in the situation] at the stage of filing data, Belarus did so when the [mercenaries] group was formed’.
Ukraine planned the mercenaries would be detained in Turkey
The intelligence planned to get the mercenaries from Moscow to Istanbul but Covid pandemic brought in a new route making Minsk their starting point.
‘Main scenario assumed transportation and detention as part of international legitiame operation given the evidence that many of those 33 men fought in Syria, and over 20 took part in the military aggression of the Russian Federation in Donbas.’
‘On arrival in Istanbul they would have been detained due to their record in the different databases, like in every civilized country.’
Ukraine acted on its own, with not involvement of other countries
‘It was entirely Ukrainian.. special ‘action’, stressed Bezugla.
The plan suffered delay, but not cancellation
The parliamentary investigation found information that Russian and Belarus intelligence agencies were on the track of the plan made Ukraine put off travel of the Wagner mercenaries group to Turkey.
‘Our intelligence agencies concluded something was going wrong and rescheduled the flight to Istanbul. At the time, risks were being assessed to understand where things were not properly arranged,’ explained Bezugla.
Parliamentary investigation admitted a special ‘action’ in question lacked proper planning and execution
Maryna Bezugla said investigation ‘had questions about failings in its planning. It looks much like a plan, yet it could have been better engineered’ and the special ‘action’ was planned and executed hastily – just ‘within the last year’s July’.
Wagner mercenaries were detained in Minsk in late July of 2020 over allegations they arrived to ‘destablize the situation of election campaign’. A few weeks later, Belarus turned the detainees over to Russia disregarding Kyiv official request to extradite them to Ukraine.
This June, the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky admitted in his TV interview he called Belarus president to ask for Wagner mercenaries extradition to Ukraine.