Zelenskyy suspected of private meetings with Russian officials during Oman trip
At the moment when Ukrainian flight PS 752 was shot down over Teheran, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was in Oman. He did not announce this visit publicly until pro-Russian Ukrainian media Strana.ua, which is reportedly financed by Russia, published photos of Zelenskyy in Oman’s most expensive hotel, the Al Bustan Palace Ritz-Carlton, on 5 January.
Three days later, the Ukrainian Airlines passenger flight PS 752 crashed in Tehran. However, Zelenskyy arrived in Ukraine from Oman only 22 hours after the crash. Moreover, the plane of Ukrainian pro-Russian oligarch and ex-KGB agent Viktor Medvedchuk arrived in Oman just before the crash of the UIA flight and left for Moscow after the tragedy. This allows journalists to assume that somebody had a meeting with Zelenskyy around the time when the plane crashed and that this meeting was more important for Zelenskyy than the tragedy.
Even if assessed solely from official statements, Zelenskyy’s visit to Oman is no less strange and absurd. Frivolous explanations of economic cooperation with a country that is blacklisted by the EU and has no economic ties with Ukraine can satisfy only the chronically naive. So what are the facts and how do they support two main versions of the real meaning of the Zelenskyy trip? Was it an expensive vacation hidden from the public, or a meeting with people linked to pro-Russian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk?
Chronology of established facts about Zelenskyy’s actions in Oman
Zelenskyy celebrated New Year in the presidential residence Huta in the Ukrainian Carpathian mountains. On 2 January Zelenskyy was in Bukovel, a famous ski resort in Ukraine. Photos with the President in Bukovel were published by skiers, some of whom reportedly were pro-Kremlin.
No official statements were made about the president’s future plans. However, on 4 January, the pro-Russian media Strana.ua wrote that its sources in the Presidential Office say the president plans to stay in his residency in Huta until 10 January. Whether real “sources” made such statements or not, nobody knows.
However, on 5 January at 12:57 (Ukrainian time here and further), Strana.ua published photos of Zelenskyy at Al Bustan Palace Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Oman. This information shocked Ukrainians. They perceived it as an expensive vacation hidden from citizens. The apartment in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel costs up to €4,000 per night.
The important yet unanswered questions remain: how could the pro-Russian media strana.ua find out about Zelenskyy’s trip to Oman while nobody else knew about it. What purpose were these photos published for, and would the President himself have disclosed this trip if photos had not been published.
Two hours later, at 14:58, Presidential office tweated that “President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in Oman, where he arrived with his family on a regular flight at his own expense. The Head of State has scheduled meetings at the highest level in the next few days.”
That was the only official information on the visit released so far. This short message, however, remains strange and contradictory. If the official visit had been planned, why would the President have arrived in Oman with family and at personal cost, not by presidential plane? Maybe to combine official meetings with holidays and avoid accusations of corruption? Or the meetings were not planned at all and everything in Oman had to be kept secret, but after photos published by Strana.ua some justification had to be created? These versions are possible but nobody can be 100% sure.
Whatever the truth is, on the following day on 6 January Zelenskyy did indeed have a meeting with Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, who was responsible for Oman’s foreign affairs while the Sultan was seriously ill (he died on 11 January, just after Zelenskyy returned to Ukraine). Also, Zelenskyy met with the Executive President of the State General Reserve Fund. During both meetings, they discussed investments and Ukraine-Oman business forums.
The need for such a meeting is questionable. As the Presidential office admitted, trade between Ukraine and Oman amounts to US$80 million per annum, in other words close to nothing (0,07% of Ukraine’s trade). There are more important presidential tasks than developing trade with Oman. Moreover, the European Union has added Oman to the list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions. This “blacklist” is a tool of the European Union against tax havens. Later, some media speculated that the real goal of Zelenskyy’s visit to Oman was to manage some issues regarding his or oligarch Kolomoyskyi’s offshore companies.
Another important fact proved by photos from the presidential office is the presence of Andriy Yermak, advisor to Zelenskyy, at these meetings. Yermak is responsible for informal talks with the Russian Federation and the United States. He was with Zelenskyy during his visit to the USA and discussed the exchange of prisoners with the Russian Federation and proxy republics. The presence of the main negotiator with Russia in Oman makes the whole trip yet more suspicious, especially after the information about the route of the plane of Putin’s relative and Ukrainian oligarch Medvedchuk was revealed.
A coincidence that nobody believes in: while Zelenskyy was working (resting) in Oman, the plane belonging to pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch Medvedchuk also arrived there.
We have no information about what Zelenskyy did in Oman on 7 January. However, journalists from texty.org managed to collect important information about flights that is described below.
At 15:21 EET the plane T7-GEM arrives in Oman from Kyiv. This is the plane that belongs to Victor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch, a member of the “Oppositional platform” pro-Russian party in Ukraine. Putin is the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter.
At 22:16 EET another plane arrives in Oman, Bombardier with number 9H-VJN. That plane was rented from Stockholm but stopped in Moscow and arrived in Oman from Moscow, possibly taking somebody on board there. An important fact is that Zelenskyy returned to Ukraine by this very plane 24 hours later. The rent for this plane costs US$ 10,000 per hour. Then, a reasonable question: why did the President rent this plane 24 hours in advance to pay additional money. Maybe, because the plane had the mission to bring somebody from Moscow, as journalists assume?
Around 5 am EET, 8 January, Ukranian passenger flight is shot down in Iran.
8:20 EET. The presidential office reports that Zelenskyy interrupts his visit to Oman and immediately returns to Ukraine.
9:53 EET Medvedchuk’s plane departs from Oman. On its way back, the plane stops in Moscow for some reason. Journalists from texty.org assume that this plane could bring back the delegation from Moscow that held talks with Zelenskyy.
Only at 19:03 EET does the Bombardier with Zelenskyy depart from Oman for Kyiv, bypassing Iran and arrives around 2:30 EET on 9 January at Kyiv, 22 hours after the crash of the Ukrainian flight in Iran. Journalists from skhemy followed the car that took “somebody” from the airport directly to the Presidential Office. The light in the Presidential Cabinet was then turned on. A few minutes later the Presidential Office shared a photo of the council with the president discussing the tragedy of Ukrainian flight.
Why was such an expensive plane rented by Zelenskyy to get back from Oman before Ukrainian passenger flight crashed in Iran and more than 24 hours before Zelenskyy departed from Oman? Why did this plane stop in Moscow on its way to Oman? Why was the plane belonging to Medvedchuk in Oman at the same time and stopped in Moscow on its way back to Ukraine? We have no convincing answers to these questions from the President.
Answering the question of a journalist, Victor Medvedchuk confirmed that he uses the plane that was in Oman. However, the plane only brought back from Oman his daughter, her husband, and children who were there on holiday. Nobody else was in the plane according to his words.
Yet journalists of 5 channel tried to follow the arrival of this plane at Kyiv to check who was on board. They were not allowed into the terminal which is a public space. They couldn’t check what were the numbers of cars but filmed that there was a cortege of 5 cars to take passengers from the plane, quite a lot for one family even if with guards.
From Zelenskyy’s side, the president didn’t comment on this issue himself. Instead, his advisor Andriy Yermak answered the questions of journalists. He didn’t specify, although journalists had asked, what plane Zelenskyy used to come back. He also rejected any non-public meeting of Zelenskyy in Oman but didn’t provide any confirmation:
The president returned as quickly as possible due to the situation in the region. Once the air corridor, which was restricted because of the tragedy, was opened, the president flew out. I also want to point out that since it was a private trip of the President, no budget money was spent either on the way there or on the way back. All speculation, as well as conspiracy theories about the plane, Medvedchuk, where and how the plane flew, have no basis and are a continuation of the dirty technologies that took place during the presidential campaign – since then neither the customers nor their methods have changed.
Reference to Poroshenko and opposition in this answer is very strange as all data was collected by several independent outlets who had nothing in common with the former president. Moreover, all the facts are available to everybody on the internet. No proper justification was provided for the four-day presidential visit to Oman. Altogether, until the President makes publicly his statements on all raised questions, citizens would be right to be suspicious of him.
Such a position was already stated by many influential political forces in Ukraine, including the NGO Capitulation Resistance Movement. Anatoliy Amelin, co-founder of the Ukrainian Institute for the Future also suspects Zelenskyy of a secret meeting with Kremlin officials. He lists 7 questions to Zelenskyy:
- Who in fact did Zelensky meet in Oman? And what were they talking about? A meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Oman (a country with scanty trade with Ukraine and blacklisted by the EU) and the arrangements are abstract and ridiculous.
- Who organized the meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Oman so quickly? There is no Oman embassy in Ukraine (communications are built through the embassy in Moscow). Why didn’t Zelenskyy discuss opening an embassy in Ukraine?
- Why was Yermak accompanying Zelenskyy in Oman if it was a “vacation with his family”? Yermak is in direct contact with Surkov, so-called Kremlin curator of proxy republics, and is responsible for communications with the Russian Federation in the Donbas.
- Why was the hotel chosen as close as possible to the Russian Embassy in Oman?
- Who took the photo of Zelenskyy in Oman and why was it leaked? It first appeared on such a specific outlet as strana.ua
- Who was brought to Oman from Moscow on Medvedchuk’s plane?
- Why was the Ukrainian plane shot down at the same time? Firstly, take-off was allowed. Secondly, it was not the only plane in the air. Thirdly, Iran’s special services have long and tightly worked with Russian special services (in addition to arms supplies).
Once again, nobody has direct facts to accuse Zelenskyy of a lie, but there are more than enough indirect and strange facts.
Meanwhile, Olexiy Honcharenko, people’s deputy from the European Solidarity, has made an official request to the President to answer precisely questions about his trip to Oman. Answers should be obtained within 10 days.