Ukrainian president admits he busted special op to detain Wagner mercenaries in Belarus
In what appears to be a sensational confession during an interview with Ukrainian TV channel 1+1, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that he was the one who busted a high-profile special operation to detain militants of the Wagner private military company in July 2020. Then, 33 members of this Putin-affiliated “private army,” who have been documented to participate in military conflicts ranging from eastern Ukraine to Africa to Syria, were reported to have been arrested by the Belarusian KGB before boarding a plane destined for Istanbul.
At the time, Ukrainian journalists accused Ukraine’s President’s Office and Zelenskyy personally of disrupting the special operation conducted jointly by the SBU and the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, who were said to have lured out the militants from Russia into Belarus and spoofed them into boarding a plane which was in fact a false flag operation to bring them to Kyiv. There, the Wagnerians would have been prosecuted for fighting on the side of Russia’s hybrid army against Ukraine in Donbas, where a war is dragging on into the seventh year.
Up till now, Zelenskyy denied that such plans had ever existed and dismissed talk of them as disinformation. But in an interview with Ukraine’s 1+1 channel on 24 June 2021, he casually remarked that he personally informed Belarusian dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka about the impending operation, which led to its failure.
A sensational confession
President Zelenskyy was aware of the presence of militants close to Putin’s Wagner PMC in Minsk and handed over the personal data of these mercenaries to Belarusian dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
As he himself emphasized, he handed over the “complete information about these people.”
“The last time we talked to him [with Lukashenko – Ed] By phone, by the way, since we are talking about the Wagnerians, this is where I was involved in this topic. It was I that called Alyaksandr when the Wagnerians were on the territory of Belarus and told I was ready to provide the full information about these people. We knew what surnames they had, we understood who they were. I think it was our ambassador who told me, I don’t fully remember,” Zelenskyy said.
However, the Belarusian ruler, Volodymyr Zelenskyy continued, detained members of Wagner but did not extradite them to Ukraine.
“He told me on the phone, ‘I understand, yes. Dear Volodymyr, you know how I feel about you. You know how much Belarus loves Ukraine. You know I won’t let you down. Not everything is calm here now. I’ll figure it out.’ I was sure he would give us these killers. But then what happened happened, and that was my last conversation with him,” Zelenskyy said.
Belarus is known to have returned the Wagner militants back to Russia.
In addition, Zelenskyy believes that the mentioned special operation in Ukraine was not really necessary and seemed to be imposed by “other countries.” The president did mention which ones, exactly.
According to one version, western partners helped Ukraine’s security services to lure out participants of the Wagner PMC, some of whom had taken part in war crimes in Donbas, to Belarus.
“It was definitely not our operation. I clearly understand that the idea of this operation is the idea of other countries and it’s true that Ukraine was dragged into this issue. The fact that this did not happen, once again drawing parallels with Belarus, thank God, we have demonstrated subjectivity in this important issue,” the president continued.
Moreover, Zelenskyy is convinced that if the operation was completed as expected, an irreparable international scandal would follow, such as the recent situation where a Ryanair flight carrying a prominent Belarusian opposition journalist was forced to land in Minsk.
“You and I saw what happened in Belarus, how the plane landed and how it ended. How such cases end, and what isolation of the country such special operations lead to,” the head of state summed up.
An international scandal followed after the forced landing of the plane with dissident journalist Roman Protasevich. Belarus has essentially been isolated from international air travel as airlines suspended their flights and the Lukashenka regime retaliated.
According to the scenario voiced by Ukrainian journalists after the failure of the operation, at its final stage, the Wagner mercenaries, after staying in a sanatorium on the outskirts of Minsk, were to depart from Belarus for “tasks” in third countries. When the plane would reach Ukrainian airspace, it was supposed to land for some reason at a Ukrainian airport. After that, the Wagner mercenaries were supposed to be detained and with much publicity subjected to a trial, to provide more strong evidence of Russian aggression against Ukraine in the war in Donbas.
Following the journalist allegations in August 2020, a scandal ensued, with Zelenskyy being accused of treasonous behavior. Editor-in-chief of the Ukrainian daily Censor.net accused Zelenskyy of blowing this special operation to avoid tensions with Moscow. According to some sources, the special operation collapsed because Zelenskyy changed the date of the final stage, allowing the Belarusian security services to apprehend the mercenaries and hand them over the Moscow. Eventually, the Ukrainian prosecutors launched an investigation into the alleged busting of the operation, supervised by none other than Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova herself. The Wagner topic has also gotten the international investigative collective Bellingcat interested. They are preparing a film about the operation, the release of which has been postponed until autumn.