A story that CNN aired stating that the CIA helped Ukraine organize an operation to detain 33 Russians in Belarus last year is reliable and objective, a representative of the FSB of the Russian Federation told reporters on Wednesday. On July 29, the Belarusian state news agency BelTA announced the detention of 33 Russians in Belarus. They reported that these were fighters from the private military company Wagner and that they had been sent to Belarus in order to destabilize the situation before the elections. It was later confirmed by high-ranking Belarusian security officials. The chairman of the Security Council of Belarus, Andrei Ravkov, said that up to 200 more of the same fighters could be in the country and that they would be searched for. On August 4, President Alexander Lukashenko announced that the detainees had begun to testify and admitted that they had been thrown into Belarus with an order to “wait.”
On Wednesday, citing representatives of Ukrainian intelligence, CNN reported that the CIA helped Ukraine organize an operation to detain the 33 Russians in Belarus. As per the report, the Ukrainian side received cash from the United States, technical assistance and advice from the CIA during the organization of the operation.
“We fully confirm the information published by the CNN television channel, it is absolutely reliable, very objectively they showed the role of the CIA (..), so we consider this information reliable,” said a spokesman for the special service.
The spokesman said the citizens of the Russian Federation in the summer of 2020 “were actually lured by the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine and the SBU under the leadership of the US CIA to Belarus.”
A senior US official told CNN that these allegations were “false.” He said that US intelligence was aware of the operation but denied involvement in it. In his opinion, the statements of the Ukrainian intelligence representatives aim to shift part of the blame for the operation that went wrong on the Americans.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian military intelligence officials told the channel that they organized an operation to “lure suspected war criminals out of Russia.” Ukrainian agents posed as employees of a private military company offering a lucrative $ 5,000 contract to protect Venezuelan oil facilities. Sources say hundreds of potential Russian contenders were lured by the bait, allowing Ukrainian intelligence to identify the so-called ‘war crimes suspects.’
According to the Ukrainian military, quoted by CNN, two of the Russians then detained were present at the missile launch that allegedly shot down a Boeing flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on flight MH17 in July 2014.
Positions of Moscow and Minsk
On July 29, 2020, the Belarusian state agency BelTA reported that law enforcement officers of Belarus detained 32 “militants of the foreign private military company” Wagner “near Minsk, and one more person was detained in the south of the country. According to the agency, all detainees are citizens of Russia.
According to the agency, law enforcement agencies received information about the arrival of more than 200 people in Belarus to destabilize the situation during the election campaign. In the evening of the same day, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko convened an urgent meeting of the Security Council. The information about the detention there was confirmed by the head of the KGB, Valery Vakulchik. Lukashenka instructed Vakulchik to apply to Russian government agencies for clarification.
The next day, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the odious interpretation of the detention of Russian citizens by the Belarusian side did not stand up to criticism and demanded that Minsk immediately provide consular officers with access to the Russians.
On August 7, the newspaper “Komsomolskaya Pravda” reported that the Investigative Committee of Russia has begun to check the circumstances of the detention of 33 Russians in Belarus. In the same material, it was noted that the arrest of Russians in Minsk “turned out to be a provocation of the special services of Ukraine.” Most of this group fought in the Donbas on the militia’s side, and Kiev demanded their extradition.
On August 14, it became known that Belarus handed over 32 Russians detained on July 29 to the Russian Federation. On the same day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the extradition of the Wagnerites to Russia an unfair decision that could have catastrophic consequences.
The Security Service of Ukraine, for its part, declared its innocence in the story of the arrival and detention of 33 Russians in Belarus, who were named members of the private military company Wagner in Minsk.
Later, in an interview with the Russia-24 TV channel (VGTRK), Russian President Vladimir Putin called the situation with the detention of 33 Russians in Belarus a joint action of the Ukrainian and American special services.