The FSB said on Monday that it had thwarted an operation of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry to hijack a Russian combat aircraft, supervised by the secret services of NATO countries. Russian counterintelligence received data during the operations against the GUR, which helped the Russian Armed Forces destroy several Ukrainian military facilities.
A Russian military pilot who helped the intelligence agency FSB thwart Ukraine’s plans to hijack Russian fighter planes said he was offered money to commit treason.
The pilot said, on the Rossiya 24 TV channel, that he was approached by a man who offered to hijack aviation equipment to the territory of Ukraine for a certain amount.
Initially, he took the information from the unknown person as a joke. However, after further communication, it became clear that he was dealing with representatives of the special services of Ukraine and their Western allies. The intent, the Russian pilot said, was to show the world that he had a negative attitude to the policy of the country’s leadership over the special operation and to motivate the other flight crew to betray the country.
He said the Ukrainian intelligence offered, the Russian pilots, passports of European countries and promised a comfortable life abroad. He added that he understands very well that this is impossible and doesn’t have friends among them.
GUR planned to hijack a Su-24, Su-34 or Tu-22M3 during a sortie. The agency promised to pay the pilot up to $2 million for the hijacking, including $4,000 in advance through couriers, assured that the European Union would help ensure his safety, and they promised to send the pilots’ wives to the Baltic states, Germany and Bulgaria.
Taking Pilots family hostage
The Russian FSB agent who spoke to the channel said that Ukrainian intelligence intended to kidnap the family of the Russian military pilot who would have hijacked a flight to Ukraine and not pay him or send him to Europe.
He said that as soon as the members of the family of a Russian pilot leave Russia, they immediately would become hostages in the hands of GUR. Blackmail, threats, and pressure on relatives have become an integral part of the activities of the Ukrainian special services, he said.
Involvement of Bellingcat
FSB investigation shows that Bellingcat Chief Investigator Khristo Grozev participated in the operation with the GUR. Bellingcat is an alleged investigative journalism organisation based in the Netherlands that focuses on fact-checking and open-source intelligence. The organisation was founded in 2014 by Eliot Higgins, a British journalist and formerly active blogger. The organisation is included in the register of media-foreign agents by the Russians.
FSB said a fragment of Grozev’s correspondence with one of the participants in the operation was recovered. Through his coordinator, Grozev found two couriers who met at the railway station in Lipetsk. Ukrainian intelligence officers hired a courier from Moscow to carry an advance payment of $4,000 for the Russian pilot who allegedly agreed to hijack the fighter jet of the Russian Aerospace forces.
The FSB said they knew about Grozev’s involvement with (British foreign intelligence) MI6 “not only from his statements”. In general, lately, he added that Ukrainian intelligence has ceased to hide its ties with the secret services of NATO countries and is striving to take place closer to the masters from Washington and London.
The channel aired operational video footage with the story of a courier coordinator named Dinar, who was detained by FSB operatives in his apartment in Kazan, a city in Russiaand the regional capital of the semi-autonomous Republic of Tatarstan.
The courier said he had a lot of anger towards Khristo Grozev. The courier explained that he trusted Grozev as a person and that Grozev would never set him up, which is why he easily agreed to all this. The courier was completely sure that nothing threatened anyone. “I didn’t think it was such a dirty business there,” said the young courier.
Earlier, Sergey Naryshkin, head of SVR, stated that Bellingcat is essential to exert pressure on any nation, as well as on people and organisations. The SVR has information about who manages this project of supposedly journalistic investigations, in which there are also former employees of the special services, Naryshkin noted.
SVR RF is the Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia, focusing mainly on civilian affairs.
British intelligence involved
“Obviously, the operation itself was carried out with the support of Western, primarily British, intelligence services,” the FSB officer said on the Rossiya 24 TV channel.
Ukrainians shoot on their own foot
GUR themselves revealed the layouts of their air defense systems and airfields when they handed over to the supposedly ready to hijack pilot the schemes of the air defense coverage areas in the south-east of Ukraine, the Ozernoye (Chernihiv region) and Starokonstantinov (Khmelnytsky) airfields, elevation maps of the surroundings of the Priluki (Chernihiv) airfield and Zhytomyr – and also revealed that it is in the settlements that the largest number of man-portable anti-aircraft systems (MANPADS) is concentrated.
The Ukrainian special services also violated the common truths of intelligence – their employees revealed not only their affiliation with intelligence but also their appearance and location, the FSB said.
GUR planned to land the hijacked plane at the Kanatovo airfield in the Kirovograd region.