The SBU Security Service of Ukraine has refuted earlier reports about the agency's alleged participation in the so-called "Special Operation Wagner."
"The Security Service does not comment on rumors, does not support media information operations of the enemy, and does not participate in public discussions of various fictional scenarios. Especially when such spins are aimed at harming Ukraine," the SBU press service said in a statement via Facebook.
The SBU stressed the reports about the agency's alleged involvement in the latest Wagner PMC in Belarus story is fake news. It was a Russian news outlet that initially started spinning the false version of events over a week ago, the press service notes.
"We also declare that none of the officers with the Security Service of Ukraine took part in conversations between the militants and a recruiter, which were allegedly recorded on audio. Therefore, dubbing one of the interlocutors as an 'SBU officer' is an unfounded allegation and deliberate manipulation," the SBU said.
At the same, the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine (SZR) in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday pointed to the Russian origin of the special information operation titled "Wagner Group in Belarus".
As per the SZR, the goals of such operation are as follows:
- Destabilizing Belarus on the eve of and during the presidential election;
- Accusing Ukrainian special services of involvement in plotting and conducting an operation on the Belarusian soil and, as a result, dragging Ukraine into an international row and undermining its international image; and
- Compromising Ukrainian leadership to undermine popular ratings of the incumbent authorities on the eve of local elections.
Allegations of Ukraine's dealings with Russian mercenaries
On August 18, editor-in-chief of the Censor.Net outlet, Yuriy Butusov, took to Facebook to allege, citing unnamed sources, that the situation with the emergence of Wagner PMC's mercenaries in Belarus was part of a secret operation conducted by the SBU Security Service of Ukraine and the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, aimed to arrest and prosecute the men who committed crimes in the Donbas warzone.
The plan allegedly was to first trick them into boasting of own crimes and then lure them into one group under the pretext of another contract job overseas where they would travel transiting Belarus before eventually make a plane carrying the group land in Ukraine to detain the men.
Read alsoUkraine decries allegations of "special operation" to arrest Wagner PMC troops as "fake story"The mission, Butusov alleges, has failed after Belarusian law enforcers arrested the whole group as the men were allegedly waiting for a transit flight.
The story of Ukraine's involvement fits Russia's line of defense in the Belarus meddling case claiming Moscow had no plans to destabilize Belarus in the heat of election campaign, using mercenaries with combat experience in acts of provocations and sowing chaos.
Wagner PMC troops detained in Belarus
On July 29, 2020, a group of militants with the Wagner PMC were detained in Belarus, 32 – outside Minsk, another one – in the south of the country.
Among them were those who fought against Ukraine in the Donbas war.
According to Belarusian law enforcement, they had been tipped about the deployment of over 200 militants to destabilize the country amid the election campaign.
Belarus turned to the Ukrainian authorities to verify the involvement of the detainees in crimes committed in Ukraine. On July 30, Ukraine began consultations with Belarus on the extradition.
On August 7, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus said Ukraine must prove the guilt of the detained mercenaries to seal extradition.
On August 9, Lukashenko said he had received a five-page letter from Vladimir Putin with information on the situation around the detention of Wagner troops.
On August 11, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine sent inquiries to their Belarus counterparts appealing for the extradition of 28 fighters with the Wagner PMC.
All 28, including nine citizens of Ukraine, had been charged with participation in a terrorist organization.
On August 14, Belarus handed 32 Wagner troops over to Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Belarus' move a "strange, politically incorrect, and definitely unacceptable thing to do in friendly interstate relations."