Who Are These Ukrainians?
FSB Pawns in Ukraine
A couple of days ago, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned four individuals who are alleged to be acting on behalf of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to support Russia’s efforts to undermine and destabilize Ukraine.
Moscow coopting high-level officials and other powerful individuals in their target countries to gain a foothold and help destabilization efforts is nothing new. Witting and unwitting pawns in Russia’s power games have helped the Kremlin gain access and intelligence.
Despite his protestations, there’s no way WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, was not used by the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 US presidential elections. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) in 2020 concluded that Russia also used Paul Manafort in efforts to boost the campaign of former President Donald Trump. Whether these efforts were successful or not has never been properly assessed. We only know whom the Kremlin preferred to win the election.
Putin buddy and former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, bitter from his election loss to Angela Merkel in 2005, joined the board of the company that became Nord Stream 2, shortly after his defeat, becoming one of the controversial pipeline’s biggest cheerleaders.
The four Ukrainians sanctioned the other day—Taras Kozak, Oleh Voloshyn, Volodymyr Oliynyk, and Vladimir Sivkovich—are also connected to the FSB and to the Kremlin’s plans to destabilize Ukraine and gain influence in the country.
So who are they?
Former US ambassador to Poland and veteran diplomat, Dan Fried, sees them as potential new leaders of Russia’s puppet government.
Treasury describes them as FSB-connected, corrupt government officials, two of whom—Kozak and Voloshyn—are Ukrainian members of Parliament from the party of US-designated oligarch Victor Medvedchuk, who was sanctioned by Treasury in 2014 for undermining the sovereignty of Ukraine. The other two—Oliynyk and Sivkovich—are past Ukrainian officials, the former of whom ran away to live in Moscow and the latter was involved in influence operations to push Ukraine into ceding Crimea to the Russians.
Kozak, in particular, is sketchy, according to media investigations. Medvedchuk was officially sanctioned by Ukraine last year, and Kozak is the so-called “formal owner” of Medvedchuk’s media outlets—TV channels 112, News One, and ZIK—which have been banned in Ukraine and are considered the main propaganda mouthpieces for the Kremlin.
How did Kozak manage to purchase television stations on a mere MP’s salary?
The Anti-Corruption Action Center has conducted investigation regarding origin of wealth of the representative of the Opposition Platform For Life, which he had spent on purchase of TV channels. We found that in 2013-2015 Kozak’s Cypriot company, which now brings him main income in the form of dividends in the amount of hundreds of millions of hryvnias, was unprofitable and acted as and intermediary for millions of dollars between doubtful offshore firms, one of which supplied smuggled coal from occupied territories to state companies.
He received his first large dividend in the amount of 1.1 million EUR from the Cypriot company Turul Investments Limited in 2017 from accounts in Russian bank. These funds were lent to him through offshore companies by his common-law wife Natalia Lavreniuk (not indicated in asset declarations), who has astake [sic.] in Viktor Medvedchuk’s oil business in Russia.
Ah, Cyprus! The place favored by corruptocrats—particularly eastern European ones—for creation of anonymous offshore companies to hide often-misapppropriated assets!
Kozak is listed as the beneficial owner of Turul Investments, and according to audit documents, the company, which wasn’t making Kozak any profits until 2013 rolled around, and Turul started receiving millions of dollars in loans, which were not repaid and written off.
For instance, on November 1, 2013, Turul Investments Limited borrowed 3.75 million USD from Erysiman Investments Limited, 2.5 million USD of which were immediately disbursed. Then, in 3 months Turul borrows from the same Erysiman and immediately disburses another 1 million 250 thousand USD.
Erysiman Investments is listed as a lender and financial partner of Turul.
There are other suspicious financial flows, including an offshore LLC in the British Virgin Islands called Revelon Investments and another in Hong Kong called Arida Global Limited. I won’t bore you with the details, but you can see that Kozak uses suspicious offshore companies to move around funds and enrich himself like a champ.
Further reports indicate that Kozak’s media channels receive funds from Donsky Coals—a coal trading company that transacts in Donetsk and Luhansk.
…according to official data, on December 16, 2014, PJSC Centerenergo signed a contract with Arida Global Limited from Hong Kong for the supply of tens of thousands of tons of coal. The coal was supposed to be purchased from South Africa. However, in 2016 Ukrainska Pravda found out that under the guise of South African coal, Arida was selling state-owned power plants the smuggled coal from “DPR / LPR.”
So, apparently, Kozak’s Arida Global Limited, supplied smuggled coal to Ukraine from the occupied territories.
Oh, and he’s linked to Belarussian banks, as well!
…TV channels 112 and NewsOne cost Taras Kozak 103 million UAH, which he paid to Swiss companies in 2018-2019 through Belarus. Taras Kozak keeps main savings in the amount of 8 million EUR in Belarus, in particular in Absolutbank of Belarusian oligarch Nikolay Vorobey, who in 2019 became the co-owner of 1.1 thousand kilometers of oil pipeline in Ukraine.
Verkhovna Rada member Oleh Voloshyn does not appear to be an unexplained wealth risk like his sanctioned compadre, and reports indicate his assets are pretty modest. That doesn’t mean he’s a nice guy. Voloshyn used to work as a journalist and political pundit and was Foreign Ministry spokespiece from 2010-2013. He apparently is tight with US-designated Konstantin Kilimnik, who was sanctioned last year for election interference efforts, including passing information, such as sensitive polling and campaign strategy, to Russian intelligence services, promoting the insane narrative that it was Ukraine—and not Russia—that tried to interfere in US elections, and separately for scheming to install former Ukrainian president and Putin pet Viktor Yanukovych back in office.
Voloshyn worked as an attache at the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow, which would explain why he went native (link in Russian), describing his own country as the “sick man of Europe” ruled by Washington.
Whereas Kozak just appears to be your typical, opportunistic kleptocrat, Voloshyn seems to be that dangerous “true believer” who passionately believes in spiritual connections between Russia and Ukraine. Voloshyn is relatively young, passionate, and eloquent, given his journalism background. It very well may be that the Russians could install him as a puppet leader should they invade Ukraine.
The other two—Oliynyk and Sivkovich—are former government officials. The latter, as Ukrainian Deputy Secretary for National Security, was investigated by Ukrainian authorities in 2013 for violence against students who participated in anti-government protests. Sivkovich is apparently former KGB, so it’s not surprising that he’s been working with his old pals in the FSB to destabilize Ukraine.
Oliynyk (Russian: Oleinik) is a well-known lawyer, who was charged in 2014 in Ukraine with organizing illegal votes in the parliament, and according to Treasury, escaped to Russia. Oliynyk in 2015 was part of a group of exiled Ukrainian politicians who formed the “Savior of Ukraine Committee” (quite the arrogance!) to remove pro-European politicians from government.
Oliynyk was touted as the next president of Ukraine, and former Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov, who led the group, is wanted by Interpol for various financial crimes, including embezzlement and misappropriation of funds. Given his prior ambitions, being part of a Kremlin-controlled government would probably appeal to Oliynyk.
All four are undermining their own country, eroding Ukraine’s sovereignty, and working to sell it out to the Russians.
Their status as FSB pawns becomes more and more clear.