Valentyn Nalyvaichenko returned to the Security Service of Ukraine at a dramatic time for the country. After the victory of Euromaidan and Yanukovych’s flight, the service ended up facing serious challenges.
Firstly, it finally became clear that the famous so-called Yanukovych’s vertical was oriented not on the consolidation of Ukrainian statehood, but on protection of interests of the neighboring country. The SBU was virtually destroyed from the inside, since representatives of the foreign secret service worked there.
Secondly, the new government immediately faced another threat: Russia’s aggression. Having taken advantage of the moment, the Kremlin occupied and annexed Crimea and then started a subversive terrorist war against Ukraine in Donbas, thus destabilizing the general situation in the south and east of the country.
Nalyvaichenko has been occupying the post of the SBU chief for almost four months now. This is his first official interview to mass media, which he gave exclusively to The Day. We talked about the renewal of the special service’s operation, implementation of the president’s plan, traitors within the SBU, fate of the Crimean staff, Alpha special unit’s efficiency, military counter-intelligence, Hague Tribunal for Yanukovych and his entourage, prohibition of the Communist Party of Ukraine, etc.
The president initiated the Peace Plan to settle the situation in Donbas. Will the role of the SBU be changed in it?
“It is crucially important that now Ukraine has a Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and a legitimately elected president who resolves the issues of coordination, responsibility, and implementation of the regulation plan in the east using the other countries’ know-how.
“The president is an expert in security and international affairs, which means higher demands put before the SBU. This applies to responsibility of the leadership of the Security Service, Anti-Terrorist Center, and all subjects of war on terrorism and corruption.”
That is, the SBU functions will not be changed?
“They will be updated. Undoubtedly, we have been and will keep responding to threats posed by the foreign subversive terrorist groups and to the financing of terrorism in Ukraine by former Ukrainian high-ranking officials. More than 90 terrorists have been arrested already, 13 of them are citizens of Russia (besides hirelings and militants, these are expert intelligence officers and agents). One of the last detentions in Kyiv was of a confederate to a leader of sabotage groups in Horlivka and Sloviansk.”
What were the first surprises that you revealed after being appointed to the post?
“Three groups of senior FSB officers have been working within the SBU structure from December 2013 to the end of February 2014. During these months, all modern ammunition, personal files, archives, everything a professional special service is based on, was transferred to Simferopol. During the last years, special units that were designed to defend Ukraine, were overrun with Russian agents. It was them who planned the dispersal of Maidan and shootings of people. Moreover, the leadership of the statehood protection department and other high-ranking SBU generals have been criminally planning this in February of 2014 day and night in one of the SBU buildings in the downtown.
“All this shows that Moscow, along with Yanukovych, had been systematically preparing for the aggression in Crimea and subversive activities in Donbas. In March we revealed separatist organizations in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, which in fact were saboteur groups that had their own ideology, funding, and even had ammo depots. CPU cells, former minister of internal affairs, and former SBU head recruited hirelings and sent weapons to our territory, MANPADS in particular. And the former chief of interior ministry’s paramilitary forces was engaged in mobilization of hirelings on the territory of Rostov oblast, Russia.
“In 2013 the SBU preferred to turn a blind eye or pretend it was absolutely normal. It destroyed the Ukrainian special service. The SBU legacy, left after Yakymenko’s rule and Yanukovych’s presidency in general, is a huge blow to our country’s security. Basically, people who let this happen and virtually helped the enemy, are state criminals.
“Thanks to incredible efforts of primarily ordinary SBU officers, it was possible to save some branches, new employees are performing their functions professionally. Of course, I cannot say that the service is 100 percent different, but for example counter-intelligence and protection of the statehood are the departments we can rely on.”
By the way, does the FSB attempt to contact you?
“All contacts with the aggressor have been cut, moreover, bilateral agreements and contracts are denounced. Our only ‘contact’ is counteraction to FSB agents’ subversive actions.”
There are a lot of complaints about the operation of the military counter-intelligence. What is the problem?
“The approach and tasks of the military counter-intelligence operation have been completely changed. Ukrainian counter-intelligence has been 100 percent renewed. Now young officers work there, the disposition of forces and weapons has been changed in accordance to disposition and actions of the Armed Forces. Military counter-intelligence has been relieved from other duties and oriented on the counteraction of the enemy’s penetration into the army leadership and the ATO headquarters, that is, into the structures that are essential to the counteraction to the military aggression today. There were cases of treachery, but in a war, the enemy’s aim is on the headquarters and military units. We counter it.
“What have we lacked so far? A new uncompromising line of war on corruption. Unfortunately, military aggression dictates other working conditions. Despite everything, in cooperation with local communities we have launched anti-corruption Community Councils for Lustration. Everyone knows about corruption cases in this or that town, people are fed up with it, they come to us. Today the task is to renew the anti-corruption departments within the SBU and help people fight corruption, punish corrupt officials, and destroy corruption schemes. In order to promote trust we assign new people, activists of anti-corruption NGOs, from Maidan in particular, to the leading positions at the anti-corruption department. My position is the following: if in a month’s time new leaders do not show results, or if they are criticized by the public, they will be rotated.”
How can you account for the surrender of Crimea and Sevastopol in particular? What is the fate of the personnel there?
“The occupation of Crimea was carried out by military forces and means of the Russian Federation. As for the SBU officers in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, during the annexation of our territory, a ‘ridgeline’ emerged. Officers who remained faithful to the oath and protection of Ukrainian statehood have been partially evacuated (we gave all the special service’s hostels and sanatoriums to those employees who left Crimea with families), and a part of them stayed in Crimea to work in the hard conditions of occupation.”
And another part turned out to be traitors?
“Yes, and the main traitor is Yakymenko, former head of the SBU, who still remains in Sevastopol and organizes the supplies of weapons to Ukraine with dirty money, stolen from our citizens. The last proof is seizure of a large consignment of weapons, explosives, and money in Berdiansk: 900 grenades, 80 machine guns, tens of thousands dollars for agents and Yakymenko’s self-proclaimed mayors. It is not just treason, it is a disgrace in front of the whole world, when a former secret service head leads terrorist and subversive activity against his own people. He will definitely pay for it.
“Traitor number two is the former head of the SBU in Sevastopol, who is in close relations with Yakymenko.
“Such treacheries were a painful blow to the service. Everything they have been doing for the past four years, all the special units that were fighting the people on Maidan, it all was for a reason. They had been preparing for a serious war against Ukrainians.”
There were examples of treason in Donbas, and people died because of that. Did you manage to cleanse the fifth column from the SBU?
“Patriotism can be felt within the SBU now, especially among the youth. During the past two months I received a lot of reports with requests to post the senders to fight terrorism in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. About 70 to 80 officers from various departments submit such reports on a weekly basis.
“Those who betrayed and defected to the aggressor’s side are the people spoiled by corruption, they received their posts thanks to bribery and ties with Yanukovych’s ‘family.’ Today these people continue receiving funding from the former president’s entourage. Now these traitors are committing crimes, killing people, participating in undermining the economy of parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. In fact, these are terrorist marauding groups and criminals.”
Have you dealt with the circumstances of seizures of the SBU buildings in Luhansk, Donetsk, and other towns of these two oblasts by the terrorists? These were the first cases when such large quantities of automatic and special weapons ended up in the hands of terrorists. It is hard to understand why the invaders succeeded at this so easily. There were a lot of reproaches directed at the then head of the Luhansk SBU Oleksandr Petrulevych in mass media on this occasion. What has become of him?
“The enemy started capturing our departments and subdivisions, because right after the people overthrew the criminal government, the SBU launched extensive arrests of separatist leaders and elimination of their armories.
“Back then, in early March, we did not realize to full extent how deep the second echelon of aggression against Ukraine was, i.e., Russian diversionists and local criminals. They are compounds of a hybrid war led against us, information war in particular.
“In March and April, groups in social networks, managed by the RF and diversionists present in Ukraine, published misleading information, lies, blunt provocations to discredit our officers who countered terrorists and separatists. In early April I personally worked for five days in Luhansk and I can say that such officers as Petrulevych were not traitors.”
Why was the so-called people’s governor Hubariev released?
“The court changed the precaution measure for him. Criminal investigation on Hubariev’s case is almost over, and the one on Klinchaev’s case is completed, we are submitting the cases to court in the near future. If they do not appear in court, we will deliver them by force.”
What can you say about yesterday’s and today’s Alpha? It is known that this special unit participated in shootings on Maidan. What about the officers? Today Alpha has sort of moved to the background.
“Alpha as it was in February of 2014 has not gone anywhere. The fact that the former government sent it out to the roofs to shoot at people is true. The then government issued such orders in written form. The Prosecutor General’s Office is investigating criminal cases, employees, and former leaders are being interrogated. As of today, the leadership of this special unit has been replaced.
“Now Alpha fighters carry out orders aimed at fighting terrorism. Alpha was the first to engage into a fight with an armed group of saboteurs, GRU officers of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in Donbas near Sloviansk. The new commander was injured during the battle. Alpha heroes, Captain Bilychenko among them, died. The remaining officers carry out combat missions on the front line. The special unit is used to counteract the most dangerous terrorists and diversionists in the zone of the anti-terrorist operation. Neither Alpha nor other military units are used against the civilians.
“What is happening in the east of Ukraine is sheer military aggression, conducted by the RF with the participation of criminals. This aggression has been prepared for years. I do not know what kind of Eurasian fundamentalism diversionists and terrorists have in their heads, but we detain and interrogate cadets of Russian military academies, Cossacks, and Russian troops who come here to a ‘safari,’ on a daily basis.
“The government is now strengthening military and special units in all power structures. First of all, they purchase bulletproof vests, ammunition, food. Where did the previously existing supplies go? They were stolen. Everything that was purchased for Euro-2012 with taxpayers’ money, all modern ammo was stolen and sold. At the end of February, there was not a single modern bulletproof vest in Alpha.”
Who led the anti-terrorist operation until today? According to the law, it allegedly is your deputy Vasyl Krutov, but who is it in reality? He talks to mass media very little, it is always you, interior minister Arsen Avakov, and acting defense minister Mykhailo Koval who do that.
“An experienced army general is leading the anti-terrorist operation directly. Let us not make his name public. General Krutov heads the Anti-Terrorist Center, interdepartmental coordinating body which includes the Ministry of Defense, the MIA, civil infrastructure, local authorities, emergency service, and other subjects that fight terrorism.”
There are a lot of complaints about the absence of coordination between power structures within the ATO. What is the reason for that?
“Coordination is the main factor of any special operation. There were problems from the very start: with coordination, ammunition, and communication. We started off with a complete mess.
“Today the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the National Security and Defense Council have developed not just coordination, but strict control over the ATO.
“Peace and stability must be restored on the territory occupied by terrorism and banditry. Civil administration must start working, which will control the management and infrastructure of the region. Diversionists and terrorists act against the peaceful plan: they blow up power supply networks, water supply facilities, they kidnap children, and rob and intimidate the peaceful population.”
Leaders of power structures were appointed according to the quota principle, and that is why we talk about the confrontation among various structures.
“There is no confrontation. I do not feel any political pressure at work. Those 333 MPs, who voted for the appointment, are not trying to influence the staffing issues at the SBU.”
Do you feel a political game now, when there is a new president in the country and staff rotations are possible?
“No, I don’t. There is no game. There is the president’s order: work and follow your orders. There can be no intrigues here.”
The president’s Peace Plan stipulates a ceasefire and creation of a corridor for the terrorists’ retreat, and also a possibility for them to lay down arms. What if they choose not to lay them down?
“In general, it is about the possibility of regulation and stabilization of the situation in the east of Ukraine. We are talking and thinking about civilians who need protection from being fired at, being robbed, and having their children kidnapped. As for terrorists and diversionists, they must lay down arms unconditionally and cease fire.
“We are ready for the implementation of the president’s Peace Plan. But unfortunately, neither terrorist, separatist, and communist centers in Donbas, nor the Russian side, which continues supplying weapons and militants, including those from Chechnya, are ready for it. If their position does not change, our actions against them will be harsh and uncompromising.”
In your opinion, how long can the process of laying down arms take? How many terrorists can disperse among civilians, hide weapons and switch to guerrilla warfare? How long can the process of cleansing from this category of militants take?
“The SBU and law-enforcement bodies realize that the process of disarmament takes more than one day. Those people who committed military crimes will not stop tomorrow. The main thing is to do everything possible for the protection and defense of the Ukrainian border. The militants and military equipment coming in from Russia show the weakness of our border.
“We must realize that our border guards ended up between two fires. Today the shutting down of the border and its consolidation with the military forces is taking place. But renewing the border is not enough. It must be held, the trust of local population must be rebuilt, supply of weapons and militants from Russia must be stopped. If Russia lets militants with weapons pass, we do not need such a border. Specialized constructions will need to be built there and the movement will be stopped completely.”
According to your data, how many armed terrorists and militants in general are there in Donbas today?
“We know about the origin, number, and disposition of Russian officers, diversionists, mercenaries, traitors from the police and the SBU. For example, there are about 300 militants and hirelings known as ‘Kozitsyn’s Cossacks,’ the criminal gang of the former Ukrainian Ensign Mozgovy consists of about 400 armed bandits. In general, the number of such terrorist groups in Donbas is 4,500. Their continuous reinforcement from Russia is the key threat to the national security of Ukraine. This does not allow to regulate the situation and resume peaceful life.”
Why has the government not establish the military regime in eastern Ukraine yet?
“People who live on the territory of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts must be understood and protected. Russian information influence and propaganda, groups of illegal mercenaries, provocations, and marauding are part of the war that is waged against them. But people want to live in peace and have jobs, salaries, and secure education for their children. This is why we have to implement the president’s Peace Plan.”
Do you anticipate the expansion of terrorist attacks to other regions of Ukraine? Is Kyiv protected securely?
“We can localize and stop the threat after eliminating terrorist threats in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, and stopping the supply of weapons, drugs, money, and hirelings across our border. Indeed, terrorists who entered Ukraine, are recruiting former Ukrainian law-enforcement officers and criminals from other regions. The SBU carried out the latest detentions in Odesa, Kyiv, Kharkiv. We arrested subversive and terrorist groups, which planned diversions and provocations. We are doing our best to protect the country.”
In the context of the events in the east, information about the results of investigation of murders on Maidan is put on the back burner. Why is this process procrastinated?
“The Prosecutor General’s Office is investigating the tragic events and crimes of the former government committed against Maidan. Investigators, SBU and MIA special units are taking an active part in the investigation. Former heads and officers of Berkut, SBU, and other structures are detained. Accounts, assets, and everything that belonged to corrupt officials and organizers of the dispersal of Maidan, have been arrested. People who were involved in this crime are fired, interrogated, search warrants are issued for the ones who fled.”
Has there been enough evidence collected for the Hague Tribunal to implicate Yanukovych and his entourage in shootings on Maidan and in Donbas?
“The SBU has finished its share of documenting crimes of former high-ranking officials and their accomplices and submitted the materials to the Prosecutor General’s Office. Arbuzov and Klymenko, who created the scheme for laundering money and stealing the money from the public budget, are internationally declared wanted. Crimes of all high-ranking officials, from the former president to former head of the Ministry of Finance and Taxes, are documented, their assets and property in Ukraine are arrested.”
Do you register their attempts to contact the “necessary” people to come to an agreement with the new government?
“They did not contact me and they will definitely come to no terms with us. International sanctions imposed on them are already in force. Now they have to show up at the Prosecutor General’s Office and testify in court.”
The speaker of the Verkhovna Rada has commissioned the Ministry of Justice with screening the criminal activities of the Communist Party of Ukraine. Did the SBU submit a body of evidence? On what stage is the investigation now?
“We have already sent the results of our investigation to the Ministry of Justice. A joint workgroup was created with the support of Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko. At the moment, the group is processing the evidence, so all findings will be legitimate and raise no doubts. I think that the CPU should be removed from the list of registered parties in Ukraine, and then the materials on the illegal activity of this structure must be submitted to court. Not only has the party to be banned, but the ideology as well. Also, it is necessary to make those communist party functionaries answerable, who recruit hirelings in Luhansk and Donetsk, supply weapons, and blatantly infringe upon the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
What further action do you expect from Russia’s state machine?
“I can say that whoever might have planned the hybrid war, chaos, and destruction of Ukraine’s infrastructure and economy in the Kremlin, they will be stopped. The Ukrainian president’s Peace Plan, stabilization, and implementation of the peaceful initiatives are the only real chance to restore stability and order in the country today. We have to bring people the most important thing, peace.”