On July 25 the Russian-Ukrainian espionage scandal became the property of the world community. According to Moscow, the Russian counterintelligence service of the FSB carried out a successful operation and prevented the theft of a Ukrainian military aircraft from the own armed forces of Ukraine. From the Ukrainian side, the operation was supervised not only by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and the foreign intelligence of this state, but also by the British intelligence service MI6. Ukrainian military intelligence promised to pay up to $2 million to a Russian pilot for hijacking the plane. As a proof of this, the FSB provided video and correspondence with Ukrainian intelligence officers. Due to the interception of this information, the FSB managed to find out about these plans in time. They started an “operational game” with the Ukrainians and through fake “pilots” and “members of their families” were providing disinformation to Ukraine. At the same time, they were receiving important data about secret Ukrainian Air Force and Air defense bases, which were later hit by a missile strike.
Such “hot” news immediately provoked a reaction from the European and British media, which presented an alternative version of the events. Certainly, according to the old tradition of “propaganda against propaganda”, the picture was almost diametrically opposed. The Ukrainian special services were playing a “game” with the FSB: the pilots, who were originally real and not dummy sent a lot of secret data and photographs of aircraft. At some point, Russian intelligence really found out about such communication and acted, but the SBU very quickly realized that they were trying to misinform them as the girlfriend of one of the pilots was “too beautiful to be real.” After that, there was no question of any transfer of important information to the Russians and, of course, Russian strikes on Ukrainian air bases were a fabrication. All the actions of the FSB are just a theatrical performance and a show that should turn a complete failure into a “great victory”.
Based on these two “polar” views, one could conclude that the truth is unlikely to be found out. Nevertheless, we managed to find out something.
By a “happy” accident, the author of many journalistic investigations from Bellingcat Christo Grozev, who often investigated on Russian special services, was involved in the discussion. Russia accused Grozev of having links not only with MI6, but also of direct participation in the Ukrainian operation. According to the source, he allegedly was looking for couriers who were supposed to give the pilots an advance payment of $ 4,000 for hijacking their planes. Grozev was forced to respond to these accusations. Due to the negative experience with the FSB and resentment for unfounded accusations, his position is closer to the “Ukrainian” but it allows us to understand a few important issues.
Having stated his opinion, Grozev confessed that he was part of the “game” of the special services and acted no longer as an investigative journalist, but as an operative.
Unfortunately, today media agencies and their employees have become mercenary services. Journalists practically do not exist, only “authors” like Grozev remain, who carry out their tasks of correcting public opinion as part of this or that operation of special services, politicians, or business. In the situation with Grozev, the phrase on his twitter “we learned about this initiative” is curious – referring to the operation of the SBU. How did we learn it? Did we read it in the ad? No. So he had contact and established interaction with representatives of the special services. It is impossible for any journalist to simply write a letter to the intelligence service and ask them to talk about the current special operation to create a story. Grozev, like thousands of other “authors” received a “plot” – access to information to cover this event from the side of the SBU. Certainly, in such a version there can be no objective journalism, at least because the version is represented only from one side. However, this did not stop him this time, nor, probably, in previous times when he published “front-pager”. It also turns out that Bellingcat, headed by him, is not an investigation center, but another tool of the “elites” for working with the opinion of the population.
Secondly, unwittingly with his message, he confirmed the truth of some points in the official interpretation of the FSB, which contradict the Ukrainian position, for instance that Grozev worked with intelligence on operations against Russia.
Returning to the espionage operation, most likely, for some time in the SBU there really was an opinion that the pilots wanted to hijack and did it out of their own interests and motives. Therefore, the exchange of information in both directions was open and “sincere”. When the FSB took over the course of these negotiations the real secret data could have been transmitted to the Russian special services. Later, in Ukraine they realized that the behavior of the new “agents” was strange and then the exchange of disinformation became two-ways. In this situation, the initiators of the events were Ukraine and its special services. It can be characterized as a Ukrainian failure: the planes did not end up in their hands and the operation was revealed.
At the same time, Russian intelligence also made a few mistakes. It is difficult to say how much information from the pilots leaked to Ukraine until the FSB interfered. To present everything what has happened as a well-thought-out provocation will not be accepted. After the Ukrainian plan became known, the double Russian agents were uncovered too quickly, which was clearly not part of Moscow’s plans. And still, the FSB received a little benefit from these events. It should be noted that the populist accusations of MI6 involvement look excessive and feigned. It also looks like an attempt to squeeze too much out of the situation. Nevertheless, the whole situation seems to be another vivid illustration that it is difficult to find “pure” motivations and tools in the struggle between the two special services. Great Britain, the USA, the EU, Russia – all have their own goals in Ukraine and even very objective investigations can be used by MI6, the CIA, or any other intelligence agency in their own interests.