Two years too late, Lutsenko releases audio of Russian plan that Ukrainians already suspected

On Aug. 22, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko presented what he says is proof of Russian participation in organization of Crimea annexation and the pro-Russian civil unrest in Donbas, Kharkiv and Odesa in spring 2014.

However, the evidence that potentially could have led to an international scandal remains largely unnoticed by the Western media and politician because of the questionable timing and manner in which Lutsenko presented it.

Prosecutors published an audio of phone conversations of the Russian President Vladimir Putin adviser Sergei Glazyev giving the orders to Kremlin-backed Crimean leader Sergei Aksyonov on how to conduct the sham independence referendum in March 2014. Glazyev also advises Russian protest leaders on how to act during the violent protests and seizures of the administrative buildings in Odesa and Kharkiv. Glazyev also discussed payments to the protest leaders with Konstantin Zatulin, the Russian Duma lawmaker.

Ukrainian prosecutors declared 18 political and army officials of Russia as suspects in committing grave crimes against national security and the territorial integrity of Ukraine, said Lutsenko.

“Among the suspects there are the adviser (Sergei Glazyev) of Russian president, Russian Defense Minister (Sergei Shoigu) with his two deputies and 10 Russian Army generals,” said Lutsenko.

All the Russians,mentioned by Lutsenko denied the accusations.

“I won’t comment the delirium of the Nazi criminals,” said Sergei Glazyev to Russian RBC news agency.

The published tape that proves the actual participation of Russian officials in warmongering in Ukraine, actually an international scandal, surprisingly didn’t get any major reaction of Ukraine’s international partners from Europe and U.S, possibly due to the lack of independent verification of the source.

A major problem of the Lutsenko-provided tapes, according to Andreas Umland, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kyiv, is that they have been carefully cut and framed by the prosecutor while the original tapes remain unpublished.

Force them to ask Russia for help!

The audio consists of phone conversations dated Feb. 27, Feb. 28, March 1 and March 6, 2014 – the days, when the pro-Russian protests and violent seizures of administrative buildings had started in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

The participants of the conversations were Glazyev, Zatulin, Aksyonov, as well as the protest leaders from Kharkiv, Zaporizhia and Odesa identified only by their first names.

According the the tapes, on March 6, 2014, 10 days before the so-called independence referendum in Crimea, Glazyev called to Sergei Aksyonov and gave him an advice on how to properly conduct the referendum.

“The questions on referendum ballot are formed inefficiently. Many people just wouldn’t vote for words “to remain the part of Ukraine,” said Glazyev to Aksyonov.

Aksyonov responded that nobody on the peninsula expected that some Crimeans would vote to remain in Ukraine.

During the phone chat on Feb 28, 2014 while self-proclaimed new Crimean authorities declared the post-EuroMaidan Revolution Ukrainian government illegitimate and asked Russia to send Russian troops in Crimea, and the pro-Russian protests continued in Donbas, Glazyev and Zatulin discussed financial issues.

“We financed Odesa and Kharkiv but didn’t decide yet how to be with other regions. I paid the money to the Cossacks (Russian). Ten people promised them to pay, but nobody did except me. Now I am on my own against these people and their appetites are growing,” said Zatulin to Glazyev.

Zatulin complained that he paid average Hr 2,000- Hr 3,000 (then $200-$300) to the pro-Russian protest leaders, but they were not satisfied. Glazyev asked him to develop the budget and send it to him.

On March 1, 2014, when the so-called Russian Spring (violent pro-Russian protests and clashes) started in Donetsk, Luhansk, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and Odesa oblasts, Glazyev discussed his further invasion plans with the man, identified by the name Anatoliy.

“Why Zaporozhye (Zaporizhzhya) is so silent? Where are they? There was supposed to be 1,500 men? You need to force the locals to stand up and demand Russia to protect them from banderovtsy,” said Glazyev.

Putin’s advisor explained to Anatoliy that Ukrainians must “knock banderovtsy out the local councils”, take the control over local police and create the new pro-Russian authority.

“I have the direct order from above to get people to rebel everywhere we can. Because we use the force only to support the locals’ protests. If there are no locals, there will be no support,” said Glazyev.

On March 1 Glazyev also spoke to the leaders of the street protest in Odesa, explaining them that they should keep people on the square and seized the Odesa Oblast council as soon as possible.

“The local council members must take the responsibility, gather for session and vote to declare Kyiv government illegitimate and ask Russia for help. If some lawmaker doesn’t want to vote, drag him to the council and force to vote,” said Glazyev to some activist, identified only by the name Denis.

Hapless spin doctors

When asked to respond to the prosecutors’ accusations, Zatulin said to RBC news agency, that he indeed was in Crimea in Feb. 2014 but he was helping the local activists to create and organization “We all are Berkut” ( the name of the special police squads, who killed activists during EuroMaidan), that was supposed to help “the victims of Kyiv authorities”.

Zatulin alleged that U.S intelligence helped Ukrainian prosecutors to get the recordings as a gratitude for Ukrainians helped them to prove Paul Manafort’s connections with the ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

The footage, published by prosecutors consists of the audio conversations mixed with footage of what was happening in the same time in Ukraine. Some frames, such as the scene of the dozen pro-Russian activists, arrested by Ukrainian law enforcers, lying on the ground near the Kharkiv city council, are juxtaposed with Glazyev’s words about the success in Kharkiv, looked complimentary for Ukraine’s authorities.

Such footage is not what journalists are looking for, said Umland.

“Serious investigators want original documents or tapes, and not some prepared documentary. Western reporters do not like being the extended arm of the Ukrainian Prosecutors’ or Kyiv government,” added Umland.

Although all the voices on the tape are pretty recognizable, the expert said there is a lot of suspicion that these tapes were tampered with.

Western journalists’ cautiousness is a direct result of the prosecutor’s office attempt to engage in information war, rather than transparent communication.

“Ukrainians cannot expect Western journalists to blindly pick up whatever Ukraine’s leadership likes to feed into the international news cycle. As so often during the last 25 years, Ukrainian dilettantism defeats Ukrainian patriotism,” said Umland.

In turn, Sergii Leshchenko, Bloc of Petro Poroshenko lawmaker and a former investigative journalist explained the lack of reaction from the foreign media and politicians by saying that the direct involvement of Russia in Crimea annexation and the pro-Russian civil unrest in Donbas is not news for the world anymore.

Taras Berezovets, a political analyst is less skeptical about the recordings, presented by Lutsenko.

“The goal of Ukrainian prosecutors was not to create the international scandal, but to create the juridical ground that will help to put Russian authorities to justice someday. I don’t believe that will happen sooner that in 15 years,” he said.

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