Ukraine detains deep cover GRU sleeper agent who might be highest ranking MH17 witness yet

Screenshot from the SBU video uncovering tapped conversations between "Andriy K." and people involved in the "DNR" activities. Left to right: Andriy K.,; his interlocutor Sergey Dubinsky (one of MH17 case suspects); Kremlin's handler for Donbas Vladislav Surkov, mentioned in the particular conversation. 

War in the Donbas

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has reportedly detained in Kyiv an unnamed Ukrainian citizen suspected of being in 2014-2020 one of the “curators” (handlers) for the leaders of the Donetsk occupation authorities on behalf of the Russian Army’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). He was tasked with setting up the “Donetsk People’s Republic” own mini-GRU and could be Ukraine’s highest-ranking MH17 witness to date.

“Andriy K.”, suspected GRU handler for Donetsk. Screenshot: SBU video

The man is mentioned in the report by the first letter of his last name as “citizen K.”, while the SBU’s video also reveals his first name and patronymic, Andriy Mykolayovych K. or Andrey Nikolayevich K in Russian.

According to the SBU, as a non-staff representative of the Russian secret services, the detained man “took an active part in the creation of the so-called “DNR Intelligence Department” and other units of this terrorist organization (i.e. of the Donetsk people’s republic or DNR, – Ed.).” The “citizen K.” is charged with creating a terrorist organization.

The Prosecutor General’s Office, of the departments of which is conducting the procedural guidance of the case, adds that the suspect “controlled an intelligence network which under his guidance was going to commit a number of acts of terrorism and sabotage in the territory controlled by the government of Ukraine.”

Colonel Sergey Dubinskiy, later known as Maj. Gen. Photo: Bellingcat

The SBU published a trove of records of the suspect’s tapped phone conversations with GRU Major General Sergey Dubinsky (call sign Khmury), a Russian citizen who was “chief of DNR GRU,” and with Ukrainian national Leonid Kharchenko (call sign Krot), Dubinsky’s subordinate in occupied Donetsk.

These two interlocutors of the “citizen K.” are on the international wanted list as suspects in the case of shooting down Flight MH17 over Ukraine’s Donbas region in July 2014. The third person “K.” talks to is Vitaly Lunyov, “officer of the DNR industry and trade ministry.”

The Ukrainian special agency doesn’t provide any information on when the conversation took place, however, given that Dubinsky allegedly left Donetsk in early 2015, they occurred somewhere between June and December 2014.

Leonid Kharchenko

The topics of all the revealed conversations are centered around the developments in Donetsk and upcoming meetings of “K.” with Russia’s FSB security service officials and the Kremlin’s handler for the occupied Donbas at the time, Vladislav Surkov.

According to the SBU, the conversations “reveal details of inter-agency wars between the GRU and the FSB for control over the “leaders” of the DNR terrorist organization.”

The interlocutors mention the names of FSB director Aleksander Bortnikov, his deputies Andrey Burlaka and Sergey Smirnov, Russian President Putin’s aide Vladislav Surkov, DNR leaders Aleksandr Zakharchenko, Aleksandr Borodai, Aleksandr Timofeyev.

Earlier, in summer 2019, Ukrainian special services detained Volodymyr Tsemakh, the head of “DNR’s” aircraft defense of Snizhne, who could be a witness in the MH17 case. However, he was among those exchanged to Russia for Ukrainian prisoners. Among other high-profile detainees linked to the so-called people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk were two “DNR ministers,” a celebrity female tank commander whose story was featured in a propaganda movie filmed in occupied Luhansk Oblast, and an organizer of the 2014 separatist referendum in Donetsk.

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