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Betrayal unveiled: journalists expose “helicopter king’s” moves to undermine Ukrainian Army

A Mi-2 helicopter. Source: The Hryzodubova Kharkiv aeroclub
Betrayal unveiled: journalists expose “helicopter king’s” moves to undermine Ukrainian Army
“Don’t ask, don’t bow, be tough. And take the helicopter back.” Tapped recordings published by Skhemy project, an investigative project of RFE/RL, suggest that Viacheslav Bohuslaiev, former head of Motor Sich aerospace company, had deliberately sabotaged the transfer of essential military equipment to the Ukrainian army during the first, most crucial months of the Russian war.

Bohuslayev turned down the Ukrainian military’s request for assistance

Viacheslav Bohuslaiev, who was involved in developing the Ukrainian aerospace industry for over 30 years, should have been concerned about the fate of his country after the Russian invasion. However, it turned out that his ties with the Kremlin, which had brought him a $350,000 apartment in Moscow, outweighed any sense of patriotism he might have had.

On 21 April 2022, Russian shelling injured eight civilians in Zaporizhzhia, the city that had earlier made Bohuslaiev an “honored citizen.” Despite being aware of casualties, the Motor Sich president did not show any intention to support the Ukrainian Army in their fight against the aggressors. Instead, he actively worked towards ensuring its defeat.

The aftermath of the Russian attacks on Zaporizhzhia on 21 April 2022. Source: The Regional Council
The aftermath of the Russian attacks on Zaporizhzhia on 21 April 2022. Source: The Regional Council

The first phone call to Bohuslaiev, which was shared by Skhemy, had been made by Pavlo Kasai, the head of the marketing department at Motor Sich that day. He mentioned that “small problems” occurred at the company’s premises. By “problems,” he did not mean Russian attacks but Ukrainian soldiers who arrived to request a Mi-2 helicopter for military needs. As of April 21, the helicopter was undergoing maintenance in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.

“The local and the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Council came for the helicopter. Along with military intelligence officers, they are attempting to confiscate it, as far as I understand. They are drawing up an act and an estimated value document,” Kasai said.

Apparently, Bohuslaiev was not pleased with the conversation and immediately started looking for reasons to decline the request.

“We won’t work like this. We won’t work for free,” he finally concluded.

The former president of the corporation remained resolute in his decision not to hand over the aircraft even after the next call to Oleksandr Ponykarevych, the head of the company “AgroaviaDnipro.” This aviation enterprise cooperated with the Motor Sich in producing Mi-2 helicopters. In their conversation, Ponikarevych assured Bohuslaiev that the Ukrainian military planned to compensate for the cost of the helicopter under the rules of martial law.

Bohuslaiev’s ties with the Russian military were exposed

According to Skhemy, Bohuslaiev’s attempt to block the Mi-2 transfer was influenced by representatives of the Russian military-industrial complex. He also feared that the assistance to the Ukrainian Army could jeopardize his ties with the invaders if they establish complete control over the country, the recordings show.

“Tell Viacheslav not to worry, he remains the apple of our eye,” Petr Kononenko responded to Bohuslaiev’s concerns, citing the commander of the Air Defense of the Russian Ground Forces, Aleksandr Leonov.

Petr Kononenko is the director of the “Borisfen,” a Russian aviation company.

“Through Crimea, we’ll come to you faster,” Kononenko said in one of the conversations with the ex-head of the Motor Sich in the initial months of the war.

 

“God bless, “ Bohuslaiev responded.

The Motor Sich factory. Source: Glavcom
The Motor Sich factory. Source: Glavcom

After these phone calls, the president of the Ukrainian company reached out to his subordinates to prevent the helicopter from falling into the hands of Ukrainian defenders.

“Hide the technical forms from my helicopter, damn it!” Bohuslaiev told Ponykarevych.

 

“Everything was … hidden, so don’t worry about it,” he reassured.

 

Disable the electronic engine control on this helicopter. Disable it so they can’t take off, and that’s it,” he ordered Oleksandr Korniienko, the employee of the DniproAviaService company.

In addition, those were the instructions of Bohuslaiev to the head of the separate unit at Motor Sich, Ihor Kostiuk:

“Remove it. They’ll find the rotors. It’s hard to conceal rotors, but remove the aggregates, and hide everything, for f*ck’s sake.”

 

“Be tough, don’t show any weakness, don’t bow or beg, that’s what they’ll f*king get… And take back the helicopter.”

Despite the orders of the Motor Sich head, Ukrainian defenders were able to confiscate the Mi-2. However, Bohuslaiev was not ready to give up.

“Raise a scandal. We will appeal to court anyway. We will wait for a hearing and they will f*king pay,” he told his consultant at Motor Sich, Ivan Bozhkov.

 

“Yes,” Bozhkov replied.

 

“I won’t back down. I’ve given an order and we’ll inform the head of the General Staff that our equipment was taken away. They’ll come crawling to me,” he said.

In addition, Skhemy uncovered phone conversations involving two other individuals: Natalia Ulianenko, who was in charge of the local branch of Motor Sich, and Hennadiy Kasai, a Ukrainian deputy and a member of Ukraine’s Committee on National Security, Defence, and Intelligence.

The phone conversations published by Skhemy indicated that Natalia Ulianenko was assigned to sway the decisions of Ukrainian governmental bodies, including the General Staff, in favor of Bohuslaiev, while Kasai promoted Bohuslaiev’s interests in the Main Intelligence Directorate.

State secrets at risk

In 2022, the former head of the Motor Sich was convicted of collaborating with the enemy after the investigation had discovered evidence of his involvement in selling helicopter parts to Russia prior to the invasion. Currently, he is being held in Kyiv’s pre-trial detention center.

Motor Sich president charged with treason after Ukrainian engines found in Russian helicopters

In 2023, Bohuslaiev faced new charges. He was found guilty of obstructing Ukrainian military operations. During a court hearing, he denied all accusations and claimed that he had blocked the rotorcraft for technical reasons.

On 20 March, the “helicopter king” asked to be exchanged for Ukrainian POWs held in Russia in a letter to Ukraine’s Presidential Office.

In a recent statement, Mykhailo Podoliak, advisor to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said that Ukraine has not yet made a final decision on Bohuslaiev’s fate. However, if Ukraine has the chance to secure the release of 1,000 of its soldiers by exchanging the former chief of Motor Sich, such a possibility could be on the table, he stressed.

The prospect of exchanging Bohuslaiev, who was a member of Ukraine’s parliamentary Committee on National Security, Defense, and Intelligence and had access to state secrets, raises concerns that sensitive information could be leaked to Russia if he is released.

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