Over the past week, there have been two main topics in the Ukrainian information space - the so-called Wagnergate and the possible full-scale military invasion of Russia.
Not to say that these topics are completely new. This is especially true of the next threat of a full-scale war with Russia. After all, enough has been said and written about the failure, or rather the "drain" of the special operation of the Ukrainian special services to detain the "Wagnerites". But the investigation of the Bellingcat group of journalists, or rather, as it turned out, its first part, was published for the first time. Although there have been more than enough announcements of the release of the film with numerous interviews of direct participants and witnesses over the past year. But every time, "by accident" or not, the exit was postponed. And it already seemed that the Ukrainian public would not see either the film or even the printed version of the investigation.
All these announcements of the investigation release, and then the postponements, by the way, caused many doubts in the political unbiasedness of the group of investigative journalists in general and Hristo Grozev in particular. And thus they reinforced numerous rumors about control by the Western special services, which have been actively dispersed by Russian propaganda since 2014.
And now, finally, what was expected so much has come true! I see no reason to retell the essence of the content of the investigation. Over the past few days, so much has been said and written about this. I will go straight to the conclusions about who and how is trying to use Wagnergate for their own purposes and the possible consequences for Zelenskyy.
If we evaluate the preparation and informational resonance over the last year and the evidence base of the first part of the investigation, then, as they say, "The mountain gave birth to a mouse!" We did not learn and did not see anything new, and even more so evidence of the betrayal of Zelenskyy personally and his entourage from the published materials. We can only say with confidence that the special operation had really been prepared and was at the final stage of completion. Which, by the way, Zelenskyy himself and Yermak have repeatedly denied.
Obviously, Wagnergate is a long-running story and the published materials are just the tip of the iceberg and will definitely have a continuation. Much more interesting than the first part.
From my point of view, the moment of publication of the investigation was chosen absolutely not by chance and, apparently, was coordinated with the Office of the President. Judge for yourself. This happened only a few days after the report of the trilateral contact group in the Verkhovna Rada, which, of course, did not reveal any betrayal. In the first part of the Bellingcat journalists' investigation, there is also no evidence that the special operation was deliberately "leaked" by Zelenskyy personally or by the head of the President's Office Andriy Yermak.
I fully admit that the publication of such a truncated version of the investigation was also no coincidence. After all, it is no secret to anyone that the activities of the group of investigative journalists have long been associated with British intelligence. Too accurate and reliable data become available to them in their investigations "from open sources." For example, on the same Russian "Buk", which, as it is assumed in the investigation of Bellingcat journalists, shot down a Malaysian airline in the summer of 2014 in the Donbas. We all very well remember how journalists, down to the smallest detail, restored the route from the military unit near Kursk, the tail number and other details that are difficult to find out and recreate simply from open data from social networks and eyewitness surveys. In principle, the secret services of any country use the media to "leak" the necessary information or to legalize it. A recent example is the alleged telephone conversations between Medvedchuk (the official examination of the film has not yet taken place) with representatives of the occupation administrations and Russian officials on the supply of coal from uncontrolled territories in 2014-15. These recordings of conversations have now been included in the high treason case as evidence.
It also draws attention to the fact that in the first part of the investigation not a word was said about the participation or assistance of foreign special services. In particular, the United States, Turkey and the Great Britain, as previously pointed out by journalists. It just so "coincided" that such a truncated version of the investigation was published just a few days after Zelenskyy's meeting with British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who was in Kyiv on a working visit on November, 16. So, it is quite possible that a certain compromise on Wagnergate was reached at their meeting.
It should also be noted that Bellingcat journalists could not postpone the publication of the investigation further, given the numerous delays. Thus, as I have already noted, they compromised not only this investigation, but could also “cast a shadow” and give arguments to the Kremlin's propagandists against the previous ones, much more important for Ukraine as arguments and evidence in international courts.
If my assumptions are correct, then the British intelligence services retain a lever of pressure on the Ukrainian leadership in case it again decides to radically change the course of resolving the conflict in Donbas and go for the implementation of the Kremlin scenario of the Minsk agreements. Here the national interests of Great Britain, which has historically always stood for a "balance of power" in Europe and Ukraine, coincide.
Far more effective than the printed version of the investigation of foreign journalists was Savik Shuster's Friday talk show dedicated to this topic. And especially the interview of Burba himself, which he gave the day before. He could not be present on the air, since it was at the time he was interrogated by the Security Service of Ukraine. In his interview, he stated in plain text that Zelenskyy's decision to postpone the special operation was personally conveyed to him by the head of the President's Office, Andriy Yermak. Moreover, he did it orally, without a written order. The reason for the postponement is the unwillingness to disrupt the ceasefire in Donbas, which was supposed to begin in a few days.
All versions of Zelenskyy himself, which absolutely contradict one another, from a complete denial of the special operation itself to a Russian provocation, were also demonstrated on the air at Shuster's. In the absence of a complete picture and irrefutable evidence at the moment, several conclusions can be drawn:
Firstly, the very special operation to detain the "Wagnerites" had indeed been developed and was at the final stage of completion.
Secondly, the Ukrainian leadership knew about it, made a decision to postpone it at the last moment and reported about “Wagnerians” to Lukashenko. Zelenskyy himself confirmed this more than once personally. Which inevitably led to its failure.
Thirdly, Zelenskyy himself and the head of his office, Yermak, deliberately lied to journalists and the public, voicing completely contradictory versions. But, as the saying goes, their opponents have "all the moves recorded."
Fourth, with the help of an investigation, the governments of some Western countries, in particular Great Britain, have "hung up" Zelenskyy and are using the available evidence for blackmail, and thus have already thwarted Zelenskyy's attempts to reconcile with the Kremlin to the detriment of Ukrainian national interests. This is confirmed by the cardinal reversal in Zelenskyy's rhetoric over the past year, who already openly does not hesitate to call Russia the enemy, and not the “other side”, as it was at the dawn of his presidency during his “honeymoon” with the Kremlin.
The Kremlin, in turn, no longer counts on Zelenskyy, as evidenced not only by Russian propaganda, but also by Putin himself in plain text. The Kremlin sees Zelenskyy not as an independent player, but as a puppet in the hands of the United States, Great Britain and, to a lesser extent, Germany and France. They are negotiating with them to resolve the conflict in Donbas without the participation of Ukraine. Related to this is the refusal to hold a meeting in the "Normandy format" even at the level of foreign ministers.
Moreover, the Kremlin feels so self-confident that it allows itself to publish the personal correspondence of Foreign Minister Lavrov with his colleagues from France and Germany, which is already a violation of all unspoken norms, not to mention diplomatic protocol.
Fifth, the opposition to Zelenskyy, represented by ex-President Poroshenko, and now the oligarch Akhmetov who has joined him, is using Wagnergate to undermine trust and reduce the level of support for Zelenskyy.
And Poroshenko even tried to organize another protest under the office on this occasion on the anniversary of the beginning of both Maidans. As in previous times, it was unsuccessful. In principle, I do not believe that "Wagnergate" can cause really massive protests, and even more so the new Maidan.
I will briefly state my arguments why this will not happen after December 1, when protesters outside the President's Office pledged to announce an indefinite protest last Sunday.
1. The failure / drain of the special operation against the "Wagnerites" is perceived too sensitively mainly by Poroshenko's supporters. But their number is not enough for people to protest en masse.
2. They, of course, can arrange a spectacular fire show and a small but loud protest under the walls of the OP and bump into the police. But even to put forward an ultimatum and organize an indefinite protest - no. Which makes us doubt the sincerity of the protest.
3. Most people are in a state of apathy and depression due to constant lockdowns, restrictions and deep stress that Ukrainian society has been in for the past year and a half. Here the failure of a special operation is not enough when people are worried about elementary survival.
4. Society is still deeply split (or rather, this split is only aggravated now due to the attitude towards forced vaccination) and for those who consider the events of February 2014 a "coup d'etat", the drain of the special operation in favor of a "truce" in Donbas in 2020 and improving relations with the Kremlin is even a blessing, not a betrayal. And there are many of these among Zelenskyy's supporters. Therefore, it is possible that the authorities are behaving so self-confidently, refusing to defend their positions on Shuster's talk shows.
5. Heating bills may become a much more serious irritant for the majority of the population if they grow significantly in the coming months. And if severe frosts come, then "rolling" blackouts , and Zelenskyy and Co. would not be able to provide gas and coal supplies at an affordable price.
6. High gas prices for industry over least 3-4 next months can provoke a massive closure of enterprises, and hence an increase in unemployment. That's when the protest potential in society can really rise sharply, and Zelenskyy's ratings can plummet.
Only then the interested oligarchs except Poroshenko and Akhmetov can unite and “chip in” to finance the new Maidan, as it was already in December 2013. But as long as Zelenskyy does not pose an existential threat to any of them and does not intend to become the main oligarch like Yanukovych Jr., such a unity of all oligarchs is also unlikely.
7. So that mass protests, if these factors coincide, are possible not earlier than spring. And there the next lockdown will arrive in time, as a reason to stop or disperse them. And all these maneuvers of the Russian troops, which are now being trumpeted by both our and the Western media, so far only play into Zelenskyy's hands, allowing him to play the greasy card "do not rock the boat, otherwise Putin will attack!" Why should he attack if everything here can collapse on its own in a few months and it will be possible to take the desired territories with "bare hands"? For now, it is enough to ban the supply of coal and electricity. And just wait a few months. Just on the anniversary of the shootings of the "Heavenly Hundred", real frosts can hit, and the reserves of coal and gas will run out.
Then it will be possible to play the "wagnergate", and the high utility bills with rolling blackouts and other slip-ups of the authorities.