Institute for Postinformation Society

What is behind the so-called “Ukrainian trace” in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump? What are the reasons for Trump’s loathing for Ukraine? Why wasn’t the main result of Russia’s meddling in the U.S. 2016 election the very election of Donald Trump but internal political chaos in this country? How do Russian special services manage to combine special operations in the West with personal enrichment? Where do the exposing leaks come from? Ex-deputy minister of information policy of Ukraine Dmytro Zolotukhin, who is also a competitive intelligence and infowars expert answered all these questions in an interview with our correspondent.

In the USA, Trump impeachment hearings continued throughout the past week. The U.S. President is accused of exerting pressure on Ukraine to open an investigation against a possible election candidate Joe Biden. Thus, it is claimed that Trump was trying to drag Ukraine into the American election. How do you assess the actions of President Zelensky’s administration in light of the impeachment scandal?

We need to start by objectively admitting that, unfortunately, Ukraine is not an actor in a large foreign policy “bargaining” or any big geopolitical activity in general. We tried to become one, and, in fact, the Maidan uprising was a product of this process. Considering the young age of an independent Ukraine, the dynamics are positive.

On the other hand, as I said, we must admit that in order to influence large-scale geopolitical processes, we still lack resources. In this regard, the United States of America is our resource of struggle against our main adversary, the Kremlin. Therefore, of course, everything that is happening now on the main foreign policy fronts is major bargaining. Unfortunately, we have no other opportunity to confront the Vladimir Putin’s hordes. Washington is well aware of this. But in parallel with this, there are two independent states: Ukraine and the USA, each of which pursues its own goals. This is normal, there is no need to be shy about it, and we shouldn’t say that some people are heroes and others aren’t. Due to the fact that the United States pursues its own objectives, they naturally have more resources to shape their policies in such a way that their interests are taken into account.

Therefore, returning to your question about how I assess the policy of the Ukrainian state regarding what is happening in the United States, I assess it based on the current developments. This response is an attempt to defend Ukrainian interests through agreements with Washington. If we are talking about the Poroshenko administration, it was also bargaining. It was vital for Ukraine to get support at the international level, as well as money and weapons. And they got it all.

Moreover, it is difficult to deny the fact that during the election campaign in the United States, the Poroshenko administration openly took the side of one of the candidates, Hillary Clinton. And in 2016, shortly before the U.S. presidential election, head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, Arsen Avakov, publicly called out Trump as a marginal figure. Does this speak of the professional approach of the Poroshenko team?

But you should remember what international media wrote about Trump. Let me remind you that one of the latest cases of the election campaign in America was that the record was made public, made in the early 2000s, where Trump in private conversation boasted that he grabbed women by their intimate parts. Before that, there was the “Steele dossier” that came out in July 2016, and immediately before the vote Trump’s statements emerged regarding his attitude towards Russia’s annexation of Crimea and his attitude towards Putin.

Nevertheless, this apparently led to the hostile attitude of Trump and the Republicans towards Ukraine. For example, last Wednesday, Republicans in Congress who are defending President Donald Trump at an impeachment hearing on Wednesday put forward the theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, which actually interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections. Apparently, Trump himself adheres to a similar point of view.

There is nothing surprising in the fact that now the entire republican establishment is returning to 2016, trying to figure out what happened back then. They began to discuss how the “Steele dossier” was born, whether it even existed, and what was before it. I myself recently wrote an article about a “proto-dossier” – it turns out that before Steele there were several more reports that the same Fusion GPS did, specifically about Trump, his family and connections.

As we recall, according to Devin Nunes, a spokesman for the Congressional Intelligence Committee, his interview formed the basis of a book written by Lee Smith, a U.S. investigative journalist. He wrote about the conspiracy against Trump, and he particularly stresses a generally known fact that Fusion GPS was hired by a law firm that served Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Now the Republicans have renewed several narratives about the fact that Ukraine is to blame for all these problems, including the suggestion that Christopher Steele made his report at the request of Ukraine.

The rhetoric of many media in Ukraine and Russia was that Poroshenko supported Hillary Clinton. However, no real evidence was provided to back this claim. More often, headlines of this kind appeared on Russian sources and, moreover, I believe that the story of “Ukraine meddling” may come from the Kremlin.

In addition to Kremlin interests, I believe that such narratives are disseminated by those people who – I’m sorry for the expression – “protect their asses” after they themselves were convicted of fraud. Starting with Paul Manafort, who led the presidential campaign – when he needed to protect himself, he poured into Trump’s ears the idea that someone had been plotting against him and doing all sorts of bad things.

It is also known that Ukrainians played a role, for example, in the prosecution of the head of Trump campaign Paul Manafort. It is hard to imagine that Serhiy Leshchenko handing over to the Americans the incriminating evidence on Manafort happened without Poroshenko’s personal green light.

The sole fact that Leshchenko was a deputy of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc is regarded as evidence that Poroshenko could initiate publication of compromising evidence on Manafort. But no one at the same time wants to figure out who guided the deputy of the Poroshenko party, Serhiy Leshchenko, into making public the “black ledgers” showing tax evasion by Paul Manafort. And the matter is not only about the actions of Leshchenko. Please note: one of the “important witnesses” of the Republicans is a former employee of the Ukrainian Embassy in the United States, whose name is Andriy Telizhenko. His parents live in the United States, and he is a citizen of Ukraine and worked there at our embassy. In 2016, he became one of the sources of American journalists who covered this story of the mythical intervention of Ukraine in the election of the U.S. President. About a month ago it became known that now Telizhenko is an adviser to Rudi Giuliani and is actively cooperating with another supporter of the “Ukrainian conspiracy” Devin Nunes. From this I make an assumption: it is possible that this person (a former Ukrainian diplomat) could be used either for money or “blindly.” It is possible that Telizhenko talked about potential interference at someone’s request or order. Informed people know that before that he had a serious conflict with Ambassador Valeriy Chaly.

Somewhere around the same time (either in parallel with Telizhenko, or from him) came the reports about Alexandra Chalupa, who was not a representative of the official Ukrainian authorities, but had close contact with the Ukrainian Embassy in the United States and, judging by her Twitter, actively rooted against Trump. However, the Republican press praising the “Ukrainian conspiracy” theory also tied her firmly to Ambassador Chaly, who was Poroshenko’s guy.

And what could have caused such versions to appear?

I have a theory for which I am now seeking confirmation. I think that the only actor who: a) is vitally interested; b) has the resources and technology through which it has the ability to shape public opinion (including in the United States) is the Kremlin.

Here’s another example for you: Paul Manafort’s partners were a number of Ukrainians, in particular, Konstantin Kilimnik and representatives of the Party of Regions, which had had him on payroll here for ten years. Many of them were directly tied to Russia, while some were directly tied to the Russian special services, in particular, the GRU. I have a hypothesis that when the Democrats raised alarm about a DNC hack in June-August 2016 and the Kremlin’s trace surfaced in this row, in order to divert attention and avert suspicions, the Russian intelligence services stated that this was all Ukraine, claiming it was supposedly obvious. They claimed Paul Manafort worked with Ukraine, Poroshenko spoke bad things about Trump, Pinchuk helped fund Hillary Clinton, and in general “they don’t like you!”

The whole hype built around the alleged participation of Ukraine in a conspiracy against Trump in 2016 is very similar to a special operation of the Russian special services that needed to cover their own operations – so they built a narrative that Ukraine is to blame for everything.

As for my opinion, I consider the assertion that in 2016 the Ukrainian administration took sides [in the US presidential election] as a myth, for the most part. Moreover, it’s a myth that is primarily beneficial to Russia.

And in this case, how would you comment on the story of Ukrainian businessmen, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, who were arrested in the United States on charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, and who, as the media say, could work in the interests of Russia?

This echoes my suggestion. Let me remind you that there is a law on lobbying in the U.S.: you can bring someone two hundred thousand dollars, and they will ask you: “What do you want me to do for this money?” And you say: “Play golf with me,” and during a golf game, who knows what could happen? This is a scheme according to which, among other things, black Russian money appears in the political campaigns of the United States and UK, so that later these sponsors (they remain on the radars, they should enjoy some gratitude, though undocumented) have access to a particular person. In this case, Parnas and Fruman had access to Trump via Rudy Giuliani. This is no Newton’s binomial, no complicated math.

In the 1990s, when Fruman, Parnas, Sam Kislin, and similar people appeared in the West, they didn’t particularly separate Ukrainians and Russians, and the Ukrainians and Russians themselves were not separated by the principle of their place of birth, and actively interacted. Kislin worked with the Chorniy brothers – it was a huge interwoven tangle. It is impossible to determine where the participation of Ukrainian businessmen ended and the story began with Russian large players, who may have been somehow connected with the Russian special services… From what I know about Kislin, when he arrived in the States and began to accumulate capital, there was a single “post-Soviet” community. At the same time, it cannot be said that all this took place as part of some kind of special operation. This all happened in a completely natural way. You just need to understand that this is a natural course of things – if you treat opeatives from Yasenevo and Grisodubova (areas in Moscow where the headquarters of the SVR and the GRU are located) with a certain degree of professional respect, there are smart officers there (despite the whole horror with the “Salisbury case”), who could set up schemes and send large amounts of Russian black “cash” to where it was needed.

That is, if I understand you correctly, “smart officers”, by sending large sums of black cash, worked for themselves and, along the way, corrupted broad sections of American politics?

I have no particular doubts about it. Although it’s really complicated… But, IMHO, the bottom line is that many people in the West want the money from the Russian luandromat so much that they are ready to forget about everything, including conscience.

In this regard, by the way, discussions come to mind about the arrival of Sergei Kirienko in the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation a month before the presidential election in the United States, at which, as everyone was sure then, Hillary Clinton should have easily defeated Donald Trump. Allegedly, Kirienko, who more than once contacted Clinton through the channels of Rosatom, perfectly suited the role of negotiator with America. But history judged otherwise…

There are a huge number of issues that, from the Kremlin’s perspective, need to be “resolved” with any administration (be it Republican or Democratic), at the highest level at State Department, while some issues relate to making money, or rather laundering ridiculous amounts of money.

I’d like to emphasize right away that I don’t share the view that the Kremlin, simply out of a love of art, is engaged in destabilizing America, Europe, etc. (although based on what we know about the personality of Vladimir Putin, it might as well be the case, in part). However, in general, all this happens in a much more prosaic fashion: there are specific business interests, including those that are affiliated with top Russian leadership, the Russian establishment. To meet these business interests, such representatives of the establishment as Sergei Vladilenovich Kirienko the “Family” wallet Oleg Deripaska, and partially marginalized figures such as Parnas and Fruman, through whom that black cash can be siphoned, all that money is simply shoved into American politicians’ campaign funds.

Indeed, on the one hand, there is a long list of unresolved issues remaining in the U.S.-Russia relations that need to be addressed despite the fact that someone is hostile, no matter how bad or good these relations are at the moment, whether there’s yet another “reboot” or Putin is being mocked in American media. The US-Russia daily problems still need to be addressed by both parties, starting with technology – the Arctic shelf, for example, or the financial world reigned by the IMF and the U.S. Federal Reserve, or the Syria (Middle East) issue. There are a huge number of problems that these two countries cannot resolve without each other, because they are too large, and the scale of investment is huge.

The fact that Russian politics is almost undisguised mafia activity and the convergence of the economy, business, and crime world also has a serious political impact, which is beyond doubt. And therefore, for each set of cases, its own special contacts are required.

How big was the effect of Russian government meddling in U.S. elections?

I believe that the real contribution of Russian interference to Trump’s victory is overestimated. Rather, it only hurt Trump. The real result of Russia’s meddling in the elections was political chaos that ensued in the U.S., so Russia’s contribution to the formation and maintenance of this chaos is enormous, I believe.

In 2016, Trump won by a lucky coincidence – it was just about a natural development (or degradation) of American society. All his populist decisions met the expectations of people who had hopes for a new government and sought an anti-elite coup. I personally met highly educated people who hated Clinton with all their heart.

On the other hand, it doesn’t even matter how effective the Kremlin’s actions were in helping Trump win, as the result of the intervention was that the internal American agenda is (and will continue to be) complete chaos, thanks to which America has little interest in external affairs, which unties the Kremlin’s hands, including in Ukraine. And not only this: it’s Syria and a huge number of other issues where the hands of Vladimir Putin and other authoritarian leaders like [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan were almost completely untied.

For example, the Kurdish issue shows that Putin succeeded because, while Trump is busy solving his domestic political issues, they agreed with Erdogan and made a number of official statements. Erdogan carried out a wonderful operation, pushed back the Kurds, cleared the space, while Assad did not interfere or participate in any way. And the American troops deployed there were not involved either. All they could do was take their people deeper into the country or simply not interfere. Nevertheless, it is hardly worth talking about Russia’s current interference in the upcoming U.S. elections – it took place earlier, in 2016. They achieved this chaotic “mess” and a change in Trump’s behavior – in particular, the fact that he still blames Ukraine for his own problems.

Now they need to maintain this, push it further, and to this end they have people like Parnas and Fruman. In a sense, it’s even good that they have been exposed because the point is to maintain a scandalous atmosphere. If you argue from this point of view, it’s a win for Russia in any scenario. If its assets succeed, it means that they are promoting their agenda, and, if not, the “mess” escalates, again.

 

It was difficult to assess whether this was Moscow’s initial goal, but it’s clear from the outcome that the smart folks in Yasenevo and Grizodubova caught a winning trend by its tail and made additional efforts and invested there. Therefore, Moscow’s interference in the U.S. internal affairs will continue to be aimed at maintaining political chaos in this country, regardless of who will take the helm of the White House in 2020.

Let’s get back to Ukraine. How well founded you think the Republican accusations against Joe Biden and his son are? Indeed, at first glance it is really not very clear what Hunter Biden was doing on the board of directors of a Ukrainian company Burisma Holdings, moreover, at the time when his father was not only the vice president of the United States, but also oversaw the Ukraine issues.

Whether Trump and the Republicans are right about Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine can only be determined with the help of law enforcement agencies and an investigation. But again, such a decision should be taken by Ukraine itself, as a sovereign state, without external interference. The fact that Biden’s son was on Burisma board doesn’t mean anything. There were several rows where Ukrainian officials attended public events, where Burisma was among the sponsors.

The other day, as per George Kent’s testimony, it turned out that when one of the former U.S. ambassadors to Ukraine, I believe it was John Herbst, was a member of the supervisory board of the Atlantic Council, Daria Kaleniuk, who is an executive director of the Anti-Corruption Center in Ukraine , wrote him an extensive e-mail, full of indignation. The point was “What are you doing? We are here fighting corruption in Ukraine, while you’re a member of the supervisory board at the Atlantic Council, which accepts sponsorship from Burisma.”

Burisma, as well as Rinat Akhmetov’s company, is a sponsor of a large, reputable, global think tank, the Atlantic Council. But these are all ethical points, while at the same time, this is legitimate activity. If you want to investigate something, investigate where the money comes from.

Ex-prosecutor [Viktor] Shokin in his testimony claims that he was fired just because he tried to investigate this…

In his testimony, George Kent [an American diplomat who worked at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv in the post-Maidan period. His first deposition as part of the impeachment inquiry was on November 8] said that he and Shokin had an agreement to reform the Prosecutor General’s Office – to train people, support them, and sponsor the development of legal expertise. At a certain point, according to George Kent, a criminal case was opened against two prosecutors – it turns out that some businessman came with a report that they had allegedly extorted money from him for closing a criminal case.

Let me remind you that David Sakvarelidze, who was Shokin’s deputy and one of the main contacts with the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, as well as his subordinates, initiated proceedings against these corrupt prosecutors. It turned out that one of these corrupt prosecutors in the past allegedly was Shokin’s driver, and, also allegedly, Shokin did everything to get these two from under the line of fire.

They were released on bail. This is a well-known case of “diamond prosecutors” (they were named so because plenty of precious stones were found during searches). George Kent says that from that moment they allegedly understood that Shokin wasn’t going to change anything and would protect his people till the end. Shokin, on the contrary, claims slander and that they had the Burisma case, and when it started to develop, the U.S. embassy switched on all its levers in order to smear Shokin in the media.

To paraphrase, these are the words of George Kent against those of Viktor Shokin. But what has really happened there? We need to understand that sources like Wikipedia or online media are not something that allows you to judge objectively. In terms of public opinion, George Kent has a much greater advantage. He has never in his life, as far as I know, tarnished his reputation. As for Shokin, I wouldn’t like to delve into this topic at all.

In an infamous phone call between Trump and Zelensky, a certain Ukrainian company is also mentioned – CrowdStrike, which, as is clear from this conversation, Trump believes worked against him in favor of Clinton in the 2016 elections.

Returning to my idea about the story of “Ukrainian intervention”, I can say that from my point of view, CrowdStrike is also part of the myth created by the Russian intelligence that there are people and interests related to Ukraine among the participants in the election scandals. Allegedly, Ukrainian lobbyists who are among the owners of CrowdStrike made it possible to falsify the investigation and supposedly shift suspicions away from Ukraine (and towards Russia).

Once again, I insist that this is a trumped-up story.

After all, even if you for one second believe in this legend about CrowdStrike and its affiliation with Ukraine, it turns out that on the contrary, Ukraine tried to hack the Dems in order to blame the Russian side, and thus help Hillary Clinton win, while everyone accuses Trump of collusion with the Kremlin.

But this is some kind of overly complicated multi-layered thing. In addition, I can tell you that Ukraine, in principle, does not possess such “capacities”, either in terms of management or in terms of investing in such operations. For example, operations of organizations such as Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear are obviously quite a costly endeavor. Ukraine simply has no money for that.

But Russia does. Moreover, such operations by special services pay off well due to the fact that they steal money in the banking sector, while the GRU and the FSB provide a cover up, or even supervise this. For this cover, organizations like this perform certain tasks for the intelligence. If you are a successful hacker in Russia, naturally, the FSB Information Security Center (or a competing organization) comes to you at some point. It’s simply because everything is much more transparent there – you can put pressure on an internet provider and they will give out all information about you, you can put pressure on a cell operator – and your SIM card will be exposed. They come to you and they say: boy, we don’t mind you doing this unless you’re stealing from us, but we can allow you to continue doing whatever you’re up to if you perform certain tasks for us.

Then everything works out. There are people who have such power to coerce or induce a person to do this, or maybe that person will himself be happy that he or she is under the wing of a “patriotic crane”. There is money in this segment that covers the costs of such activities. And there is a political will that permits all this. In fact, a hacker could be under control of the conditional GRU, while GRU operatives will never remain abandoned – even if they fail somewhere, like in Salisbury, it’s low level guys who will get buried somewhere in the field, while people who manage all this will be dismissed with honors, which is probably the most serious punishment. The story with the WEX cryptocurrency exchange is another eloquent confirmation of this.

But after all, Clinton headquarters did cooperate with Crowdstrike …

I believe that CrowdStrike, as well as the very use of the company name in this case is, in fact, just a manipulation technique. It seems to me that the Hillary Clinton campaign turned to CrowdStrike because they didn’t want to contact the FBI at the time when the case arose that Hillary Clinton kept confidential correspondence on her private server, instead of opting for an official one. Therefore, in order not to be set up once again for a full-on probe by the FBI, they turned to CrowdStrike for examination. Then, as I understand it, everything was inspected anyway; all that could have surfaced had already surfaced in Robert Mueller’s probe.

Another thing is interesting here though: why did all this take such a scale? After all, hacks like this have been done before. But previously, they didn’t resonate so much because it was pure intelligence – that is, gathering information. You penetrate the server of a targeted organization – in this case, the U.S. Democratic Party – and get information from there to provide it to the country’s leadership. The leadership then shapes up a political action plan based on this information.

However, after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, this Pandora’s box of active measures was opened wide and the Kremlin didn’t just gather intelligence, it began to actively use it as an information weapon. That is, they would receive intelligence and in order to immediately influence reality, they would “pour” it online to feed a large audience, with the right sauce.

That is, in fact, several agencies and special services of the United States confirmed that all the hype in 2016 boils down to the malicious activities of Russian intelligence, specifically the GRU and other organizations suspected of hacking and media influence.

By the way, it would be appropriate here to recall the story of the “mysterious [hacker group] Shaltai Boltai [Humpty Dumpty].” As we all remember, it turned out that it is controlled by the FSB.

It is possible that a story with the Black Mirror Telegram channel is developing according to a similar scheme – it is being pumped up with leaks, behind which, in my opinion, security services stand.

High-profile investigations by The Insider are now based on Black Mirror publications, as far as I remember…

Yes, you’re absolutely right. And here I have certain questions regarding the fact that over the past two or three years all the investigations of the Insider and Dobrokhotov have been concentrated exclusively on GRU operatives. I believe that it can’t be that only the GRU folks who get exposed. If you have no fails, you do nothing.

Most likely, the FSB also has some internal problems there, some flaws and fails. Take these morons from SEB and Alfa, who decided to rob the bank, which they themselves were supervising. But for some reason, these cases have no real effect, especially outside of Russia. And what about those passports of Chepiga and Mishkin, which appeared on Bellingcat just two weeks after the “trip of cathedral steeple-lovers” … “A coincidence? I don’t think so,” our common “friend” would say. It is impossible to prove, but it looks somehow very, very suspicious.

In 2015, The Insider began to actively promote the Shaltai Boltai [Humpty Dumpty], while today they are actively promoting Black Mirror. I will make a reservation right away that I’m not saying Dobrokhotov is has been personally cooperating with the FSB. It’s not the case. This is journalists’ work. They must use employ their sources, poke into “abscesses”, and ensure that these very investigations are made public. But at the same time, it must be borne in mind that security operatives or other interested parties, for their part, will be leaking certain info, in small portions and via certain channels, like Black Mirror, while pursuing their own interests.

Moreover, I could draw an analogy here with Ukrainian Telegram channels. No one would ever hear of those Ukrainian Telegram channels (those covering Ukraine’s internal politics) had they not been reposted by Nezygar. Things like that don’t just happen out of nowhere. How would Nezygar, with its 200,000 subscribers, learn about any Telegram channel publishing the Ukrainian agenda, with only 243 subscribers? Isn’t that strange?… Such analogies can be observed all the time. One can come up with some kind of legend, but it’s when everything keeps developing steadily and evenly… No one in the whole world would ever learn about Black Mirror Telegram channel, had it not been for The Insider and its foreign partners reposting their content.

So it turns out that high-profile investigations, including into the Salisbury attack, can also be considered part of an interagency struggle between the FSB and the GRU, is that right?

I surely don’t have such data but the very dynamics raise certain questions. Why is it that it’s only the GRU folks who screw up so bad all the time, why is there no balance here. There are questions to Margarita Simonyan, who in her interview with the notorious Petrov and Boshirov practically shredded the two.

For me, the ongoing rows regarding Russian meddling in U.S. domestic politics is yet another season of the same series. In fact, nothing has changed – even if they blew the cover of some of their assets, starting with Butina, and several groups. While some of them have been expelled, nevertheless, this is, in fact, the next episode of the same series, which began in 2014 with Ukraine, then in 2016 smoothly switched to the United States, and now it’s just a sequel as the next season is coming out.

In general, everything the Russian security agencies services have been doing in the information space in recent years is like TV series. It’s hard for them to invent anything creative, so, for example, their good ol’ song of “Ukrainian fascists” has long become too boring and is being rejected by the audience. The same goes for “radioactive ashes.” So much for a wannabe-Netflix on Grizodubova Street [the GRU HQ location]… Hollywood once used to rule the world, then Bollywood and Nollywood tried to catch up. And now, it’s the Kremlin which penetrated people’s minds. And still, people find this okay. Why pay more, really?

Now the situation is as follows. The word has spread into the open that Trump actually loathes Ukraine, and if we take a step aside, no matter who wins the next U.S. election, the next five years are practically lost for U.S.-Ukrainian relations. If Trump wins, then, naturally, he won’t be changing his mind about Ukraine, and if Biden wins, he won’t forget the fact that there was a certain possibility of Ukraine putting out data incriminating him.

How is Zelensky acting in these circumstances?

It’s not worth discussing Mr Zelensky as he’s just an unfortunate guy who has found himself entangled in this big game. I suggest he thought he would succeed in reaching a deal with everyone. He has been a clever, well-mannered and decent Jewish boy who hasn’t stolen a thing or done anything wrong in his life. It seems to me, he line of thought came as something like this: “On both sides of the conflict there are a lot of smart and well-mannered Jews – why don’t we all sit down and come to a solution. How can it be that the two Jews are unable to reach a deal after all?”

The problem is that this formula can hardly be applied to Putin. Zelensky wants a Normandy Four. Firstly, even if it the talks take place, they won’t bring him anything good because with the option of Putin-Zelensky discussion, the first will beat the latter. Secondly, in a balanced discussion, Macron will try to take over control and exert pressure on Zelensky to make him go for concessions – simply because it is easier to put pressure on Zelensky – so that the conflict is resolved in any way, while Macron is seen as a great guy and the main peacemaker. Zelensky, in turn, has helped him, which means he’s a great guy, too. If the Normandy summit doesn’t take place, the status quo will be maintained and the clash between Surkov and Kozak will continue. But that’s not our topic, again.

Does Zelensky have at least some ghostly opportunity to change Trump’s attitude toward Ukraine?

If Donald Trump believes that Ukraine framed him in 2016, then, unfortunately, he won’t change his mind because that’s just the way he is. But I’d like to once again underline my conviction that it’s precisely Russian assets and Russian security agencies who shaped up such impression of Ukraine in Donald Trump’s mind. Russian intelligence had planned to discredit Ukraine in the eyes of President Trump to deprive Kyiv of its last allies.

The same thing is happening in the UK right now. Few people noticed this piece of news: on October 17, a report on Russia’s intervention in the Brexit referendum came from the British Parliament’s intelligence committee to the Prime Minister’s office. And Johnson put it on hold! And now everyone is saying that now there’s a stalemate situation! If Johnson held the probe because he believed that this would affect the December elections, then perhaps he fails to realize that people need to be told about the level of Russian meddling threat so that they grasp it. If, on the other hand, he knows something and conceals it, so that it doesn’t affect his ratings, this is called complicity. In this way, Johnson would get into the same trap as Donald Trump has. The Guardian once wrote about a British-Russian friendship society, also referring to The Insider, which, in fact, was the outlet that provided the Moscow address of the GRU guy, who worked under diplomatic cover!

The Insider gave The Guardian information that the person who worked at the Russian Embassy in London now lives in Moscow, I believe, at 27 Michurinsky Avenue, which is considered the FSB apartment building! That’s one of those houses which agencies own and then provide apartments to their operatives. I believe the housing program can extend to GRU officers – the FSB built a house and gave the family an apartment. But the thing is that The Insider once again leaked data on a GRU operative who worked in London!

Returning to Ukrainian affairs, I have to admit that from the Ukrainian interests’ perspective, we are losing, because as a result of the ongoing cataclysms, everyone will be dealing with their own problems. America will be busy with impeachment and elections, Britain will be engaged in elections and Brexit. Meanwhile, the EU will be facing the issue of Macron losing his mind as he believes that the “grown-ups” have left the house – Trump is busy, Johnson doesn’t want to have anything in common with them, Merkel is preparing to step down, so now you can do whatever you want in your playground. He’s already starting to suffer from “Putin’s syndrome” with “I can do anything” symptoms. In an interview with one of the magazines, he said that “I’d rather accept refugees from Côte d’Ivoire than these Ukrainian gangsters” coming to France. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry summoned the French ambassador to ask more about those “Ukrainian gangsters”. Just the other day he also said NATO was “brain-dead” or something like that. It seems he’s just started – this is his playground now, and he’ll be there in charge there!

What would you do if you were in Zelensky’s place?

As it goes in the glorious Demobilization movie, “We will turn your flaw into a feat.” At the moment, Zelensky is a “trump card’. He is a media entity that no one understands and everyone uses it as they want. After the transcript of Trump’s Zelensky call was released, within a week, 100 percent of U.S. late-night shows came out, ridiculing Zelensky and Ukraine – that is, all the spotlights are now aimed at him. And “if luck has turned its back on you, you can do anything you like behind it.”

He may be bound by obligations to Macron and others, for example, in the space of Kolomoisky-Kremlin agreements, the space of Donbas, the issue of Crimea. There are borders and “flags”, beyond which he can’t go. But, if he suddenly, for example, has some kind of a firm idea to go down in history brightly… he can create any kind of content – for example, speak to American journalists, saying: “Guys, I don’t care who you have as U.S. President, I just got into this mess where everyone demands things from me.”

In this case, he will occupy the entire agenda of the American press! If such a statement is published in democratic sources, such as the Washington Post, The New York Times, then with he will fill almost the entire information space. This might not help him resolve internal issues, but from the point of view of how he became president, of the fact that people just watched the Servant of the People series and the 95 Quarter comedy show, now this strategy prevails – every day they come up with some info blast. Be it bad or good, we’re still talking only about them, not about anyone else.

This is the same phenomenon that we observed in 2016! The New York Times even showed a screenshot that there was only Trump on the front page of their publication. You are an opposition newspaper, the one that roots for Democrats, so why are you writing about him? They poured dirt on him, but it turned out that Trump filled the whole information space. Now Zelensky can do exactly the same thing, and this can even be done to Putin. If Zelensky does something like that to completely fill Russian television space, he will not give a damn about what Putin is doing – everyone will discuss how “bad” Zelensky is instead of discussing Putin.

How do you assess Zelensky’s chances of ending the war?

The idea that Zelensky can stop the war is profoundly erroneous. Only Vladimir Putin can do this. Only he can make the decision to introduce peacekeepers – everything will be as he says, it is an objective reality. The only opportunity to win is to make him think that a certain solution will be beneficial to him. This can be done with the good old pressure – sanctions. That’s to hurt his entourage. Right now there is information that 1% of Russians own 58% of the national wealth. The number of billionaires in Russia in 2018-2019 increased from 74 to 101. This is an indicator that we are doing something wrong with the sanctions, we are applying them incorrectly. That is, people somewhere in distant Russian regions are actually dying, and no one counts them, but certainly there’s fewer than 148 million people left in Russia. But what we need is good old pressure – to bring him down, his money, his entourage, and then reach a deal with him in these circumstances.

In any case, we will have to settle with him – we don’t have the capacity to fight with him in the open. Zelensky once said in an interview that Putin is negotiable. But Putin has long believed that he can get anything he wants. He thinks that he can beat anyone. He wanted to own the U.S. – he owned it. He wanted to break up the capitalist bloc – he also succeeded. He wanted Transnistria and Moldova – Dodon appeared there and he is now agreeing on something with the Transnistrian leader. Volodya’s doing it all! Why? Perhaps this is a myth, and somewhere there’s balance – most likely, he is sacrificing something to get it all. Putin doesn’t play by the rules, and everyone allows him to. And as soon as the agenda changes, and they no longer allow it, he will have to step on the throat of his own song…

For example, why is Macron saying these things? Because the French corporation TOTAL over the past few years has been receiving 80% of its profits from Russia. And this is in the context of sectoral sanctions by the European Union.

Tell me, what morons would kill a chicken laying golden eggs? Therefore, NATO is “brain-dead”, according to Macron, and Ukrainians are “gangsters”. Here, Macron will also protect his interests. But people understand that this is not because we love or don’t love Russia – it is a balance of risks and opportunities. That is, you will now give way to Putin because you are focused on profit, and then risks will catch up with you anyway, because corruption that Vladimir Putin exports to the whole world, even to the States and the European Union, will kill your countries anyway! This is a cancerous tumor that will eat you from the inside! This endless “laundromat” will swallow you.

Therefore, everyone says “let’s agree with Putin”… Okay, let’s do it, but an agreement involves parity relations! You will give in to something, and the other side should, too… As for Donbas and Crimea, it is generally impossible to have a discussion here, because you stole something, and now we still have to give you something? Let’s approach the issue from the other side, let’s go back to some parity conditions. After all, Putin wanted to “nullify mutual claims” … Maybe we are not against it. Return Crimea and Donbas – this will be nullifying. It’s just that he always nullifies in his own favor.

Now, there are no hawk speakers left in Zelensky’s entourage, in the presidential administration, in parliament, and in government – someone who would say that it is necessary to “hold our ground” at least somehow. And this is actually a huge pass to his political opponents, because this is again about polarizing society. Because you say that you want peace, and the opposition asks: what kind of peace is that? Surrender of our interests? So you get “No to surrender!” rallies.

Why do you need a Minister of Defense? Yes, to protect the country. A huge number of talented officers have appeared over these five years. We have never had military elite, but now we do. Not even in the last twenty-five years – in the last three hundred years there has not been such a level of military elite as we have had now in the last five years! It’s not just the military – it’s people trained to defeat and effectively kill the military of the aggressor state. But we don’t need more blood – let there be peace, but peace on an equal footing. Let these “Botox muscles” confront something real.

But, now there are no pro-government speakers who would say that ending the war indeed means agreeing with Putin, but to come to an agreement, there must be some process that leads to a parity agreement. There must be a bat behind your back, which you will be ready to use if someone tries to bend you with a speckled deck. If this doesn’t happen, we can never achieve real peace…

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