Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
Russia’s broad-based attack on Ukraine surprised political pundits. Before the invasion, Putin was staging false flag campaigns and negotiating with influencers? There is evidence that the Russian war machine relied, to its detriment, on commitments from informants and “friendlies” who occupied positions of business and political influence and assured the Kremlin that certain cities would welcome the Russian troops.
The Russian military initially entered Ukraine without a major fight in the border regions. At first, Ukraine’s border guards showed little resistance so convoys of Russian troops, moved deep into the territory, bypassing regional centers such as Kharkiv and Sumi.
Only after the Ukrainian authorities handed out weapons to the local volunteers, and the supply convoys of Russian troops were ambushed by units of the local pro-Ukrainian militia, did Russia alter its war tactics. Obviously, the Russians counted on capitulation; they even brought victory parade uniforms! So, something went awry.
The official position of the U.S. State Department, long before the start of the war, was that Ukraine was a corrupt country ruled by oligarchs. Many of them were in direct economic and even familial ties with Russia and in constant contact with its political elites. U.S. and Ukraine’s reformers pushed back on corruption and illicit Russian influence and disruption tactics: a special National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) was created. NABU has been in close alliance with U.S. law enforcement, despite allegations of ineptitude. War on the culture of corruption became more than a slogan; it became a condition precedent to the allocation of financial largess from the West. Notwithstanding, the post-Soviet culture of corruption proved hard to purge.
Putin established a fabricated and bizarre pretext that Ukraine was run by a junta of Nazis and began to gather troops along the Eastern border. The Russians continued to rely on their emissaries in Ukraine. Such assistance to the Kremlin was to be provided by local crime bosses, oligarchs and agents of influence.
According to sources, it is alleged that the Russians began negotiations with oligarchs based in Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine. The agents of influence included a Russian mobster by the name of Pavel Fuks (aka the Mercenary), now residing in London and Dubai. Fuks or Fuchs is a purported Russian agent and crime boss who has been accused of selling heroin, gray market COVID vaccines, and now fake Ukrainian passports to Russians who want to take advantage of the Ukrainian refugee programs. Another alleged Russian cooperator who may have redeemed himself and is now planning to sue Russia is Rinat Ahmetov. Ahmetov is a metallurgical industry kingpin and allegedly the wealthiest oligarch in Ukraine.
Then, there is Igor Kolomoisky who is an alleged corporate raider who owns ferroalloy plants and the Kremenchuk Oil Refinery; Mr. Kolomoyski used to be the governor of the Dnipro Region in Ukraine. Vitalii Khomutynnik is a former Ukrainian politician who is known to have operated the largest customs tax scam in Ukraine and is a close associate of mobster Pavel Fuks. Then, there is Oleg Bakhmatyuk who is known as a corporate raider, involved in agriculture business and banking; and finally, there is Viktor Medvechuk, a recently arrested Ukrainian media and energy oligarch who has close ties to Vladimir Putin.
Multiple sources have claimed that these influencers and others, whether tacitly or directly, promised that once Russia invades certain key cities in the East of Ukraine, Ukrainians will not put up a resistance; the Russians made commitments, in turn, that they will not strike the assets of these collaborators (factories, plants, storage and transport infrastructure facilities, etc.).
For instance, Kremenchuk Refinery – controlled by Igor Kolomoisky – was supplying 30% of pre-war fuel sales in Ukraine. It was only bombed on April 2022 – 6 weeks after the start of the invasion. The Azovstal factory – controlled by Rinat Ahmetov – was bombed first only on March 18, 2022 – a month after the city was surrounded. All of these people were also promised personal immunity. Obviously, some agreements were also reached with specific commanders of the border guards and local police. That is why the Russians did not face significant resistance at the very beginning of the conflict.
Probably, Moscow’s plans became known in Kyiv, and thanks to the internal security service, the subversive scheme was derailed. Some corrupt regional heads have been removed from their positions. Fortified points of the Ukrainian troops were created at Ahmetov’s factories in Mariupol. Gangsters like Pavel Fuks had to hastily flee Ukraine and, what is remarkable is that Mr. Fuks did not run off to Russia, where he might face retribution for his failure to deliver key regions without a fight; rather, Mr. Fuks fled to the neutral UAE and then to the U.K., where Fuks resettled, accompanied by his close associate, Vitalyi. Khomutynnik. Mr. Fuks, an alleged money launderer, has been identified as a leading figure in Russia’s false flag campaign prior to Russia’s invasion.
The Russian enablers have now changed their tactics and reinvented themselves into fake “Ukrainian patriots.” They are downplaying the fact that they illegally ran from Ukraine and collaborated with Russian intelligence. They are already scheming to return when the war ends so that they could participate in the rebuilding efforts. Their strategy will likely fail in post-war Ukraine. Just like the Russian troops, Mr. Fuks and other saboteurs will not be welcomed back.
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