June 23, 2024

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Top investigative stories

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Bihus.Info: Notorious pro-Russia MP tied to multi-million investment fund building homes in Ukraine

Hunter, an investment fund that poured over Hr 670 million ($18 million) into three residential developments in the Kyiv suburbs, has ties to notorious pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker and former presidential candidate Yurii Boyko, according to an investigation by Ukrainian outlet Bihus.Info.

As a lawmaker, Boyko has no declared business interests.

Boyko served as Ukraine’s energy minister and deputy prime minister under pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych between 2010 and 2014. Since 2018, he has been a leading figure in the Opposition Platform – For Life party, banned after the full-scale invasion for its notoriously pro-Russian stances. He now leads the Platform for Life and Peace parliamentary group, the successor of the banned party.

Through company records, the Bihus.Info investigation traced shares in the residential developments in Kyiv to a Cyprus-based company owned by longstanding Boyko associates.

According to the journalist investigation, Boyko lives a luxurious lifestyle in Kyiv and is always seen with several bodyguards despite not declaring himself as the owner of any businesses.

A previous investigation by Bihus.Info found that Boyko has ties to several large energy companies, including through his son, the registered co-owner of Volynoblenerho, a large energy distribution firm.

Boyko was also embroiled in a corruption scandal as energy minister – journalists revealed that Ukraine overpaid $150 million, or 40% of the contract for two Black Sea oil rigs.

A video published by Ukrainian military intelligence on Sept. 11, 2023, showed them taking control of the notorious oil rigs, controlled by Russia since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Watch the full investigation in Ukrainian with English subtitles here.

The New York Times suggests errant Ukrainian missile struck front-line city of Kostiantynivka

A New York Times investigation found that a misfired Ukrainian anti-air missile likely struck Kostiantynivka, contradicting Ukrainian officials who said that the city was attacked by Russian forces.

On Sept. 6, a missile struck an open-air market in the city of Kostiantynivka, which is located approximately 12 kilometers from the front line, killing 17 people and injuring at least 32.

The Times concluded that a Ukrainian missile hit the market based on various evidence, including the size of missile fragments, CCTV footage, witness accounts, and Russian social media posts that track outgoing Ukrainian fire.

Ukrainian authorities previously said Russia had attacked the market with an S-300 anti-air missile, arms it regularly uses to strike land-based targets. Russia has carried out strikes against civilian sites in Kostyantynivka before.

Based on the shape of the fragments and the impact caused to nearby buildings, the Times concluded they were those of a Buk-9M38 missile. The findings were confirmed by two weapons experts, according to the Times.

Based on the CCTV footage, Ruslan Leviev, an analyst for Conflict Intelligence Team, an independent Russian OSINT group, previously said that the attack had come from Ukrainian-controlled territory. The Times reached the same conclusion on the direction of the missile.

A day after the Times investigation was published, the Ukrainian military said they launched a criminal probe and could not comment on the ongoing investigation.

Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that law enforcement agencies will “conduct a thorough and detailed investigation,” which is standard procedure for missile attacks.

The Security Service of Ukraine responded to the Times investigation in a comment to Ukrainian press, saying that missile fragments collected at the site suggest that an S-300 missile hit Kostiantynivka and claimed that one of the Times journalists behind the story was “promoting Russian narratives” in his earlier stories.

International humanitarian law, which applies in armed conflict, prohibits intentionally attacking civilians and requires proper distinction between civilian and military objects. None of the evidence in the Times investigation suggests that Ukraine intentionally attacked the market or failed to take necessary precautions.

Ukrainian authorities and the Times both said that throughout the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has repeatedly attacked civilian objects, including schools and residential buildings.

Read the full story here.

CNN: Ukrainian special forces likely attacked Wagner-backed militia in Sudan

Ukrainian special services likely orchestrated drone attacks against a Wagner-backed militia in Sudan earlier this month, according to an investigation by CNN.

On Sept. 8, 2023, 14 small-scale drones struck military positions of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a rebel group that has been fighting the Sudanese government since April and is supported by the Wagner group, a Russian private army notorious for committing war crimes.

A Ukrainian military source told CNN that Ukrainian special services likely carried out the attack. According to CNN’s analysis of video footage of the strike, it had the “hallmarks of Ukrainian-style drone attacks.”

Ukrainian officials told CNN that they could neither confirm nor deny involvement in the attack. Sudanese and U.S. officials were skeptical of Ukrainian involvement.

High-level Sudanese government sources told CNN that a Wagner arms shipment arrived in Sudan on Sept. 6.

According to the journalist investigation, a video showing the monitor of the drone controller shows text in Ukrainian and English. The investigation also identified what is likely a DJI MAVIC 3 drone in the footage, a drone often used by Ukrainian forces.

The attack with small drones that have become ubiquitous in Russia’s war against Ukraine is a first in Africa, according to military analysts quoted by CNN.

Read the full investigation in English here.

Meanwhile, in Russia

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Russian oligarch Abramovich transferred billion-dollar art collection to ex-wife to evade sanctions

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich made his ex-wife Dasha Zhukova the majority owner of their shared art collection to bypass sanctions, according to an investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and The Guardian.

Abramovich was once the wealthiest man in Russia and is believed to have close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, for which the EU, UK, and other Western countries sanctioned him in March 2022.

Abramovich assembled the impressive art collection with Zhukova, and each took a 50% stake through a Cyprus-based company after their divorce in 2017, according to the journalist investigation.

According to leaked documents, an additional one percent of the company was transferred to Zhukova soon after the full-scale invasion. This made her the majority owner of the art collection in a move that, experts told OCCPR and The Guardian, may have been designed to prevent the art from being sanctioned.

U.S. citizen Zhukova and the Cyprus company have not been sanctioned, meaning the oligarch still has access to the collection, according to the investigation.

According to the leaked records, Abramovich moved certain pieces to European mansions or his yacht shortly before he was hit with sanctions.

Experts told OCCRP and the Guardian that Abramovich’s collection is one of the most impressive in the world and includes valuable pieces by Picasso, Degas, Monet, and many others.

Abramovich denied being close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and participated in early Ukraine-Russia peace talks following the full-scale invasion.

The oligarch has never publicly denounced the full-scale invasion or Russian war crimes, and an earlier OCCRP investigation showed that one of Abramovich’s companies had supplied the Russian military.

Read the full investigation in English here.

Russian military-industrial sector fails to meet critical deadlines

Record numbers of criminal charges against industrialists show the dire state of the Russian military industry, according to an investigation by Russian independent media outlet Novaya Gazeta.

According to court records reviewed by Novaya Gazeta, criminal charges against defense contractors doubled from 2021 to 2022. As of September this year, the number of charges has already exceeded pre-war 2021 numbers.

Additionally, court records show that over 400 people in Russia have been fined for “hindering the delivery of defense orders” since the start of the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

According to the journalist investigation, in the 15 most underperforming companies – from shipyards to missile manufacturers – almost 350 people “were found legally responsible” for failing to deliver on defense contracts.

Russian officials told state media that endemic corruption affects the military-industrial complex. In 2022, 8,700 corruption cases were initiated in the defense sector, 700 more than in 2021, according to the journalist investigation.

A military expert told Novaya Gazeta that the military industry’s struggles show that Western sanctions are working. This claim is supported by court records, which show that aviation and shipbuilding, the industries most reliant on Western parts, are also the ones that have been fined the most for failing to deliver.

The Russian defense industry also reportedly faces staff shortages. According to the journalist investigation, job listings are up by almost 50%, but some factories employ inmates from nearby prisons.

A military expert told Novaya Gazeta that, for the Russian defense industry, the invasion of Ukraine is “like adrenaline shots given to a dying man.”

Read the full investigation in English here.

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