The Wall Street Journal has written that Denys Kiryeyev, who was shot at the beginning of the full-scale war and whom the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) has called a traitor, warned Ukrainian Defense Intelligence about the Russian plan to capture Kyiv on the eve of the Russian invasion.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, based on financial and intelligence documents, interviews with American and Ukrainian government officials, current and former employees of the Ukrainian special services, with Kiryeyev’s family, friends, bodyguards and business partners
Details: On 5 March 2022, it was reported that during the arrest, SSU representatives shot banker Denys Kiryeyev in Kyiv, who took part in negotiations between the delegations of Ukraine and Russia in Gomel on 28 February. He was allegedly suspected of treason.
The Wall Street Journal writes that Kiryeyev, 45-year-old banker, was killed as a Russian spy: days after Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian Defense Intelligence agents left a corpse on a pavement in the center of Kyiv with a bullet hole in the back of the skull.
Yet days after Mr. Kiryeyev’s body was dumped, he was buried a hero and interred next to Ukraine’s first foreign minister [Anatolii Zlenko – ed.]
General Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, stated that Kiryeyev had passed on information from his Russian contacts that helped Ukrainian forces successfully defend the capital city last February.
“If it were not for Mr. Kiryeyev, most likely Kyiv would have been taken,” WSJ quotes Budanov.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed documents to award Mr. Kiryeyev a posthumous medal for “exceptional duty in defense of state sovereignty and state security.”
Budanov stated that Kiryeyev had cultivated ties with European intelligence services, as well as with Russian military and government officials. He also agreed to represent Kyiv in early cease-fire talks between Russia and Ukraine. According to one of his friends, Kiryeyev “enjoyed playing the 007 role.”
Kiryeyev was born in Kyiv and began his professional life in the finance sector working at the local offices of Western banks, including Crédit Lyonnais, Citibank and ING.
A relative of his in 2003 became Deputy Chief of the SSU. The connection kindled Kiryeyev’s interest in espionage, associates said.
In 2006, Kiryeyev went to work for Andrii and Serhii Kliuievs, brothers and politically connected businessmen from Donetsk, who built their wealth in metals and real estate and were close to Viktor Yanukovych, who ruled the country in 2010-2014. When Kliuievs fled in 2014, Kiryeyev helped manage some assets of the brothers from Kyiv.
In 2021, Kiryeyev’s spot in the intersecting spheres of Russian and Ukrainian business and security drew Budanov’s attention. As Russia began amassing troops on the Ukrainian border in the spring of 2021, Budanov summoned Kiryeyev to Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence headquarters in Kyiv and asked him to use his contacts to infiltrate Russia’s military intelligence.
WSJ sources say that the banker had been driving from Kharkiv to Russia and then reported to Budanov.
In autumn 2021, as the US military and spy agencies began warning of the Russian threat, Kiryeyev learned from his sources that Moscow was preparing to invade and became the first to sound the alarm in Ukraine.
On February 18, Kiryeyev refused to go skiing with his family in the French Alps.
On the afternoon of February 23, Kiryeyev handed Budanov fresh intelligence, which confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had just given orders to invade in the early morning.
According to the Head of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, Kiryeyev also knew the main point of attack.
At 08:00 on 24 February, Russian attack helicopters landed troops at Antonov Airport near Kyiv. The Kremlin had planned to order the airport to fly in troops and equipment for an assault on the capital.
Budanov states that Kiryeyev’s tip gave Ukraine a few precious hours to shift troops to counter the Russian assault. After a fierce battle with the Russians, the airport was damaged beyond use by the invading forces.
When Russia’s plans for a quick strike were foiled, the parties agreed to negotiate a ceasefire in Belarus. Since Kiryeyev knew two members of the Russian delegation, Budanov offered him to take part in the negotiations – and he agreed.
“After his appearance there, his connection with the special services became obvious to everyone. Unfortunately, the situation then was critical, and we had to take risks,” said Budanov.
After returning from Belarus, Kiryeyev met with Budanov for several hours. Kiryeyev, according to a member of his security service, was aware that he was in danger and left the meeting in a taciturn mood.
Days after that, a friend visited Kiryeyev at his home on Kyiv’s northern outskirts. Holding a large-caliber hunting rifle, Kiryeyev said he had used it to shoot at Russian operatives who had visited his house a few nights earlier.
When Russia and Ukraine agreed to a second round of talks, scheduled for March 3, Budanov again prevailed on Kiryeyev to attend.
According to Budanov, on the night before the negotiations in Belarus, Kiryeyev received a phone call from the office of Oleksandr Poklad, the counter-intelligence chief at the SSU. Poklad, in charge of capturing intelligence and security officers suspected of working for Russia, wanted to meet. Poklad declined to comment for this article, as did a SSU spokesperson, citing a law on state secrets.
Kiryeyev drove to a Kyiv train station with his personal security crew and Defense Intelligence agents for his trip to Belarus. He told the bodyguards that he might be arrested en route. “Don’t interfere,” he said, according to a member of his security team.
The group drove to the center of Kyiv and stopped near St. Sophia Cathedral. Several minivans with SSU agents pulled up, and the operatives ordered the Defense Intelligence agents and Kiryeyev’s bodyguards to surrender their weapons. Kiryeyev was directed to a minivan. His security detail lay prone on the street as the van drove away.
About 90 minutes later, the military-intelligence agents were summoned to the spot where they found Kiryeyev’s body.
The State Bureau of Investigation, which handles such homicides, declined to comment.
WSJ reminds that in July, Volodymyr Zelenskyy fired Head of the SSU Ivan Bakanov and removed or prosecuted dozens of the agency’s generals for their alleged role in facilitating the Russian invasion.
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