Written by Eric Zuesse
SF: Not publicized, but instead carefully hidden, is the systematic terrorizing, tracking down, and killing, of political opponents, which includes not only opposed politicians, but also investigative journalists who are digging too deeply — deeply enough to maybe jeopardize Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky’s staying in office.
All of this was solidly documented by Dan Cohen of Mint Press News, in their stunning April 14th article, “Testimony Reveals Zelensky’s Secret Police Plot to ‘Liquidate’ Opposition Figure Anatoly Shariy: Accounts from the Ukrainian SBU’s torture prison reveal Zelensky’s plot to assassinate exiled opposition figure and leading journalist Anatoly Shariy.”
That article (which on April 17th was republished at Strategic Culture as “Testimony Reveals Zelensky’s Secret Police Plot to ‘Liquidate’ Opposition Figure Anatoly Shariy”) will be summarized here, with key excerpts.
Cohen’s article describes the case of “Shariy, a Ukrainian opposition figure and one of the country’s most popular journalists.” A friend of Shariy’s had sent him an email on 7 March 2022, and: “Four days later, Shariy received an email from [the same friend but from] a different [email] address, … confirming Shariy’s suspicion that the first email had been written [actually] by an SBU [Security Bureau of Ukraine] agent.” Shariy’s friend, in this second email, “explained that he had been interrogated and tortured for his ties to Russia.”
Then, Shariy received a phone call from that friend, telling him that the SBU “were preparing an assassination attempt” to kill Shariy.
Shariy himself has been living in exile, since 2012, having fled during the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych and received political asylum in the EU. [Two years later,] His opposition to the 2014 Maidan coup d’etat … made him a target of Petro Poroshenko, who came to power in its [the coup‘s] wake. The neo-Nazi movements he [Shariy] had exposed in prior years had gained serious political power and intensified their [the nazi parties’ — mainly the Social-Nationalist Party of Ukraine, and the Right Sector Party] aggression against him.
In 2015, Lithuanian media branded Shariy as a “favorite friend of Putin,” and the Lithuanian government soon revoked his asylum. Shariy, meanwhile, had sought protection elsewhere and relocated to Spain, where he has continued to grow into one of the most popular critics of President Volodymyr Zelensky.
However, his predicament has hardly improved. In 2019, Alexander Zoloytkhin, a former soldier of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion [discussed here], published the address and photos of the house where Shariy, his wife Olga Shariy and young child live, as well as photos of Olga’s car. Ukrainian neo-Nazis demonstrated outside his house and he received numerous death threats.
Today, he is a top target of the Kiev government, neo-Nazi paramilitaries, and the SBU. …
He became a well-known critic of the 2014 U.S.-orchestrated Maidan coup d’etat, using his YouTube channel video blog to amass an enormous online following. Today, he has nearly 3 million subscribers on YouTube, 340,000 on Facebook, and 268,000 on Twitter, becoming one of the country’s most popular journalists despite living outside its borders for a decade.
Shariy actively supported Zelensky during the campaign, attacking the incumbent Poroshenko. “I thought he [Zelensky] was determined to follow up on his election promises. I helped him to become the president. It’s true me and my team did anything for him to get the post,” Shariy told m[e]. …
But Zelensky’s carefully-crafted campaign image of a political outsider dedicated to stamping out rampant corruption – copy-pasted from his hit television series, “Servant of the People” – turned out to be a farce.
Zelensky cut deals with oligarchs and stacked his cabinet with the same figures he spent his campaign criticizing. He spurned the coalition-building efforts that typify Ukraine’s multi-party parliamentary democracy, preferring to cut backroom deals for votes. …
Zelensky betrayed his campaign promises of reform and meaningful progress in the Donbass stalemate, leading to a rapid decline in popular support. This left a niche open which was quickly filled by the Party of Shariy. While older voters traditionally supported Viktor Medvedchuk’s “Opposition Platform – For Life”, Shariy’s online presence and style appealed to younger generations.
As Shariy gained political capital and was even considered a possible contender for the presidency in a future election, the war of words between him and Zelensky turned into a bitter rivalry.
Zelensky lashed out at Shariy, accusing him of “trying to increase your rating at the expense of my rating, the rating of the president.”
Ukrainian journalist Yuri Tkachev, who was recently arrested by the SBU, commented that Shariy’s party is much stronger than the polls indicate. “It is strange to think that the government would spend so much energy on an insignificant opposition party. All this makes us think that their ratings are higher than they are trying to show us,” he remarked.
Hunting dissidents on a political ‘safari’
Throughout the election, the anti-Poroshenko antics of the Party of Shariy were met with severe violence from the president’s base, which included ultra-nationalists and neo-fascists. Some who dared to ask Poroshenko difficult questions were beaten. In Zaporizhzhya, a man’s car was set on fire and a woman was assaulted by Poroshenko himself.
This violence continued after the election. …
At a June 2020 demonstration in which Party of Shariy members demanded an investigation into the politically motivated attacks on their members, neo-Nazi groups attacked using smoke bombs and tear gas, followed by brawls inside the subway. Afterward, these groups announced a political “safari,” offering rewards for attacks on Party of Shariy members. This marked the escalation of violence meted out against the political opposition, especially targeting the Party of Shariy and its supporters.
In one incident, masked men beat a young man in Kharkiv, leaving him severely injured and hospitalized. In Vinnytsia, men from the neo-fascist group Edelweiss beat a party member in broad daylight, breaking his ribs and puncturing a lung. In another incident, a member of the U.S.-trained neo-Nazi Azov Battalion attacked a member inside their party office.
While members of his party were beaten in the streets and inside their offices, Shariy was under threat. On July 8, 2020, he accused Zelensky of ordering his assassination, publishing a confession given to Catalan Police by Zoloytkhin, the man who had published his address the year before. Zoloytkhin was wanted in Ukraine for numerous serious crimes, including participation in the 2016 kidnapping and beating of journalist Vladislav Bovtruk. Zoloytkhin confessed to police that top figures in the Zelensky government had instructed him to murder Shariy, and Shariy published a video confession from Zoloytkhin.
In February 2021, the SBU charged Shariy with treason, accusing him of “spreading Russian propaganda,” and summoned him to an interrogation by the SBU. After he declined to appear, he was put on the national wanted list.
Shariy is blacklisted on Myrotvorets (Peacemaker), an online database of what its owner declared “enemies of the state,” containing personal information and addresses. The blacklist is affiliated with the Ukrainian government and SBU and was founded by Anton Herashchenko, now an advisor to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. The site accuses Shariy of violating the sovereignty of Ukraine and financing terrorists. …
A screenshot shows Shariy on a govt’-linked website that publishes the personal details of enemies of the state
Multiple figures were killed soon after their names were added to the list. On April 15, 2015, Oleh Kalashnikov, a politician from the pro-Russia Party of Regions, the party of ousted president Victor Yanukovych, was shot to death in Kiev. The next day, Oles Buzina, a prominent journalist and author who advocated for unity among Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia and campaigned to outlaw neo-Nazi organizing, was shot and killed near his apartment. The culprits were found to be Andrey Medvedko and Denis Polishchuk, neo-Nazis who had served in government and military positions – their confessions were published by Shariy. Yet Buzina’s murderers not only walk free but have received government funding. …
Zelensky has opened numerous criminal cases against Shariy. He personally enacted sanctions against him, his wife Olga Shariy, and his wife’s mother, Alla Bondarenko. Shariy’s political party was banned in Zelensky’s sweeping March 20 decree that criminalized all opposition parties, accusing them of ties to Russia.
Prior to the Russian offensive, Shariy appeared often on Russian television, positioning himself as a neutral alternative to Zelensky and his regime of pro-EU neoliberals and neo-fascists. When Russian tanks rumbled across the Ukrainian border, he immediately denounced the invasion, calling the Kremlin foolish for invading a country that he believed would collapse on its own. Nonetheless, the threats against him intensified and Zelensky sought to eliminate Shariy from political life and kill him altogether. …
Then, on April 7th, came that phone call from Shariy’s friend, who told him that on March 2nd, Ukrainian intelligence agents visited him at his home in Kiev.
They took him into custody, handcuffing him and placing a sack over his head, then took him to a sports complex-turned temporary prison, connected to the main SBU headquarters, located in central Kiev between Vladimirskaya, Irininsky, Patorzhinsky, and Malopodvalna streets. Originally constructed as a Trade Union Palace following the Russian revolution, this building became the Bolshevik headquarters of Ukraine. Since 1938, it served as headquarters of the Gestapo during the Nazi occupation, the NKVD of the U.S.SR, and today, as a torture center for Russian prisoners of war and Ukrainians accused of having ties to Russia.
Inside the narrow underground rooms converted to an expansive state security complex, Igor says, SBU agents oversee members of the “Territorial Defense” – ultra-nationalist civilians and criminal elements who the government gave weapons in the streets in the first days of Russia’s offensive – as they beat, torture and even kill their prisoners.
Numerous prominent figures have been kidnapped and tortured by the Territorial Defense and the SBU. Among them are mixed martial arts fighter Maxim Rindkovsky, who was beaten on video and allegedly killed, Denis Kireev, the Ukrainian negotiator who was murdered after being accused of treason, and Volodymyr Struk, the Mayor of Kreminna, who was murdered after being accused of supporting Russia. Even Dmitry Demyanenko, former SBU head of the Kiev region, was shot dead in his car on March 10, accused of sympathy for Russia. …
In fact, the SBU is a project of the CIA. Following the 2014 coup, the security service was headed by Valentin Nalyvaichenko, who was recruited by the CIA when he was the Consul General of Ukraine in the United States. The CIA reportedly has an entire floor in the SBU headquarters.
In November 2021, Zelensky appointed Oleksandr Poklad to head the SBU’s counterintelligence. A former lawyer and cop with ties to organized crime, Poklad is nicknamed “The Strangler” – a reference to his favorite method of obtaining testimony from his victims. One article describes another torture method known as ‘The Elephant:’
“A gas mask is put on the victim of torture, and pepper tear gas from a spray can or a poisonous aerosol such as dichlorvos is launched into the gas mask hose. After such torture, an ordinary person confesses. …
On 21 July 2016, Amnesty International had issued “Torture and secret detention in Ukraine – new report”. It said, for example: “The Ukrainian authorities and pro-Kiev paramilitary groups have detained civilians suspected of involvement with or supporting Russian-backed separatists, while the separatist forces have detained civilians suspected of supporting or spying for the Ukrainian government, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch found. In one case, ‘Vadim,’ 39, was detained and tortured first by one side, then the other. In April last year, armed men seized him at a checkpoint controlled by Ukrainian forces, pulled a bag over his head, and questioned him about his alleged connections with Russia-backed separatists. Vadim spent more than six weeks in captivity, most of the time in a facility apparently run by Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) personnel. His interrogators tortured him with electric shocks, burned him with cigarettes, and beat him, demanding that he confess to working for Russia-backed separatists. After they finally released him, Vadim returned to Donetsk and was immediately detained by the local de facto authorities, who suspected him of having been recruited by Ukraine’s Security Service during his time in captivity. He spent more than two months in incommunicado detention in an unofficial prison in central Donetsk, where his captors also beat and ill-treated him.” The entire report is 42 pages, and Vadim’s case is summarized on its page 6, at the start of the Report’s “Summary.” Nowhere in the Report is that term “ill-treated” defined. However, that same page also employs the phrase “torture and other forms of ill-treatment.” Consequently, one may reasonably infer that “torture” relates to only the worst forms of “ill-treatment.” Though “torture” was alleged regarding Vadim’s allegations against Ukraine’s government, the term “ill-treatment” was alleged regarding his allegations against the breakaway republics. There is every indication that Ukraine’s present Government is nazi-controlled, but neither in the breakaway republics nor in Crimea is the Government racist-fascist (or “nazi”): they are the exact opposite — intensely anti-nazi — and so, too, is Russia’s Federal Government. Whereas America and its CIA brought in and protected many thousands of Nazis after WW II, the Soviet Union did the opposite: searched for them and killed them. Today’s Russia is continuing that aspect of its predecessor’s policies. Allegations in The West to the contrary are not merely lies: they are obscene, vicious, anti-historical, lies, which come from the true heirs of (in fact, the modernized versions of) Hitler, Gehlen, and Goebbels.
Cohen’s article continued, referring to Shariy’s friend who had warned him, by the pseudonym “Igor,” as follows:
The SBU also closely collaborates with neo-Nazi groups including Right Sector, Azov, and C14, which was contracted by the Ukrainian government to conduct street patrols.
‘A small Guantanamo’
Inside the sports complex-turned temporary torture prison, Igor says the sack over his head was replaced with a blindfold, leaving him only he could only see his legs.
A Ukrainian businessman who had long worked in transportation logistics – including stints in Moscow – a story typical of many Ukrainians, since returning to Kiev, Igor had maintained business ties to Moscow and Crimea, which had joined the Russian Federation after a successful referendum in 2014.
Several family members, including his mother, live in Russia and he regularly visited them until relations between the two countries reached a boiling point in 2021. “With the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the events of February 24, my mother started to call me very often because she was very afraid of my status,” he told me.
Territorial Defense began to round up anyone suspected of sympathizing with Russia, as well as Ukrainians with cross-border ties, whether family or business.
Inside the makeshift prison, Igor says he identified 25 to 30 distinct voices of imprisoned men, and saw 10 to 12 men in Russian military uniforms, what he believes were prisoners of war. Two of the Russians were severely beaten in order to motivate the others to give on-camera testimony about their hate for Putin and opposition to the war.
Other detainees were religious people known for assembling at military installations to pray for peace and homeless people who had no way to abide by the evening curfew and were swept up by nighttime patrols.
While many of those inside the complex were kept for a couple of hours and released, others were severely beaten. “It was like a small Guantanamo,” Igor recalled.
Igor says that he was interrogated three times, with each session lasting between 15 and 30 minutes. The beatings were carried out by Territorial Defense volunteers while SBU officers instructed them on how to torture and asked him questions.
“They used a lighter to heat up a needle, then put it under my fingernails,” he told me. “The worst was when they put a plastic bag over my head and suffocated me and when they held the muzzle of a Kalashnikov rifle to my head and forced me to answer their questions.
But he says the suffering he endured was minor in comparison to the torture of the Russian prisoners of war, who were beaten with metal pipes while the Ukrainian national anthem played on repeat in the background. “I could hear it because all the torture was done in a nearby room. It was psychologically severe. This was done at night, the sounds of beatings were constant. It was difficult to sleep.”
Listening to conversations of other prisoners, Igor understood that two prisoners from Belarus were beaten to death, identifying one as a man named Sergey. …
When SBU agents found videos of Shariy on Igor’s phone, officers from a separate department were called in. From then on, they began to treat him better, removing his handcuffs and giving him larger quantities of food. …
“As far as I understood, based on the information that I had to convey, the liquidation of Anatoly Shariy was being prepared, since he poses a danger to the government of Ukraine and criticizes the actions of the SBU, the government, and President Zelensky,” he told me. …
Now in an EU country, Igor is facing an uncertain future and is unable to return to Ukraine. “I am afraid, not only for my own life but for my relatives and my friends,” he says. …
With opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk, bruised and apparently beaten, in the custody of SBU, the threat against Shariy is clear. He continues to receive death threats against him and his family, sometimes 100 per day, he says.
Cohen’s article is not really about Shariy (who may be good, or may be bad), but about a government — the Government of Ukraine — which functions in the way that nazi governments do, and NOT in any way as a democratic government does. This is a fact that ought to be widely known in the United States, and in the EU, because the governments there are supporting and arming that Government; and this, in turn, says something about THOSE Governments — and about their self-alleged references to themselves as ‘supporting democracy and the rule of law’. If those self-descriptions are not propaganda, then propaganda does not exist anywhere. Consequently, lying like that besmirches the very meaning of “democracy” and should therefore be called what it is: very dangerous propaganda. If pro-Ukrainian-Government propaganda is not pro-racist-fascist or pro-nazi propaganda, then what is it? Is it not just lies but very dangerous lies? This is the reason why I hope that Cohen’s article will be receiving more public attention than it has.