By Mykhailo Makaruk, for InformNapalm
The “Derkach tapes” were first spoken about after the press conference by Andriy Derkach, that took place on May 19. The deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine convened journalists to introduce them audio recordings of conversations between Joe Biden and Petro Poroshenko, allegedly attesting to a connection existing between the US aid delivery to Ukraine and the “investigation of Burisma for corruption.” The recordings featured people speaking the voices of Joe Biden and Petro Poroshenko discussing a possible collapse of the parliamentary coalition in Ukraine and receipt of $1 bln in aid from the US ostensibly in exchange for dropping the investigation against the corrupt practices of Burisma, a natural gas company where the son of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden once held a board seat.
In Ukraine, the press conference went resonant mainly due to the reaction of a number of officials. For instance, MP from the Servant of the People faction Olexandr Kachura, closely related to the party of Putin`s godchild father Victor Medvedchuk The Ukrainian choice initiated the establishment of a provisional investigative commission of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for investigating the “Derkach tapes.” President Volodymyr Zelensky also commented on the situation, claiming that the law enforcement agencies should probe in the case. The case was immediately took up by the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. Petro Poroshenko and Joe Biden`s official representatives took the same position, and they have been maintaining it so far: they insisted that the tapes had been completely fabricated.
In the US, “the tapes” caused a great resonance and became the mainstream discussion in the political media. The audio recordings were commented upon by the largest American media – with remarks about their questionable origin and Andriy Derkach`s FSB background. Chanel Rion, a journalist at One America News TV also stated that she had such recordings at disposal and would refer them for verification to the international journalist community.
The following series of the “Derkach tapes” were released at the next press conference given by the MP on July 22 jointly with the former high-ranking officer of the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Kostiantyn Kulyk. The press conference had been announced as a new evidence of “international corruption and external governance of Ukraine.”
The third series of tapes was published on Andriy Derkach’s Facebook page and contained allegedly a conversation between Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin back in 2015. The conversation went resonant on social media as Poroshenko`s voice on the recordings is speaking in a rather polite and complimenting way, as if Putin hadn`t been the embodiment of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, but just an ordinary international partner. Petro Poroshenko and his supporters reiterated the recordings to be a fake.
The particular importance of the “Derkach tapes” is related to them having affected the US-Ukrainian relations and the fact they are seriously being discussed by top American politicians.
For this reason, we have conducted our own investigation of all circumstances of the case, taking into account the origin of the tapes, their distribution in the media, credibility of the newsmakers and the recording content. In the course of our work, we have interviewed dozens of people in Ukraine and abroad. Our conclusions, based on public and, partially, classified information, you can see below.
NabuLeaks and Chanel Rion: where did the audio recordings come from?
We will pay special attention to the question of the origin of the tapes. There are way too many versions that try to explain where the materials came from. Talking about the the tapes origin, Derkach mentions nabu-leaks.com and a related to the same website YouTube channel nabu-leaks. The website name refers to the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine and Wikileaks. Apart from the “Derkach tapes,” the website contains materials dated back in 2016 – the time of Derkach`s campaign on the “evidence” of an alleged US interference in the NABU work. The site is aimed for the American audience and is full of banners claiming the corruption in the US Democratic party. Nevertheless, the website was created by Ukrainians and in Ukraine. It is possible to see that, among other factors, by the data on the domain registrar.
The nabu-leaks.com website is written using the WordPress engine with Ukrainian localization. The website language cannot be even shifted to English, which makes it extremely difficult to surf for English speaking users.
Entries from IPs of various states give the same result: the website has Ukrainian speaking menu by default.
The time, according to the dates of publications, is also set as Kyiv one (WordPress allows to indicate the website time). Why it is important, we will clarify below.
The translation of documents on the website were clearly made by non-native English speakers (i.e. a great number of word constructions using multiple “of” in state bodies` names). Here and there, particularly in earlier publications, some documents and interviews lack of English translation. The more recent publications have both Ukrainian and English version, but at the same time, there are less publications now than before.
It is still a mystery over who owns the website. The section “About us” on nabu-leaks.com can be reached only in the Ukrainian version and does not contain any details of the website owner. The published materials are confusing: in some publications, the website creators call themselves “investigative journalists,” while in others, they provide a direct speech by Andriy Derkach without quotation marks. The Ukrainian journalist community is pretty tight-knit and full of horizontal connections, yet no one has claimed their affiliation with the project. Considering the website style, we suppose that journalists have nothing to do with the website. It is simply a low-quality mimicry of an “international journalist website.”
However, the mimicry cannot hide the obvious link between the nabu-leaks.com website to Andriy Derkach. The full text of another Derkach`s press-conference is published on nabu-leaks.com a few minutes before its beginning. At the press conference, Derkach reads the same text that has been published on nabu-leaks.com, shows pictures and videos posted on the website and on the NABUleaks YouTube channel. It looks like there is a draft template of actions: Andriy Derkach announces a press conference, he rents a room, then videos are uploaded on the NABUleaks YouTube channel, the text of the press conference is published, and after that, Derkach reads it out. Therefore, it cannot be claimed that NABUleaks publishes some data and Andriy Derkach finds them and makes them public. No: the NABUleaks poject is an internet platform controlled by Andriy Derkach or coordinated from a single center with Derkach.
Though, it is totally counter the public statements of Derkach. He tries to make it look like there are independent journalists from an independent source who present materials to the media, and he, MP Andriy Derkach, just covers it in the media and, therefore, refuses to answer questions about the origin and initial source of the materials.
Nevertheless, the link between the website and Derkach is clearly obvious, especially considering Derkach`s Facebook page and his publications back in 2019. Back then, he promoted the NABUleaks project, distributed their presentations and posted on his Google disk the originals (!) of documents released by NABUleaks in a better quality than the documents on the NABUleaks website.
Derkach says that he “unveils” the documents on NABUleaks.
However, the above-stated facts contradict his statement and show that the NABUleaks project is a cover for Andriy Derkach, as well as that the website is managed directly by him or by a centre associated with him.
Apart from Andriy Derkach and NABUleaks, there is one more person who claims possession of the conversation recordings. It is Chanel Rion, a journalist at One America News TV.
Chanel Rion insists that she has five (in other sources – ten) hours of recordings of conversation between Poroshenko and Biden, including private conversations. Moreover, these five hours are other conversations between the politicians that do not include phone recordings posted on NABUleaks. The screenshot shows the message sent by Rion to Biden`s team.
On June 20 2020, Chanel Rion announces publication of the recordings after their verification and examination by investigative journalists during summer and fall before the US election.
At the same time, she says that the recordings have already been verified by a person from Poroshenko`s surroundings who was present during some of these conversations.
And the recordings were allegedly handed over to her from the Administration of State Guard of Ukraine: «coming from Ukrainian secret service and separately confirmed by a source who was present during some of these recordings» (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30FLGbe_VN0 or https://www.bitchute.com/video/E96UkurvYxyM/).
However, Chanel Rion does not use any of these allegedly existing extensive recordings or data from them, she does not post their transcription and does not tell what these recordings are exactly about. She always refers only to those recordings that have ALREADY been posted on NABUleaks and have been presented by Andriy Derkach.
We haven`t found any recordings published by Rion that hadn`t been published before by Andriy Derkach. Whenever posting the recordings, she posts not the original materials, which would be logical, but takes the content from the NABUleaks website. For instance, during the program on June 20, Chanel Rion announces the forthcoming releases after their verification by international investigative journalists and uses the recordings presented by Derkach at the press conference on May 19. Chanel Rion uses the audio recordings taken directly from the NABULeaks channel.
Two days after the announcement of the forthcoming investigations by Rion, on June 22, Derkach makes public new recordings at a press conference.
Suppose, Rion`s version is true and she gets informed from some sources in the Administration of State Guard of Ukraine independently of Derkach. It can mean that these sources ask her to announce and synchronize actions with Andriy Derkach and do not allow her to publish materials from her behalf. It is also unclear why Chanel Rion eagerly publishes unverified materials by NABUleaks/Andriy Derkach that have already been posted, yet is afraid to publish other similar unverified materials sent to her by unknown investigators.
This all looks like Chanel Rion does not verify anything at all and blindly trusts the information from the NABUleaks project related to Derkach, or that both Derkach and Chanel Rion get informed from some third source. Thus, she cannot be considered as the initial source of information.
We can only make a conclusion: the initial public source of all recordings is Andriy Derkach and the non-public sources are either he himself, or unidentified non-journalist persons affiliated with him.
The statements and evidence of other possible sources are either extremely doubtful (as in the case of Chanel Rion), or are artificial and affiliated with Derkach (as in the case of NABUleaks).
Who is Andriy Derkach?
There is plenty of public information on the life and past of People’s Deputy Andriy Derkach. He is a member of one of the Soviet security services dynasties. His father Leonid Derkach, the head of the Security Service of Ukraine during the Leonid Kuchma presidency and a defendant in the “Gongadze tapes” case, graduated from the Higher Courses of the KGB in 1973. As for Andriy Derkach, he graduated from the Academy of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation in 1993, with a thesis on “Psychological Assessment of a Group of Terrorists in the Capture of a Hostage Aircraft.”
Since 1998, Andriy Derkach has been a deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine that changed parties of Leonid Kuchma for parties of Viktor Yanukovych, and his membership in a party for a majoritarian mandate from the Sumy Oblast. There was only one short break in his MP career: whilst Yanukovych premiership in 2006: for a short time Derkach became head of Energoatom, Ukraine’s largest energy company. However, in 2007, he returned to the Verkhovna Rada again. Now, Derkach is a deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, elected in the Sumy Oblast, as well as a founder and long-term Deputy Chairman of the parliamentary faction People’s Will in Sumy.
Andriy Derkach is a pro-Russian politician who criticizes the “external governance of Ukraine by the West.” He does not hide his sympathy for the USSR, Russia and its security services. Apart from his thesis, Andriy Derkach wrote several books, one of them is “Ukraine-Russia: test of friendship.” Friendship with Russia is Derkach’s favorite topic. Once, he even founded the parliamentary union “To Europe together with Russia” with Dmytro Tabachnyk, an odious fighter against the Ukrainian language, as the union’s secretary.
Particular attention should be given to the role of Andriy Derkach among the friends of the Russian Orthodox Church. The role is obvious considering the following fact: in 2004 during the visit of Russian President to the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, Derkach was the only politician who took part in Vladimir Putin’s tea-drinking with Metropolitan Vladimir. In January 2009, Andriy Derkach was one of the few laity delegates to the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church who were allowed to participate in the elections for the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (Patriarch Kirill, the future ideologist of the “Russian world”, won the elections). In September 2018, Derkach became one of the signers of a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with a demand to postpone the provision of the tomos to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and to preserve its relationship with the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Photo of MP Andriy Derkach taken from his Facebook page. The abbreviation KGB is played up as the opposition to pro-Western “grant-eaters”
The “Biden tapes” scandal is not the first one organized by Derkach. In December 2019, he already showed publicly a sensational document. At a press conference, declared as exposing the activities of NJSC Naftogaz (since 2014, Derkach has been systematically exposing Naftogaz), Derkach unexpectedly showed a “secret warrant” addressed to the KGB and allegedly written personally by Ukrainian billionaire Viktor Pinchuk. According to Derkach, Victor Pinchuk had been collaborating with the KGB under the operational pseudonym “Valery.” “Pinchuk’s secret warrant” triggered an ambivalent reaction in the Ukrainian society: most of the people considered Andriy Derkach a deliberate liar and freak and stopped taking seriously any information coming from him. A minor part of people took the deputy’s statement seriously, but since such a warrant can only be obtained from the FSB (since there are no such documents in the Ukrainian archives), Derkach was called a Russian spy.
Is Andriy Derkach really tied to Russia, or is he simply disinterestedly loving it from afar? The media published the schedule that showed frequent trips of the MP to Russia. We verified the data and can state that the data is correct.
Andriy Derkach’s travel schedule to Russia (https://from-ua.com/news/560808-deputat-andrei-derkach-ezdit-v-moskvu-kak-na-rabotu.html):
|16.11.2010 15:18||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ВНУКОВО)|
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|17.01.2015 08:49||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
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|11.09.2018 14:46||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ E|
|13.09.2018 20:14||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ E|
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|02.10.2018 14:50||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ E|
|03.10.2018 19:30||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ E|
|26.10.2018 10:34||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ДОМОДЕДОВО)|
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|29.11.2018 00:00||ВЪЕЗД||МИНСК НАЦИОНАЛЬНЫЙ АЭРОПОРТ (АВИА) (БЕЛ.)|
The trips in 2014 and 2015 are especially interesting. Back then, Andriy Derkach visited Russia 5-6 times a year, even though he had no official business interests or any family members there. Minsk was a transit stop in these trips as direct flights from Ukraine to Russia have been prohibited since the beginning of the aggression against Ukraine. Since 2019, Derkach has completely changed his geographic preferences and began flying exclusively to Poland. Considering their frequency and duration, these visits could become interesting to the Polish Internal Security Agency. But perhaps the answer is simpler: Derkach continues flying to Russia, using Poland as a transit stop instead of Belarus. According to our information from our exclusive sources from the Security Service of Ukraine even though Derkach does not have any official economic interests in Russia, in fact, he does have them and they are quite significant. With a strong faction in the regional council, Andriy Derkach concentrated his power in Hlukhiv, a town located in the north of the Sumy Oblast. In Hlukhiv, he has almost dictatorial power. According to Viktor Bobirenko, an activist in Sumy, “To the north of the Seym river in the Sumy Oblast, a fireman in a village school will not be appointed without an oath of allegiance to the royal house.” The civil network “OPORA” describes the town with the following words: “The most influential politician in the district is A. Derkach. He and his representatives (for example, the head of the People’s Will party in the regional council O. Boyarintsev, the Mayor of Hlukhiv Y. Burlaka) completely control the political processes in the district.”
The north of the Sumy Oblast does not have a powerful economy, but there may be certain reasons for focusing the power there. The first reason is smuggling, a long-term problem for Hlukhiv district. Of course, smuggling is impossible without connections with the border service of the Russian Federation, which is part of the FSB. Both Sumy activists and the mayor of Hlukhiv Michel Tereshchenko are blaming Andriy Derkach in copartnership in the local smuggling business.
The second reason is less covered by the media. In the Hlukhiv district, there is a unique Banitsky quartzite deposit. Here, it is mined high-quality raw materials for the silicon production, which is used in the Russian defense industry. According to the recent investigation of “Schemes. Corruption in detail” on Radio Svoboda, the main consumer of quartzite raw material from the Hlukhiv region is the Russian defense industry. LLC Glukhiv Quarzites (Banitsky) Quarry, a company that operates in Banitsky deposit, belongs to the Cypriot company United Company Rusal Silicon Limited, which is part of the RUSAL group. RUSAL group belongs to Oleg Deripaska, a US sanctioned Russian billionaire, Putin’s friend.
According to Schemes, half of the raw material extracted at the Banitsky deposit goes to Russian companies of Oleg Deripaska, and another half goes to the companies of Vladimir Lisin, another Russian billionaire. Deripaska’s company “Silicon-Ural” allegedly uses quartzite raw material for the Russian defense industry, and JSC Konstruktorskoe Buro Priborostroeniya (KBP) in particular. This enterprise produces high-precision weapon systems for the Russian army.
Source: “Schemes. Corruption in detail” on Radio Svoboda
The Derkach family has befriended with Oleg Deripaska long time ago. “People’s Deputy Andriy Derkach , the son of the head of the SBU, helped Deripaska to enter the NGZ (Nikolaev alumina plant),” writes the Russian Forbes. According to the media, in 1999, after a meeting with the participation of Andriy Derkach and Oleg Deripaska, the director of the Nikolaev Alumina Plant was dismissed on the basis of “classified materials of the SBU,” and Mikhail Stolyarov, a protege of Siberian-Urals Aluminium, became the new director.
According to InformNapalms information from Security Service Of Ukraine, it is the deputy from the Sumy Oblast Andriy Derkach who controls the Hlukhiv district, is Deripaska’s partner in the quartzite quarry. Thanks to the intervention of the MP and his political agreements, the quartzite mining license was not revoked, despite the clear connection with the Russian defense industry during the war. The local authorities do not have any questions about their careers either, despite the fact that from 2012 to 2013, the mining process was semi-legal and in 2016 it raised questions from law enforcement agencies.
According to the investigation, there was 183.3 million hryvnias damage inflicted – and nevertheless, thanks to Derkach, the local authorities and the regional council did not raise any questions. According to our information, not only Derkach is managing the Hlukhiv quarry issue, but also the deputies from the People’s Will faction of the Sumy Regional Council who are associated with Derkach, in particular, the head of the faction Oleg Boyarintsev. Derkach’s legislative initiatives also show his interest in the Hlukhiv quarry. For instance, he submitted a draft resolution to the Verkhovna Rada to prevent decreasing the power of local councils on granting land use permits.
Thus, Andriy Derkach is a person who not only publicly expresses his commitment to friendship with Russia, but also has close ties with Russia both through Oleg Deripaska and through the Russian Orthodox Church. In his activities, Andriy Derkach focuses on key areas of the Russian agenda in Ukraine: “exposing American governance in Ukraine,” “fighting pro-Western grant organizations,” “fighting Naftogaz,” “fighting NABU.” All these activities only complement the image of the Russian agent of influence in Ukraine, an agent who is constantly coordinating his actions with the Russian secret services and probably remaining their full-time employee after graduating from the FSB Academy.
Kostiantyn Kulyk, a partner of Derkach in a special operation
Another person directly involved in the publication of the “Derkach tapes” is Kostiantyn Kulyk. At a press conference by Andriy Derkach on June 22, Kostiantyn Kulyk confirmed the content of the “tapes,” saying that “in August 2019, I got information that [the former Minister of Ecology of Ukraine Mykola] Zlochevsky allocated $50 million to close criminal cases related to activities of Burisma.” Thus, Kulyk became the only “witness” to the possibility that “Derkach tapes” have anything to do with reality.
The name of Kostiantyn Kulyk is well known in Ukraine. A high-ranking employee of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine (Deputy Head of the Department of International Legal Cooperation), dismissed in December 2019, became involved in a number of scandals, including international ones. Most of the scandals are related to Kulyk’s attempts to unleash the cases related to US presidential candidate Joe Biden and the Ukrainian gas company Burisma. A number of Ukrainian media call him a protege of Viktor Shokin. Shokin is the 13th Prosecutor General of Ukraine. While he was the Prosecutor, Kulyk got to the Prosecutor General Office. Media also call Kulyk as a protege of Yuriy Lutsenko and Petro Poroshenko, even though in the midst of the 2019 presidential elections Kostiantyn Kulyk publicly accused the 5th President of Ukraine of interfering in the case of Serhiy Kurchenko, an odious businessman, one of Viktor Yanukovych associates. Poroshenko, in his turn, said that Kulyk “received an order from [Ihor] Kolomoisky, whose lawyer he met in Vienna, violated the oath, and broke the law.”
The question whose man Kulyk really is can be answered by another part of his biography. Kostiantyn Kulyk is a business partner of Yevgeny Zhilin and a godfather of a Zhilin’s child. Yevgeny Zhilin was a separatist and a commander of the Kharkiv criminal group Oplot. He died in 2016. It is worth mentioning that Alexander Zakharchenko was also head of the Donetsk branch of Oplot, as well as a leader of the militants of the terrorist organization “Donetsk People’s Republic.” He was killed in 2018.
Kulyk knew Zhilin since at least the mid-2000s. They had business relationships. For instance, in January 2014, the mother of Kostiantyn Kulyk and Yevgeny Zhilin’s company pledged their property for a loan of UAH 15 million (at that time, it was an equivalent of more than 2 million US dollars) in Finbank for a newly created company. The company was liquidated, the money was not given back to the bank, and the arrested property of Zhilin and Kulyk was removed from arrest due to the forged documents. This way, Kulyk’s mother presented the pledged assets obtained via this operation to her son. Thus, the connection between Kulyk and Zhilin was quite significant.
Information wave in Ukraine
The specific nature of information distribution of the “Derkach tapes” points out that it is a well-coordinated operation that gets orders from a single center. The Russian special information operations unfolded in Ukraine are characterized by the coherence and simultaneity of actions by Ukrainian and Russian media and experts both inside Ukraine and abroad. After the initial publication of the “Derkach tapes” with conversations between Joe Biden and Petro Poroshenko, all these tools were supported by the common thesis line and were operated simultaneously. Among others, there are:
- A media holding, active in Ukraine and controlled by Viktor Medvedchuk, father of Putin`s godchild: 112, ZIK and NewsOne TV channels. It is worth mentioning here also the pro-Russian Nash channel controlled not by Medvedchuk, but a former MP Yevheniy Murayev.
- Russian media specialized in highlighting the Ukrainian agenda in the Kremlin manner: Russia Today, RuBaltic.Ru, EADaily, Moskovskij Komsomolets, Gazeta.Ru, Ukraina.Ru, the Federal Agency of News, and many others.
- Experts who have joined the deal in synch and are connected with Medvedchuk: vice president of the Modern Diplomacy Development Foundation Dmitriy Perlin and journalist Alexandr Zubchenko; journalist from Odesa and a former chief editor of the ”Infocenter” website Vitaliy Didenko (convicted to 3 years for separatism and drug possession); journalist and political analyst Pavel Karnazytsky (has publicly admitted to have been recruited by KGB, expelled from Ukraine in 2019 by the decision of the State Security Service (SBU); journalist from Odesa Artem Buzila (convicted by a Ukrainian court for separatism, now resident in Moscow); political analyst and chairman of the Crimean Regional Public Organization “Centre for the Political Education” Ivan Meziukho – Russia Today staff expert; head of the Franklin Roosevelt Foundation for the United States Studies at the Moscow State University Yuriy Rogulev; odious former MP of the Party of Regions Oleg Tsaryov, and many others.
Despite the common thesis “We knew it before that Ukraine was governed by the US,” the pro-Russian and Russian media and experts, traditionally involved in the information war against Ukraine, showed a great interest in the tapes and in the course of 1-2 days made publications with the same messages in synch.
For the record, the ordinary Ukrainian media were less interested: after publication of “the warrant by KGB agent Viktor Pinchuk,” Derkach has developed a sustained reputation of a freak and he could not be deemed a credible source for the Ukrainian media.
But the third time, in July, when Derkach announced a release of recorded conversations between Putin and Poroshenko, it generated a great interest in the Ukrainian media (basically, due to Poroshenko`s public reaction). At the same time, for some reasons, it has virtually generated no interest among the above mentioned media. Our analysis shows that the media backfire from the third recordings series is far smaller. The key is simple: the third series of the “Derkach tapes” has nothing to do with the upcoming election in the US and there was no order to invest in its promotion.
Considering the analysis of the information space, we conclude that the wave of artificial interest of the Russian “battlefield leaflets” to the “Derkach tapes” completely served as a prelude to shifting the materials to the American topic. Similarly, there were experts and journalists involved, who had previously participated in the special information operations of Russia against the US. In the first place, it`s Russia Today. Apart from RT, the information operation was joined by already mentioned Chanel Rion, political analyst from the Ottawa University Ivan Kachanovskiy, professor Lukas Leros from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and many others.
Thus, the special information operation in the first revealing series by Andriy Derkach featured the whole pool of the permanent actors of Russian information wars: in Ukraine, Russia, the US, and worldwide. We link the activity precisely with the name of Joe Biden, a candidate of the US 2020 presidential election, and also with the intention of the above mentioned media to discredit or put a pressure on him by accusing the latter of corrupt acts in Ukraine.
Oplot was created in 2010 and it stood out among the other criminal gangs in Kharkov: the main goal of the battalion was “to oppose the glorification of the OUN-UPA,” and the battalion’s team of 350 men was significantly larger than a team of an average gang. Zhilin’s statement in an interview with Ukrayinska Pravda that he “always got money from somewhere,” according to our opinion, is a confession of being financed from external sources.
After a couple of sentences in the same interview, Zhilin insists that Russia’s intelligence activity in Ukraine is a normal and even necessary practice, since they were talking about brother nations. According to InformNapalm, Yevgeny Zhilin’s Oplot was created and operated in Ukraine as an undercover sabotage group that was always ready to openly switch to the side of Russia. And that, actually, was exactly what happened in 2014 after the start of Russian aggression. Oplot is responsible for a number of terrorist attacks and kidnapping of activists from the Ukrainian Maidan; after the invasion of the Donbas, Oplot became a battalion of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” terrorist organization.
Despite all of this, Kulyk remained in touch with Zhilin after the start of the war. The media published the correspondence between Zhilin and Kulyk dated 2016. The Ukrainian prosecutor and the leader of the pro-Russian terrorists allegedly discussed a special operation to free the pro-Russian leader Alexander Katsuba (today, Katsuba is free and, according to Volodymyr Boiko and the information of InformNapalm, he is the main donor of the pro-Russian Party of Shariy). InformNapalm cannot verify this information, but considers it plausible, considering some of the details in the correspondence.
It seems that Kulyk is close not only to Yuriy Lutsenko and other statesmen from the team of Petro Poroshenko, but also to the Russian secret services. How such a person could get into the Prosecutor General’s Office is a rhetorical question, considering the enormous influence of the Russian secret services and agents of influence in post-Soviet Ukraine. Anyway, if Yuriy Lutsenko was the one who had imposed interest in American affairs to Kulyk, then Kulyk would hardly have attended Derkach’s press conferences and desperately tried to influence the US elections within a year after his dismissal. It seems that Kulyk’s interest in the US elections is not connected with Lutsenko, Poroshenko or Shokin, but with other factors.
The authentication of Derkach digital audio recording
Now that we have described the framework and mechanics of this information operation, there is the question of whether the tapes are authentic.
The “Derkach tapes” are published in a specific file format that excludes the possibility of evaluating their authenticity. A digital recording uploaded to YouTube can be compiled word by word, or completely falsified by using computer voice editing software. Here are the examples of software that allow to create such recordings.
Usually, if the records are authentic, an unedited recording is published, and the original analogue recording is provided to independent experts. This is exactly how InformNapalm, Ukrainian Cyber Alliance and other research groups do whenever they get a large amount of classified information.
Technically, it is not possible to assess the authenticity (i.e., the absence of editing and computer editing) of digital data with the current level of technology. Andriy Derkach has published digital recordings cut in parts and have not provided any original analog recordings. Thus, his actions obviously do not resemble the disclosure of authentic classified information and look like the distribution of fake recordings instead.
The version of the recording origin is not transparent and does not stand up to criticism. According to Andriy Derkach, he has received the recordings from “investigative journalists.” However, there are no journalists neither in Ukraine nor abroad who could get any recordings from Office of the President; this option is possible only through secret services. Moreover, it is obvious that journalists, if they had such recordings and did not doubt their authenticity, would publish them themselves.
How can Derkach get authentic recordings from Poroshenko’s office? According to the records, it is possible only if Poroshenko would give them to him. In the first edited fragments of phone conversations Biden and Poroshenko allegedly had, one can hear that Poroshenko is still in his office whilst Biden is answering the phone. It is impossible to suppose that there was systematic audio recording in Poroshenko’s office without him knowing about it.
It is also highly doubtful that the records were kept in the Administration of the President of Ukraine and then were handed over to someone after Zelensky’s victory. During his resignation, Petro Poroshenko extremely meticulously got rid of all the information. He was even accused of the newly appointed Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine Oleksandr Danylyuk of that he unauthorizedly took away the equipment of the “situation room” in the Presidential Administration. Poroshenko has officially refuted the wiretapping. Moreover, the publication of the “Derkach tapes” is politically disadvantageous for Poroshenko his party European Solidarity: the published recordings clearly discredit him and become harmful on the eve of local elections.
After the second series of “Derkach tapes”, namely the publication of a conversation between Poroshenko and Putin, the conspiracy theory of Poroshenko allegedly transferring real records to Derkach cannot be taken seriously: it is not possible to imagine that Poroshenko would provide with such compromising evidence on himself to anyone.
However, another version is also possible. The “Derkach tapes” could have been compiled from the original recordings of three groups of audio recordings:
– “The voice of Petro Poroshenko speaking English indoors” (the recordings could have been obtained by any Ukrainian or foreign officer or journalist during official or unofficial communication with Poroshenko),
– “The voice of Joe Biden on the phone” (recordings could be obtained by any journalist and voter in the United States),
– “The voice of Vladimir Putin on the phone” (recordings of Putin’s voice on the phone are available on the Internet and can also be obtained from the Presidential Administration of Russia).
The efforts required to compile and distribute a fake recording greatly exceed the capacity of Derkach and his PR specialists or journalists. We believe that this workload is possible only with the help of secret services that was long and painstakingly preparing an information operation.
According to open data and information from InformNapalm sources, basing on the totality of the facts, we state:
- “Derkach tapes” exist only in digital form and that makes it meaningless to talk about their authenticity. This is not the first time Andriy Derkach has published fake documents – see, for instance, “Victor Pinchuk’s secret warrant.”
- When explaining the sources of the tapes, Derkach contradicts himself and lies. All other sources claiming that they have “original records” (in particular, the American journalist Chanel Rion) in fact use the NABU Leaks website controlled by Derkach as a primary source.
- Andriy Derkach is a Kremlin’s agent of influence in Ukraine. He is closely linked to Russia and Russian intelligence by a number of ways: commercial (through Oleg Deripaska), personal (through his father), as well as socio-political (through the Russian Orthodox Church).
- In this special operation, the other partners of Derkach, in particular, Konstantin Kulik, are also associated with the Russian Federation and its activities in order to create a sabotage and intelligence network in Ukraine.
- The information operation “Derkach tapes” is not aimed at affecting the internal Ukrainian processes, but at interfering in the 2020 US presidential election.
Considering the entire array of information about the “Derkach tapes,” the question is not whether this was a Russian special operation, but why this work was done so crudely and openly. The answer is simple. During the election campaign in the United States, it is necessary to influence the audience of ordinary Americans, who do not know how to analyze sources and for whom Derkach is just a Ukrainian.
Using the stereotype about “Ukrainian corruption” and a Ukrainian politician, the Russian special services break through some of the critical thinking barriers and flood the American media with fake information directly or through a proxy. Considering that the “Derkach tapes” have provoked the reaction of the largest US media and a number of American politicians, we have to admit that the special operation was successful. As the presidential elections in the United States approach, we should expect a new series of “Derkach tapes” and new attempts to promoting them in the American media and political space.
By Mykhailo Makaruk, for InformNapalm
This intelligence and analytical report was prepared by Mykhailo Makaruk for InformNapalm readers. Distribution and reprint with reference to the source is welcome! (Creative Commons — Attribution 4.0 International — CC BY 4.0)