“Anticorruptional psychological operation” by Serhii Liamets

“Power trinity” – the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of State, USAID – are you asleep?

Artem Shylo, the Head of the SBU Main Directorate, published a scandalous post today. He promises “to pull the tongue out and break the arms” of those, who forged the screenshots of his wife’s russian passport. He will fulfill his promises as soon as he’s fired from his position of the Head of SBU Main Directorate for Counterintelligence Protection of Critical Infrastructure and Countering Terrorist Financing.

Later, his wife re-posted her husband’s promise, adding that she feels content now. Her picture in the russian passport is a blatant fake, Mrs. Shylo confirmed.

These posts are gone as of now, and Facebook considers them to be instigations of violence. You can still have a look at them by following the link.

The situation appears to be quite tricky. I have no doubts whatsoever that Mrs. Shylo’s passport is a fake. Regarding the persons responsible for this Photoshop marvel, I have two equally viable versions.

One, someone really tried to discredit Artem Shylo by forging his wife’s russian passport.

It goes without saying that it’s a stupid and treacherous endeavor. I am willing to help Artem restore his family’s dignity. At least, to help morally.

Yet, there’s a second version, equally viable: someone committed to this forgery for Artem Shylo’s sake. I’m not saying that he photoshopped it himself. But the idea of creating a minor scandal is rather understandable.

Recently, “Ukraiinska Pravda” published an alleged screenshot of the russian passport of Oleksandr Liiev, the Acting Head of the Department of Military and Technical Policy, Development of Arms and Military Equipment of the Ministry of Defense. Later, when this screenshot was proven to be a fake, “Ukraiinska Pravda” issued a published apology. And Mr. Liiev came out on top looking live a rather decent person. He’s now somehow immune to the future scandals.

So, why not play the same card here? I am not stating that it’s the way it is, I am only suggesting a worthwhile version. Think about it, somebody publishes an outright lie, a screenshot of the high ranking SBU officer’s wife alleged russian passport. He gets insulted, and he crosses a line of sorts by switching to criminal lingo and promising to “deal with it like a man”. But Artem, being a respectable officer, promises to do so only when he’s no longer working for the agency. The wife joins in eventually and appreciates her husband’s promise. If it was a soap on TV, I’d definitely enjoy it. In fact, I’d do the same in Artem’s position.

But as a journalist who’s seen all kinds of stuff, I do not enjoy it at all. I’d even say that this move is rather clumsy. One needs to understand the way Ukrainian people interpret things alike. They interpret them as disrespect for society.

Just a reminder, Artem Shylo is not Zaluzhnyi and is not Zelenskyy. He’s not a war hero and is not heroically fighting the russian business in Ukraine. Just the opposite, he’s suspected to voluntarily “turn a blind eye” to the russian business in Ukraine in wartime. He’s also suspected to be corrupt.

Let’s look at Mr. Shylo’s backstory.

You might have forgotten about the Bihus.info investigation “Special agent Shylo: $4 million dollar property, 1xBet scandal, and ties with Tatarov”. The journalists exposed the possible ties of the officer with the russian business in Ukraine.

Artem Shylo is the Head of the SBU Main Directorate for Counterintelligence Support of Critical Infrastructure and Countering Terrorist Financing.

The department was formed in the summer of 2022, and was intended to counter the influence of the russian business in Ukraine. Six months later, there are not much of high-profile cases and actual results. There’s been no comprehensive seizure and confiscation of russian oligarchs’ assets. Just the opposite, something bizarre goes on when standalone assets are arrested, with the rest of the russian enterprises slipping away from the law enforcers’ attention. Selectivity like this indicates either unprofessionalism or backroom deals, which is a classic case of corruption.

A supposedly resounding victory was the announcement of suspicion to the head of the Central Bank of Russia, Elvira Nabiullina, for introduction of a “ruble zone in the temporarily occupied territories. Sounds nice, but Ukraine gained from it nothing at all. Sluggish comments, from the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine in particular, indicate that the seizure of russian assets is in a state of utter chaos.

Instead, you can search the Internet for publications regarding the russian gambling business. You will surely come across articles about 1xBet. This operator has officially admitted that its legal entity based in russia transfers 1% of its revenue to “our guys, the heroes of the special operation”. Meaning they have been financing the armed aggression against Ukraine.

The audacity of this case is essentially the fact that for almost 11 months of war, the russian bookmakers have been operating in Ukraine. They even got a state-issued license.

According to the media, their interest was lobbied by Boris Baum, an affluent rep of the gambling business who is said to be close with “Luzhniki group”. This is a powerful criminal organization from russia.

In 2020, “Babel” wrote that Boris Baum (at the time, in charge of the money to fight the coronavirus) was a freelance advisor to the Deputy Head of the President’s Office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko. He was fired by the President Volodymyr Zelenskyy not so long ago, by the way.

Back in January 2023, the President signed the National Security and Defense Council sanctions against Royal Pay, one of 1xBet’s wallets. Only now (!!), the sanctions against the company are expected to be imposed directly.

According to media reports, Artem Shylo, instead of countering the russian business in Ukraine, affiliated 1xBet in penetrating our betting market. This intel does not come from the “gutter press”. It comes from Bihus.info, keep in mind. Surely, the information must be verified during the investigation. But have a look at this peculiar fact. The accusations were never refuted by the accused. The publication was never sued. As if nothing happened at all. Although the investigations were not so much about corruption, but co-operation with enemy of Ukraine.

Coming back to “Luzhniki group”, a certain set of facts is at our disposal. Boris Baum, who Shylo’s department is totally OK with, is a member of the Luzhniki organized crime group controlled by the Deputy Chairman of the State Duma, Alexander Babakov. As we know, he owns the powerful VS Energy Group that controls five regional power companies and one of the largest hotel chains in Ukraine.

Right up until December 2022, Babakov, who publicly called for execution of the “foreign mercenaries” in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, was doing very well in Ukraine. Only in December (!!), the court seized his assets. Nevertheless, VS Energy still controls national infrastructure facilities, which energy supplies of five regions of Ukraine depend on. For almost a year of the full-scale war, Shylo’s SBU department has been turning a blind eye to it.

It seems that the chaos in countering the russians is very much controlled.

The public was even more impressed by Shylo’s fabulously wealthy lifestyle. Turns out this lifestyle in no way corresponds to the income their family officially received.

Upon the publication of investigative pieces, the wife closed access to her Instagram and Facebook pages. However, the screenshots of her posts keep on roaming the Internet. They tried to settle the matter quietly, but it seems that they’ve failed to do so.

What do we know from this investigation? Two three-room apartments in a luxurious Residential complex Novopecherski Lypky — estimated market value $700,000 — are owned by Shylo himself. These apartments were purchased during the war, in May 2022.

Nearby, in the same “Novopecherski Lypky” complex, Shylo’s wife owns a two-bedroom apartment and commercial real estate worth more than $2 million.

Also, Shylo’s wife owns a total of 275 square meters in a clubhouse in Kyiv city center, where she runs a beauty parlor. The estimated market value of this property is another $1 million.

The most favorite Ukrainian topic, cars. Two vehicles are registered in Shylo’s wife’s name, a Mercedes and a Toyota Camry. A house just outside of Kyiv is registered in Shylo’s father’s name.

Make no mistake about that, the salary of an SBU officer has to be decent. However, it can’t amount to several million dollars over several years’ time. Surprisingly, there was no official reaction from the President’s Office to the Bihus.info investigation, hasn’t been one to this day.

So, to summarize the Shylo’s case. What does an outside observer make of this situation?

We have two worlds.

One has a very quick response to reports of corruption. The officials are suspended and removed from the office at the slightest suspicion; every penny for the battlefront counts after all, and the missteps of one cast a shadow on everybody, so reactions come fast and harsh. This first world, I’m sorry to say, is a fairy tale.

There is another world, as real as gets. Guys like Artem Shylo feel great, feel confident in this world. For months, the finest fact-checkers and investigators have been providing irrefutable evidence of his guilt, yet for some reason, no decision regarding the accused has come to pass.

However, we are still hopeful about “power trinity”. The U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of State, USAID and the U.S. Embassy to Ukraine, please, look into this case.

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