The “Derkach tapes” were became a conversation subject after the press conference by Andriy Derkach that took place on May 19. The deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine convened journalists to provide them with audio recordings of conversations between Joe Biden and Petro Poroshenko, allegedly proving the existence of a connection between the delivery of US aid to Ukraine and the “investigation of Burisma for corruption.” In the recordings, people that sounded like Joe Biden and Petro Poroshenko discussed a possible collapse of the parliamentary coalition in Ukraine and the payment of $1 billion 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 was widely publicized mainly due to the reactions of a number of officials. For instance, an MP from the Servant of the People faction Olexandr Kachura, connected to the party of Putin`s child’s godfather Victor Medvedchuk The Ukrainian Choice, requested the establishment of a provisional commission of the Verkhovna Rada to investigate the “Derkach tapes.” President Volodymyr Zelensky also commented on the situation, stating that the law enforcement agencies should review the tapes. The case was immediately taken up by the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. Poroshenko and Joe Biden’s official representatives have maintained that the tapes had been fabricated.
In the US, “the tapes” caused a great resonance and became a subject of the discussion in the mainstream 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. On the other hand, Chanel Rion of One America News stated that she had copies of the recordings and was going to provide them to other media for verification.
The next batch of “Derkach tapes” was 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 batch 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 since 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 “Derkach tapes” are particularly important since they have affected the US-Ukrainian relations and are being seriously 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, the credibility of the newsmakers and the content of the recordings. 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 paid special attention to the origin of the tapes. There are way too many different explanations of that. Derkach himself mentions the website nabu-leaks.com and a related YouTube channel nabu-leaks. The website’s name is a reference to the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine and Wikileaks. Apart from the “Derkach tapes,” the website contains materials dated back in 2016 – the time when Derkach was promoting the “evidence” of an alleged US interference in the NABU work. The site targets 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’s navigation is in Ukrainian and cannot be even switched to English, which makes it extremely difficult to use the site for English speaking users.
Connections from IP addresses belonging to different countries give the same result: the website has the Ukrainian language menu by default.
Based on the dates of publications, the site’s time zone is also Ukrainian (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 sequences using multiple “of” in state bodies` names). Here and there, particularly in earlier publications, some documents and interviews lack English translations altogether. The more recent publications have both Ukrainian and English versions, but at the same time, there are fewer publications now than before.
It is still a mystery 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 nabu-leaks.com and Andriy Derkach. The full text of Derkach`s press-conference is published on nabu-leaks.com a few minutes before it starts. At the press conference, Derkach reads the same text that has just been published on nabu-leaks.com, shows photos and videos posted on the website and on the NABUleaks YouTube channel. It looks like a pattern of actions: Andriy Derkach announces a press conference, he rents a room, then videos are uploaded to 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.
This is completely counter to the public statements of Derkach. He tries to make it look like there are independent journalists with an independent source who present materials to the media, and he, MP Andriy Derkach, just publicizes them and, therefore, refuses to answer questions about the origin and initial source of the materials.
Nevertheless, the link between the website and Derkach is clear, 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 Drive the documents released by NABUleaks in better quality than their copies on the NABUleaks website.
Derkach says that he “unveils” the documents published by NABUleaks.
However, the above facts contradict his statement and show that the NABUleaks project is a cover for Andriy Derkach, controlled directly by him or by another entity that also controls him.
Apart from Andriy Derkach and NABUleaks, there is one more person who claims possession of the recordings: Chanel Rion, a journalist at One America News.
Chanel Rion insists that she has five (in other sources – ten) hours of recordings of conversations between Poroshenko and Biden, including private conversations. Moreover, these five hours are in addition to the phone recordings posted by NABUleaks. The screenshot shows the message sent by Rion to Biden`s team.
During her broadcast on June 20 2020, Chanel Rion announced the publication of the recordings after their verification and examination by investigative journalists during the summer and fall before the US election. At the same time, she said that the recordings had already been verified by a person from Poroshenko`s circles who was present during some of those conversations. And the recordings were allegedly delivered to her from the Department 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 by NABUleaks and have been presented by Andriy Derkach.
We haven`t found any recordings published by Rion that hadn`t been previously published by Andriy Derkach. Whenever she publishes any of the recordings, she doesn’t use the original materials, which would be logical, but takes the content from the NABUleaks website. For instance, her broadcast on June 20, when she announced the forthcoming releases after their verification by international investigative journalists, was based on the recordings presented by Derkach at the press conference on May 19. The audio recordings were taken directly from the NABULeaks channel.
Two days after the announcement of the forthcoming investigations by Rion, on June 22, Derkach made public new recordings at another press conference. If we suppose that Rion`s version is true and she gets her information from sources in the Department of State Guard independently of Derkach, it would mean that these sources ask her to announce and synchronize her actions with Andriy Derkach and do not allow her to publish materials on her own. 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 by some third party. Thus, she cannot be considered as an original source of information.
We can only make one conclusion: the original 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 suspect (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 about Derkach’s life and his past. He is a member of one of the Soviet security service dynasties. His father Leonid Derkach, the head of the Security Service of Ukraine during the Leonid Kuchma presidency in the 1990s and a defendant in the “Gongadze tapes” case, was a 1973 graduate of the Higher Courses of the KGB. Andriy Derkach graduated from the Academy of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation in 1993. His diploma thesis was titled “Organization and execution of meetings with undercover agents.”
Since 1998, Andriy Derkach has been a deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, changing his party affiliation from Leonid Kuchma’s to Viktor Yanukovych’s, and his listing in party quotas to a Sumy Oblast district election mandate. There was only one short break in his MP career, during Yanukovych premiership in 2006: for a short time Derkach became the 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 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 sympathies for the USSR, Russia and its security services. Apart from his thesis, Andriy Derkach wrote several books, one of them is “Ukraine and Russia: The Trial By Friendship.” Friendship with Russia is Derkach’s favorite topic. Once, he even founded a 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 place of Andriy Derkach among the friends of the Russian Orthodox Church. His 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 meeting with Metropolitan Vladimir. In January 2009, Andriy Derkach was one of the few lay 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 to the letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with a demand to postpone granting the independence 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 scandal with the tapes is not the first one organized by Derkach. In December 2019, he made public another sensational document. At a press conference, declared as an attempt to expose the activities of NJSC Naftogaz (since 2014, Derkach has been systematically “exposing” Naftogaz), Derkach unexpectedly showed a “secret receipt” addressed to the KGB and allegedly signed personally by the Ukrainian billionaire Viktor Pinchuk. According to Derkach, Victor Pinchuk had been collaborating with the KGB under the alias “Valery.” “Pinchuk’s secret receipt” triggered an ambivalent reaction in the Ukrainian society: most of the people saw Andriy Derkach as a deliberate liar and freak and stopped taking seriously any information coming from him. A minority took the deputy’s statement seriously, but since such a receipt 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 selflessly 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)|
|17.11.2010 16:05||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ВНУКОВО)|
|09.09.2011 13:48||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ВНУКОВО)|
|15.11.2012 15:00||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ДОМОДЕДОВО)|
|15.11.2012 21:17||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ДОМОДЕДОВО)|
|19.11.2013 23:27||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ВНУКОВО)|
|20.11.2013 16:22||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ВНУКОВО)|
|14.01.2014 11:01||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ E|
|06.02.2014 20:40||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ВНУКОВО)|
|02.07.2014 16:21||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|03.07.2014 08:47||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|19.07.2014 17:03||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|19.07.2014 18:33||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|09.08.2014 15:35||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|09.08.2014 17:43||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|26.08.2014 16:23||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|26.08.2014 17:29||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|30.12.2014 08:39||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|30.12.2014 09:49||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|17.01.2015 08:49||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|17.01.2015 09:40||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|14.02.2015 08:49||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|14.02.2015 09:23||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|16.03.2015 15:51||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|16.03.2015 17:18||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|24.03.2015 08:52||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|24.03.2015 09:31||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|15.04.2015 14:59||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|15.04.2015 16:59||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ D|
|07.07.2017 14:21||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ДОМОДЕДОВО)|
|09.07.2017 14:39||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ДОМОДЕДОВО)|
|08.09.2017 10:13||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ДОМОДЕДОВО)|
|10.09.2017 10:32||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ДОМОДЕДОВО)|
|22.09.2017 00:15||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ДОМОДЕДОВО)|
|05.06.2018 13:06||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ВНУКОВО)|
|05.06.2018 13:15||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ВНУКОВО)|
|05.06.2018 23:05||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ВНУКОВО)|
|11.09.2018 14:46||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ E|
|13.09.2018 20:14||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ E|
|20.09.2018 14:53||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ E|
|22.09.2018 19:53||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ШЕРЕМЕТЬЕВО). ТЕРМИНАЛ E|
|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)|
|28.10.2018 14:10||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ДОМОДЕДОВО)|
|15.11.2018 10:27||ВЪЕЗД||МОСКВА (ДОМОДЕДОВО)|
|17.11.2018 10:22||ВЫЕЗД||МОСКВА (ДОМОДЕДОВО)|
|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 had 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 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 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 this way: “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 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 Raion. Of course, smuggling is impossible without connections with the Russian Border Service, a part of the FSB. Both Sumy activists and the mayor of Hlukhiv Michel Tereshchenko are alleging Andriy Derkach is affiliated with the local smuggling business.
The second reason is less covered by the media. In Hlukhiv Raion, there is a unique Banitsky quartzite deposit. It is mined for its high-quality raw materials for the production of silicon, which is used in Russian defense industry. According to the recent investigation by Radio Liberty’s “Schemes. Corruption in detail”, it is the main consumer of quartzite raw materials produced in Hlukhiv. Glukhiv Quarzites (Banitsky) Quarry LLC, a company that operates the Banitsky deposit, belongs to the Cyprus-based company United Company Rusal Silicon Limited, which is a part of the RUSAL group, owned by 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 raw quartzite materials for Russian defense industry, in particular JSC Konstruktorskoe Buro Priborostroeniya (KBP). This enterprise produces high-precision weapon systems for the Russian army.
Source: “Schemes. Corruption in detail” on Radio Svoboda
The Derkach family befriended Oleg Deripaska a long time ago. “People’s Deputy Andriy Derkach, the son of the head of the SBU, helped Deripaska to enter 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 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 InformNapalm’s sources in the Security Service of Ukraine, Andriy Derkach 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 issues with the quarry 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 a 183.3 million hryvnias (approximately 25 million US dollars) damage inflicted – and nevertheless, thanks to Derkach, the local authorities and the regional council did not raise any questions. According to our information, Derkach is not alone in managing the Hlukhiv quarry issue. He is being assisted by 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.
To summarize, Andriy Derkach not only publicly expresses his commitment to friendship with Russia, but he 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 a Russian agent of influence in Ukraine, an agent who is constantly coordinating his actions with the Russian secret services and possibly remains their full-time employee after graduating from the FSB Academy.
Kostiantyn Kulyk, a partner of Derkach in the special operation
Another person directly involved in the publication of the “Derkach tapes” is Kostiantyn Kulyk. At the 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” had 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, he became involved in a number of scandals, including international ones. Most of the scandals are related to Kulyk’s attempts to add momentum to the investigations related to Joe Biden and Burisma. A number of Ukrainian media allege his connections to Viktor Shokin, during whose tenure as the Prosecutor General of Ukraine in 2015-2016 Kulyk was promoted to the Office, 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 the godfather of Zhilin’s child. Yevgeny Zhilin was a separatist and the leader of the Kharkiv criminal group Oplot. He died in 2016. It is worth mentioning that Alexander Zakharchenko, who later became the leader of Donetsk People’s Republic terrorists and was killed in 2018, had been the head of the Donetsk branch of Oplot.
Kulyk knew Zhilin since at least the mid-2000s. They had business relationships. For instance, in January 2014, Kostiantyn Kulyk’s mother and Yevgeny Zhilin’s company offered their property as a collateral 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 property of Zhilin and Kulyk was released from foreclosure due to forged documents. Then Kulyk’s mother gifted the collateral obtained via this operation to her son. Thus, the connection between Kulyk and Zhilin was quite significant.
Oplot was created in 2010 and it immediately distinguished itself from other criminal groups in Kharkiv. Its stated goal was “counteracting the promotion of the heroic image of OUN-UPA”, and its 350 strong contingent significantly exceeded the capabilities of a regular gang. Zhilin’s statements in his interview to “Ukrainian Pravda” that he “always had money show up from somewhere” we see as an acknowledgement of external financial sources. A few sentences later in the same interview, Zhilin claims that Russian intelligence operations in Ukraine are normal and necessary practice for fraternal peoples. InformNapalm believes that Zhilin’s Oplot was created and operated in Ukraine as a deep cover sabotage organization, ready to openly support Russia – which actually happened in 2014 after the beginning of the Russian aggression. Oplot is responsible for multiple terrorist acts and kidnappings of Maidan activists, and after Russian military aggression in the Donbas it became a DPR battalion.
Still, Kulyk maintained his connection with Zhilin. The media published the correspondence between them dated 2016. The Ukrainian prosecutor and the leader of pro-Russian terrorists seemingly discussed a special operation to free the pro-Russian activist Oleksandr Katsuba (currently Katsuba is free and, according to the journalist Volodymyr Boyko and InformNapalm’s own information, he is the primary donor of the pro-Russian Shariy party). InformNapalm can’t verify this information but believes it to be true, based on some details of the correspondence.
It appears that Kulyk has connections not just to Lutsenko and other officials from the Poroshenko team, but also Russian special services. How this kind of person could end up in the Prosecutor General’s Office is an academic issue, considering the influence of Russian special services and agents in the post-Soviet Ukraine. In any case, if Kulyk’s interest to the US activities had been caused by Lutsenko’s requests, it is doubtful that a year after his firing Kulyk would be participating in Derkach’s press-conference and trying to influence the US elections. It is more likely that Kulyk is involved because of other factors and not due to his connections with Lutsenko, Poroshenko, or Shokin.
Information wave in Ukraine
The way the information about the “Derkach tapes” has been spreading suggests that it is a well-coordinated operation controlled from a single source. The Russian special information operations in Ukraine are characterized by the coherence of actions by both 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 entities were engaged simultaneously and in coordination, using the same talking points. Among others, those were:
- A Ukrainian media holding controlled by Viktor Medvedchuk, the father of Putin`s godchild: 112, ZIK and NewsOne TV channels. Add to this the pro-Russian Nashchannel controlled not by Medvedchuk, but a former MP Yevheniy Murayev.
- Russian media specializing in highlighting Ukrainian events as the Kremlin sees them: Russia Today, RuBaltic.Ru, EADaily, Moskovskij Komsomolets, Gazeta.Ru, Ukraina.Ru, the Federal Agency of News, and many others.
- Experts who joined the conversation in lockstep: the Medvedchuk-affiliated vice president of the Modern Diplomacy Development Foundation Dmitriy Perlin and journalist Alexandr Zubchenko; the journalist from Odesa and the former chief editor of the ”Infocenter” website Vitaliy Didenko (convicted to 3 years for separatism and drug possession); the journalist and political analyst Pavel Karnazytsky (had publicly admitted to working with KGB, expelled from Ukraine in 2019 by the decision of the State Security Service (SBU); the journalist from Odesa Artem Buzila (convicted by a Ukrainian court for separatism, now living in Moscow); the political analyst and chairman of the Crimean Regional Public Organization “Centre for the Political Education” Ivan Mezyukho – Russia Today staff expert; the head of the Franklin Roosevelt Foundation for the United States Studies at the Moscow State University Yuriy Rogulev; the odious former MP of the Party of Regions Oleg Tsaryov, and many others.
Despite the common thesis “We knew it before that Ukraine was under the US control,” the pro-Russian and Russian media and experts, traditionally involved in the information war against Ukraine, showed a great interest in the tapes and over the next couple of days they all made similarly-sounding statements. At the same time, ordinary Ukrainian media were less interested: after the publication of “the receipt by KGB agent Viktor Pinchuk,” Derkach is consistently seen as a freak that can’t be considered as a credible source by the Ukrainian media.
On the other hand, the third event in July, when Derkach announced a release of recorded conversations between Putin and Poroshenko, generated much more interest in the Ukrainian media (basically, due to Poroshenko`s public reaction). At the same time, for some reason, the media and persons listed above virtually ignored it. Our analysis shows that the publicity of the third recordings series was far smaller. There is a simple explanation: the third series of the “Derkach tapes” had nothing to do with the upcoming elections in the US and there was no order to promote them.
Based on the analysis of the information space, we conclude that the wave of artificial interest by the Russian “battlefield leaflets” to the “Derkach tapes” served as a springboard for the transition to the American media. This was also why the experts and journalists involved had previously participated in Russia’s special information operations against the US. First of all, it was Russia Today. Apart from RT, the information operation included the political analyst from the Ottawa University Ivan Kachanovskiy, professor Lukas Leros from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and many others. Chanel Rion of OAN is functioning as one of the most prominent promoters in the American right-wing media, likely as a “useful idiot” that may not have any direct connections to Russian special services but is willing to spread any disinformation that could help President Trump’s reelection chances.
Thus, the special information operation based on the first batch of tapes featured the whole pool of the usual participants of Russian information wars in Ukraine, Russia, the US, and worldwide. We consider its main target to be personally Joe Biden, a candidate in the 2020 US presidential election, and the above mentioned media is trying to discredit or pressure him by accusing him of corrupt acts in Ukraine.
Questions about the authenticity of the recordings
Now that we have described the framework and mechanics of this information operation and its main participants, the last remaining question is whether the tapes are authentic.
The “Derkach tapes” are published in a format that makes it impossible to evaluate their authenticity. A digital recording uploaded to YouTube can be compiled word by word, or completely falsified by using computer voice editing software. Even the widely available non-professional applications can provide examples of these capabilities.
Usually, if the recordings are authentic, the complete set of files is published, and the original raw recording is provided to independent experts. This is exactly what InformNapalm, Ukrainian Cyber Alliance and other research groups do whenever they obtain 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 only published short clips of digital recordings and has 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 recordings’ origin is not transparent and does not stand up to criticism. According to Andriy Derkach, he received the recordings from “investigative journalists.” However, there are no journalists in Ukraine or abroad who could get any recordings from the Office of the President. This can only be done by secret services. Moreover, it is obvious that journalists, if they had such recordings and did not doubt their authenticity, would have published them themselves.
How can Derkach get authentic recordings from Poroshenko’s office? Judging from the content of the records, only Poroshenko himself could give them to him. In the first edited fragments of phone conversations Biden and Poroshenko allegedly had, Poroshenko is heard talking in his office while Biden’s replies come from a phone. It would not be reasonable to assume that Poroshenko’s office was wiretapped and no one knew about it.
It is also highly doubtful that the recordings were kept in the Administration of the President of Ukraine and then were handed over to someone after Zelensky’s victory. During the transition, Petro Poroshenko meticulously cleaned up all extraneous records. The newly appointed Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksandr Danylyuk even claimed that Poroshenko took away the equipment from the Administration’s “situation room”. Besides, Poroshenko himself has officially denied the wiretapping. Moreover, the publication of the “Derkach tapes” is politically disadvantageous for Poroshenko and 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 that Poroshenko allegedly transferred 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 three types of original 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 or 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 abilities of Derkach and his PR specialists or journalists. We believe that doing this job is possible only with the help of a secret service with a long history of painstaking execution of information operations.
According to open data and information from InformNapalm sources, based 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 the primary source.
- Andriy Derkach is 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, 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.
Read and share more from InformNapalm
- Proofs of the Russian Aggression: InformNapalm releases extensive database of evidence
- Volunteers gathered evidence of 32 Russian military units taking part in the invasion of Crimea
- List-1097: How the Russian 18th Brigade occupied Crimea
- Intelligence data on 1st and 2nd Army Corps of Russian Federation in occupied Donbas
- Exclusive data: more Russian electronic warfare systems spotted in Donbas
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)
InformNapalm is a purely volunteer endeavor which does not have any financial support from any government or donor. Our sole sponsors are its volunteers and readers. You can also support InformNapalm by subscribing to monthly mini-donations through Patreon.