Ukraine’s military intelligence conducted an unsuccessful sting operation to capture 33 Kremlin-backed Wagner Group mercenaries in July 2020, the Bellingcat investigative project reported on Nov. 17.
According to the investigation, the operation failed after President Volodymyr Zelensky's chief of staff Andriy Yermak told intelligence officials to delay the mercenaries’ capture to prevent the disruption of a ceasefire deal with Russia.
Yermak’s adviser Mykhailo Podoliak denied the allegations in a comment to Ukrainska Pravda, saying Yermak has no authority over military intelligence. Previously, Yermak and Zelensky denied that Ukraine’s intelligence was behind the failed sting operation.
Many of the mercenaries had fought against Ukrainian forces in the Donbas.
The initial plan was to lure the mercenaries to Belarus with a fake job offer, then intercept their plane on the way from Minsk to Istanbul on July 25, 2020. When the plan was delayed, Belarusian authorities arrested the mercenaries on July 29, 2020.