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Investigative Stories from Ukraine: Companies of Russian oligarch Fridman allegedly support Russian war effort in Ukraine

by Anna Myroniuk May 9, 2023 3:08 PM 4 min read
Journalists reveal that a firm co-owned by a Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman insures cars of Russian military fighting in Ukraine. (Credit: Schems, RFE/RL)
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RFE/RL: Firm of Russian oligarch Fridman insures cars of Russian military fighting in Ukraine

Russian companies of Mikhail Fridman, a Ukraine-born oligarch under international sanctions, extensively support the Russian war effort, according to Schemes, an investigative project of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Fridman co-owns Alfa Insurance, a company that insures cars belonging to Russia’s National Guard (Rosgvardia) units, including the ones deployed to Ukraine, Schemes found on the Russian state procurement website.

These include Rosgvardia units based in the Bryansk, Voronezh, Tula, and Kaluga regions. Schemes found social media pictures of some of the vehicles covered by Alfa Insurance.

The company is also reported to provide services to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Main Office of Special Programs, which guards him, among other things.

Another company Fridman co-owns, X5 Retail Group, also cooperates with the Russian military, according to Schemes. One of the group’s businesses, a grocery chain, has had a joint project with a company belonging to the Russian Defense Ministry since 2014.

After the start of the large-scale war, the two have boosted cooperation by opening new shops under the joint brand Pyaterochka Voentorg across Russia. According to Schemes’ investigation, these shops collect goods donated for the Russian military.

When Schemes confronted Fridman with questions, the oligarch said he exited management of his Russian businesses after the start of the country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice told Schemes that these revelations could lay the groundwork for possible confiscation of Fridman’s assets in Ukraine since journalists proved he supports Russia’s war through his businesses.

After the story was aired, the Luxembourg-registered ABH Holdings, which owns Alfa Insurance, came out with a public announcement of its intentions to leave Russia entirely.

Watch the full story in Ukrainian via the link.

RSF proves Ukrainian journalist who Kremlin denies capturing is in Russian prison

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) obtained first-hand accounts, which confirm that Ukrainian journalist Dmytro Khyliuk had been illegally detained by Russian soldiers during the occupation of his home village near Kyiv. He was taken to Russia and put in prison.

Officially Russia has denied charging and detaining Khyliuk.

Five witness testimonies RSF obtained helped trace the UNIAN news agency reporter’s movements from his capture in the village of Kozarovychi on March 3, 2022, to his imprisonment at pre-trial detention center №2 in Novozybkov, a small city in southwest Russia close to the Ukrainian border.

According to RSF, Khyliuk was first brought to an improvised Russian prison at the airport of Hostomel, a city near Kyiv which Russian soldiers occupied in the early days of its full-scale invasion. An unnamed Ukrainian soldier detainee told the researchers that Khyliuk had been there starting from March 12 last year.

By March 21, Khyliuk had already been transferred to the pre-trial detention center in Russia, according to a detained Ukrainian intelligence officer who spoke to RSF.

Another Ukrainian soldier who has since been released told RSF that Khyliuk was beaten during interrogations.

RSF doesn’t know where the journalist is now. According to the organization’s sources in the Novozybkov prison, Khyliuk was last seen there in January.

Khyliuk is one of 123 civilians from Kyiv Oblast who are still held by Russia, RSF reported.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office opened a probe into the illegal detention of civilians in the Dymir territorial community where Khyliuk’s village belongs.

Read the full story in English via the link.

Ukrainska Pravda, BBC: Fear of spies in the early days of invasion caused multiple cases of friendly fire in Kyiv

Investigations by Ukrainska Pravda and BBC Ukraine found that fatal shootings on the streets of Kyiv in the early days of the all-out war, which Ukrainian authorities called the liquidation of Russian reconnaissance groups, turned out to be friendly fire that killed dozens of Ukrainian soldiers.

One reported case of friendly fire took place near Beresteiska metro station in Kyiv on Feb. 26, 2022, at 4 a.m. According to a document from the official law enforcement investigation, a few Ukrainian military vehicles, possibly carrying ammunition, did not heed a demand to stop at a checkpoint and were fired upon.

Ukrainska Pravda estimated the death toll at up to 10 soldiers, while BBC reported that it could be close to 40.

According to BBC’s sources, the inquiry found three commanders of the 101st Separate Guard Brigade of the General Staff responsible for failure to coordinate, as their subordinates were inside the vehicles and at the checkpoint. No one was charged, BBC reported.

According to Ukrainska Pravda, an official probe into “exceeding authority amid martial law” was started two days after the event, which the Ukrainian authorities nevertheless publicly called a Russian attack.

Similar cases of friendly fire took place in other districts of Kyiv, including in Obolon between Feb. 24-25 and on Povitroflotskyi bridge on Feb. 26, according to BBC.

Friendly fire also happens on the front line, affecting infantry units the hardest, according to Ukrainska Pravda. The main reasons for it are lack of training, equipment failures, and trouble establishing a secure connection.

Read the full story of Ukrainska Pravda in Ukrainian here and of BBC in Ukrainian here.

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