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Investigative Stories from Ukraine: Journalists identify Russian supporters in Latvia under prosecution

by Anna Myroniuk and Alexander Khrebet February 28, 2023 7:12 PM 5 min read
Latvian investigative outlet Re:Baltica identifies people subject to 40 criminal proceedings the country’s Security Service opened regarding support of Russia’s war against Ukraine. (Credit: Re:Baltica)
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Top investigative stories

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Re:Baltica identifies Russia supporters in Latvia prosecuted for glorifying war against Ukraine

Latvian investigative outlet Re:Baltica identified people subject to 40 criminal proceedings the country’s Security Service had opened regarding support of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The charges involve glorifying the Russian army, denying Russian war crimes, and “helping a foreign state undermine Latvian independence.”

The names of people charged with endorsing Russian aggression are not public in Latvia.

Re:Baltica identified them by gathering information from various sources, including court files, news articles, and interviews.

Among Russia backers are propagandists, social media influencers, and former politicians from pro-Kremlin parties.

According to Re:Baltica, Ruslan Pankratov, a leader of the eurosceptic far-right Action Party, is charged with both inciting hatred and violating sanctions for his appearances on Russian state-owned TV channels managed by people on the European Union’s sanctions list.

On the list of propagandists who attracted the attention of the Latvian Security Service is Kirill Fiodorov, a blogger with up to a million views on YouTube. He is reportedly charged with hate speech and glorifying the Russian army and its war crimes in Ukraine.

Read the full story in English via the link.

Ukrainska Pravda: Ukrainian businessman allegedly lobbies for Russian business interests in Ukraine

Ukrainian businessman Leonid Ashkenazi allegedly lobbies for the interests of Russian moguls in Ukraine, according to an investigation by Ukrainska Pravda. The story is based on the publication’s sources in law enforcement and footage of Ashkenazi’s meetings.

Journalists spotted Ashkenazi conducting meetings with Russian business people in Ukraine and in Spain. In Kyiv, he has met with a prosecutor in charge of investigating perpetrators of Russian aggression in Ukraine. The prosecutor said the meeting was accidental.

In Kyiv, Ashkenazi resides full-time in Premier Palace, a five-star hotel widely believed to be co-owned by Alexander Babakov, a Russian politician and deputy head of the Russian parliament. Despite the Russian connection, the hotel functions during the war.

Ashkenazi was also spotted using a car belonging to a company owned by Serhiy Tarasov, the father of lawmaker Oleh Tarasov, who represents the president’s Servant of the People parliamentary faction.

Find the full story in Ukrainian here.

RFE/RL investigates reasons behind stallment of Russian assets confiscation in Ukraine

One year into Russia’s all-out war, Ukraine has confiscated only five Russian assets, including two enterprises owned by Russia and three belonging to Russian oligarchs, according to Schemes, an investigative project of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

After the investigation had been published, Ukrainian officials seized one more Russian asset, PinBank, belonging to Russian oligarch Yevgeni Giner.

The seized Russian assets comprise a tiny portion of what Ukraine could have confiscated. The process stalled due to bureaucracy, Schemes found.

Out of 905 Russian state-owned assets in Ukraine, the state-nationalized assets belonging to two Russian state-owned banks – Sberbank and Veb.RF.

As for the rest, the Economy Ministry has been working on a list of assets to confiscate since late summer when the National Security and Defense Council dismissed the previous list, according to Schemes.

Out of hundreds of Russian citizens under sanctions, only oligarchs Vladimir Yevtushenkov, Oleg Deripaska, and Mikhail Shelkov lost their businesses in Ukraine.

The Justice Ministry, tasked with filing lawsuits to the High Anti-Corruption Court for confiscating Russian oligarchs’ assets, is too understaffed to do the job effectively, according to Schemes.

Gathering evidence to connect the assets to a particular Russian tycoon is complicated and time-consuming since they often own their businesses through intermediaries.

Some assets are under temporary arrest due to criminal cases against owners.

While under arrest, these assets could benefit Ukraine's budget, but the country’s Asset Recovery and Management Agency (ARMA) hasn’t been able to find temporary administrators to oversee most of them.

Watch the full story in Ukrainian here.

Bihus.Info: Ex-commander of Russia-backed militants in Donbas runs factory in Dnipro

Andrii Anofriev, a former commander of the Russia-led militants in the occupied part of Luhansk Oblast, resurfaced in Dnipro running a privately-owned railway carriage repair plant that works with state-owned enterprises, according to Bihus.Info, a Ukrainian investigative outlet.

In 2014, Anofriev allegedly created military units fighting alongside Russian troops in the Donbas, according to the publication.

His militant group was reportedly involved in the kidnapping and murder of Major Tymur Hetmanskyi, Ukraine’s Security Service officer, on the Russian-occupied territory of Luhansk Oblast in October 2014.

In April 2021, Ukraine’s law enforcement captured Anofriev on the government-controlled territory and detained him on charges of undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sabotage, and creating a terrorist group.

The Markivka district court in Luhansk Oblast placed him under partial house arrest for two months. However, the next hearing didn’t take place due to the Russian invasion of Markivka in the early days of the all-out war.

According to Bihus.Info, the case of Anofriev was never passed to another court. The prosecutor’s office said that such a transfer would violate Ukraine’s law.

Following the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022, Anofriev reportedly moved to Dnipro and has kept a low profile ever since.

Earlier, Anofriev headed one of the branches of the state-owned Ukrzaliznytsia railway company in Lozova, Kharkiv Oblast.

Watch the full story in Ukrainian here.

Reaction

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Lukashenko on alleged Russian plans to take over Belarus by 2030: ´There might have been such a document'

Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko said that there “might have been” a document that allegedly detailing Russia's plans to dismantle Belarusian independence by 2030.

The document was featured in a joint investigation by the Kyiv Independent and a group of U.S. and European media outlets, which detailed Russia's future steps to take complete control of Belarus by the end of the decade.

According to one of the sources cited in the investigation, an unnamed Western intelligence officer, the document was created in 2021 by the Kremlin's Directorate for Cross-Border Cooperation.

Leaked document reveals alleged Kremlin plan to take over Belarus by 2030


According to the plan outlined in the document, by 2030, Belarus should have a single currency and tax system with Russia, and its military and media space must be under Russian control.

Lukashenko told state-controlled news agency Belta that Belarus and Russia had discussed the formation of integration roadmaps three years ago.

“There were different points of view,” Lukashenko said on Feb. 25, adding that the plan revealed by journalists could have been a draft suggested by the Russian side back then.

"There were different proposals to the point of Russia becoming part of Belarus," Lukashenko went on, adding that he sees Belarus as “an independent and sovereign state.”

Lukashenko claimed that the cross-border investigation was aimed at dividing Belarus and Russia.

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