This is the first edition of the Investigative Stories from Ukraine newsletter, brought to you by the Kyiv Independent.
We will walk you through the biggest stories Ukrainian journalists broke over the past couple of weeks.
If you are fond of in-depth journalism that exposes war crimes, corruption and abuse of power across state organizations in Ukraine and beyond, subscribe to our investigative newsletter.
The Kyiv Independent’s exclusive
International Legion soldiers allege light weapons misappropriation, abuse by commanders
On Nov. 30, we published the second part of our investigation into the International Legion, created under the initiative of President Volodymyr Zelensky in the first days of the Russian invasion for foreigners willing to defend Ukraine.
On top of the leadership misconduct we uncovered in August, which involved poor mission planning, physical threats, harassment, and theft of soldiers’ equipment, our latest story revealed alleged misappropriation of light weapons and small arms, including Western-donated.
According to the legionnaires, the arms in question include anti-tank weapons like RPG grenade launchers or NLAW shoulder-fired missile systems, small arms like M4 carbine, bayonets for CZ and SCAR-L rifles, Glock pistols, and ammunition. Soldiers claimed their commanders were to blame for the weapons' disappearance.
Most of the legionnaires' complaints concerned Piotr Kapuscinski, an ex-member of the Polish organized crime group. The Kyiv Independent’s August investigation found him serving in the Legion as a commander.
In the Legion, he is responsible for coordinating military operations, logistics, and supplies. In Poland, Kapuscinski is wanted for fraud, among other crimes.
Read the full story here.
Top investigative stories
Ukrainska Pravda: Wanted Ukrainian ex-officials resurface in Vienna
Journalists found Kyrylo Shevchenko, former head of Ukraine’s National Bank, fired in October, and Denys Chernyshov, who served as a deputy minister of justice between 2016 and 2019, in Vienna. Both are former employees of the state-owned Ukgrazbank. In September, National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) placed them on a wanted list for allegedly embezzling Hr 200 million from the bank.
In Vienna, Shevchenko resides in a fancy apartment building with an in-house spa, pool, and gym, according to Ukrainska Pravda.
The publication also found another fugitive Ukrainian, Oleh Bahmatiuk, in Vienna. Since 2019, he has been on the wanted list for allegedly embezzling Hr 1.2 million of the stabilization loan his VAB bank received from the National Bank. Journalists found Bahmatiuk’s villa, which he re-registered for his children after the NABU started a probe into him. Watch the full story with English subtitles here.
Bihus.Info: Zelensky’s right-hand man becoming more powerful
An investigation by Bihus.Info, published on Nov. 21, revealed that friends and former business partners of Andriy Yermak, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, acquired top positions across Ukraine’s government and state agencies, including Defense Ministry, Prosecutor General’s Office, Centerenergo, Oschadbank, and Ukrnafta.
On Nov. 6, Ukrainian authorities seized, among other enterprises, the previously partially state-owned and partially private-owned Ukrnafta, the country’s largest oil company, and made new appointments to its supervisory board. Now two of its five members are Yermak’s associates. Among them is Andriy Gota, adviser to Yermak, and Roza Topanova, a former employee of Yermak’s law firm, who also co-founded a bar association with him. The full story is available in Ukrainian here.
Bihus.Info: Conflict of interest in commission regulating foreign drugs
Four out of 23 members of the Health Ministry commission, which decides what foreign medicine to ban from the Ukrainian market, have a conflict of interest or are suspected of graft, journalists reported.
Among them is Serhiy Kuzminykh, a member of the ruling Servant of the People parliamentary faction, suspected of soliciting a bribe from a private company for helping it win a tender to supply equipment to state hospitals in the spring of 2021.
Moreover, Kuzminykh has a conflict of interest, according to Bihus.Info. His charity has received donations from the family of Glib Zagoriy, head of the Board of Directors of Darnitsa, one of Ukraine’s largest pharmaceutical companies.
The commission became vital following the May parliament’s decision to ban the sale of drugs produced in Russia or Belarus. The law doesn’t set clear criteria for the ban, which creates room for biased decisions by commission members, Bihus.Info reported. The legislation has attracted criticism from civil society, the Anti-Monopoly Committee, and the National Agency on Corruption Prevention. The full story is available in Ukrainian here.
RFE/RL: Prior to the Russian invasion, fugitive ex-president Yanukovych tried to get reinstalled through judges he had ties to
Ukraine’s ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, ousted by the 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution and living in Russia, tried to de jure win his presidency back in late December 2021, two months before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Yanukovych went to Kyiv District Administrative Court to challenge the parliament’s decision to strip him of presidential status in 2014. He appointed the court’s key judges during his 2010-2014 rule.
According to Schemes, a project of RFE/RL, the court accepted both of Yanukovych’s litigations despite the long-expired deadlines. The court assigned two judges affiliated with Yanukovych to hear the claims.
Among those judges is Yevhen Ablov, the judge Yanukovych appointed in 2010. According to Schemes, Ablov took Yanukovych’s case in breach of the lawsuit distribution procedure, didn’t see the public interest in this case hence decided to hear it in a simplified mode without summoning the parties, and refused to hand it to the Supreme Court which is responsible for dealing with such cases.
Another judge in question is Ihor Kachura, former deputy industrial policy minister, then-prime minister Yanukovych appointed in 2004. According to Schemes, Kachura advised Yanukovych to rewrite the lawsuit so it falls under the jurisdiction of the Kyiv District Administrative Court and doesn’t get transferred to the Supreme Court, where it belonged.
Both judges eventually dismissed Yanukovych’s lawsuits two weeks after Russian troops had withdrawn from Kyiv Oblast.
The Kyiv District Administrative Court is infamous for corruption. Its head, Pavlo Vovk, and other judges have been charged with usurpation of power, obstruction of justice, organized crime, and abuse of authority. On Dec. 9, the U.S. State Department sanctioned Vovk for “soliciting bribes in return for interfering in judicial and other public processes.”
The full story is available in Ukrainian here.
RFE/RL identifies Russian soldiers allegedly implicated in the murder of civilians in Izium
Two Russian officers, a сommander of the 27th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade, based near Moscow, and a battalion commander of the 96th reconnaissance brigade, based near Nizhny Novgorod, could be implicated in the murder of elderly civilians in the city of Izium, Kharkiv Oblast, according to the investigation by Schemes (RFE/RL).
Journalists obtained a recording of an intercepted phone call from Oleg Gasilin, a serviceman of the 27th brigade, who was near Izium at the time. On the call, Gasilin says that the commander of his 27th brigade stabbed an elderly woman he ran into to death, while the battalion commander of the 96th brigade shot and killed a man who accompanied her. Gasilin did not personally witness it but was told about it by a fellow soldier.
Journalists identified the commander of the 27th brigade as Sergiy Safonov. According to their sources, Safonov is already under investigation in Russia for allegedly killing a civilian in Ukraine. Journalists were unable to reach Safonov for comment.
The full story is available in Ukrainian here.
Gwara identifies Russian soldiers killed near Kharkiv
Based on obituaries published on Russian social media, journalists identified four Russian military formations allegedly deployed to occupy Kharkiv Oblast as well as revealed the identities of some of their servicemen killed there.
According to the journalists, the Russian 236th artillery brigade based near Moscow might have participated in the invasion, the obituaries of the two soldiers belonging to this military unit suggest.
The brigade’s serviceman, 21-year-old Mykyta Bespalov, was killed in the city of Izium near Kharkiv on Sept. 5. His comrade, 35-year-old Oleksandr Yevtushenko died in combat on Sept. 26.
The death of 52-year-old colonel Ivan Grishin near Izyum on April 16 shed light on the alleged involvement of the Smolensk 49th anti-aircraft missile brigade, where he served, in the Russian seizure of the city.
To find out about other Russian military formations journalists exposed in an effort to occupy the Kharkiv Oblast, read the full story here.
After journalists locate Medvedchuk’s yacht, it gets seized to be sold on auction to benefit Ukraine
Royal Romance, the 92-meter superyacht of sanctioned pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician and oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, is set to be sold at auction after law enforcement seized it in Croatia, according to The Guardian.
The media reported, citing the Ukrainian government, that proceeds from the sale of Royal Romance will go to Ukraine. The yacht was estimated to cost $200 million. Medvedchuk was arrested in Ukraine in April on suspicion of high treason and handed over to Russia in a prisoner swap in September.
Back in March, journalists of Ukrainska Pravda found out that Medvedchuk’s yacht was docked in the Rijeka port in Croatia.
President of Ukraine’s Football Association detained on embezzlement charges after Bihus.Info investigation
Kyiv Pechersk Court put Andriy Pavelko, the president of Ukraine’s Football Association, under a two-month arrest, Bihus.Info reported on Nov. 29. Pavelko was soon released on bail of nearly Hr 10 million. He is suspected of embezzling money from the construction of an artificial grass-producing factory.
The National Anti-Corruption Bureau opened a probe into the matter back in 2018 following the revelations of the Bihus.Info investigation.