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Ukrainian aerospace company allegedly supplied military helicopter parts to Russia during war

by Igor KossovOctober 26, 2022 8:50 pm
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Ukrainian aerospace company allegedly supplied military helicopter parts to Russia during warMotor Sich president Vyacheslav Bohuslaev attends a court hearing in Kyiv on Oct. 24, 2022. He was placed in pre-trial detention without bail for 60 days. (Pavlo Bahmut / Ukrinform / Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Eight months into the full-scale war, a scandal ripped through Ukraine’s defense industry. 

Two top executives of Ukraine’s most famous defense contractor, Motor Sich, were detained on Oct. 22 for allegedly collaborating with Russia. 

Motor Sich is a storied Ukrainian company, whose creation predates the Soviet Union. It produces some of the most sought-after plane and helicopter engines in the world. 

The Shevchenkivskiy District Court in Kyiv accused Motor Sich’s president, Vyacheslav Bohuslayev, and foreign economic activity chief, Oleh Dzyuba, of conspiring to supply parts for Russian helicopters, even as they strafed Ukrainian cities. Bohuslayev also maintains a Russian citizenship. 

Both suspects were deemed a flight risk and denied bail. They each face charges of collaboration and aiding the aggressor state.

When Ukrainian journalists asked Bohuslayev if he had any ties with Russia, he said he was “not aware” and praised Motor Sich, saying it did a lot for Ukraine. Bohuslayev's lawyer told Ukrainska Pravda that his client is hard of hearing and hasn't heard all of the allegations yet. 

Dzyuba declined to talk to journalists. 

Alleged conspiracy

Motor Sich’s flagship production plant is based in the industrial city of Zaporizhzhia. Russia occupied large parts of Zaporizhzhia Oblast and tried to annex it in September through a fake referendum.

According to the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) the factory’s leadership worked with the Kremlin and representatives of Russian defense contractor Rostec to supply Russia with parts for their Mi-8AMTSh-VN Sapsan, Ka-52 Alligator and Mi-28N Night Hunter attack helicopters. Russia used all three types to attack Ukraine in 2022. 

“To circumvent established restrictions on trade with Russia, the organizers of the scheme used commercial entities under their control in three countries in the Middle East, Europe and East Asia,” the SBU said in a statement. 

“These companies sent ‘orders’ to the Ukrainian manufacturer supposedly for the needs of a foreign party. However, after receiving the military goods, the ‘intermediaries’ sent them to Russia.” 

The SBU published a series of audio recordings, claiming they are of Bohuslayev talking to representatives of Russia’s war machine. 

In one recording, the voice alleged to be Bohuslayev’s assures his interlocutor that “Zelensky will be kicked out and they’ll all go away.” In a subsequent recording, the voice says “If Putin ends (the war), the nationalists will end us.” 

He then says that even though a Russian Iskander-M missile struck the plant’s territory, “no one is mad, we understand everything.” 

In a subsequent recording in April, Bohuslayev’s alleged voice offered to ship parts through other countries. The other man on the phone, alleged to be a Russian defense company executive, says they can be moved through Croatia, Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan.

In a May conversation with another Russian defense sector executive, Bohuslayev’s alleged voice says he’s sent “tens” of units to Russia without any problems. 

A voice identified as that of Pyotr Motrenko, former head of Russian company Rostvertol, replies that the contract with Bohuslayev has approval from "the very top."

Long line of problems

The bombshell allegations are the latest in a cavalcade of problems and scandals that plagued the company in the past decade. Motor Sich has been mired in open court cases, alleging ties to corrupt officials for a long time. Its financial compliance was also in question.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, Motor Sich lost about 70% of its market. The company’s patented technology was used in many Soviet and later Russian planes and helicopters. 

Bohuslayev attempted to sell his share of the company, hidden in various offshore structures, to Chinese company Skyrizon, which has strong ties to China’s government. Ukrainian officials sounded the alarm and put a moratorium on the sale during the administration of former President Petro Poroshenko.

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government continued to oppose the sale and sanctioned Skyrizon and its parent company, the Beijing Xinwei Technology Group. The Chinese parties eventually filed a $4.5 billion arbitration dispute against the Ukrainian government for interfering in the sale.

Washington pressured Ukraine not to allow the deal to go through, not wanting China to be able to build its own military helicopters with Motor Sich components. American officials also raised concerns that if China got its hands on the engine patents, it would go on to supply Russia, which would use this technology to attack Ukraine. 

If the SBU’s accusations against Bohuslayev and Dzyuba are correct, Russia has found a way to get the parts without having to go through China. 

Bohuslayev’s ties

Bohuslayev bought a majority stake in Motor Sich in the 1990s, during the wave of unregulated privatization sweeping through the post-Soviet countries.

He was politically active, having advised former Ukrainian presidents Leonid Kuchma and the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych who fled to Russia during the EuroMaidan Revolution of 2014. The revolution was triggered by Yanukovych refusing to move ahead with an agreed-upon EU association agreement, demanded by many Ukrainians.

Bohuslayev served multiple terms as a lawmaker with Yanukovych’s pro-Russian Party of Regions and later as a self-nominated candidate. He reportedly referred to himself as a "patriot of Russia" in 2008. 

Upon searching his home, the SBU reported finding anti-Ukrainian propaganda and Russian state awards made out to Bohuslayev. 

Zelensky's adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that Bohuslayev may be traded for Ukrainian POWs. Earlier, Russia exchanged Ukrainian POWs for custody of pro-Russian politician and treason suspect Viktor Medvedchuk, once Putin's top man in Ukraine. 

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Note from the author:

Hi, this is Igor Kossov, I hope you enjoyed reading my article. 

I consider it a privilege to keep you informed about one of this century's greatest tragedies, Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. With the help of my colleagues, I will continue to bring you in-depth insights into Ukraine's war effort, its international impacts, and the economic, social, and human cost of this war. But I cannot do it without your help. To support independent Ukrainian journalists, please consider becoming our patron. Thank you very much. 

Igor Kossov
Igor Kossov
Reporter

Igor is a reporter at the Kyiv Independent. He has previously covered conflict in the Middle East, investigated corruption in Ukraine and man-made environmental damage in Southeast Asia. He has a Master’s in Journalism from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and was published in the Kyiv Post, USA Today, The Atlantic, Daily Beast and Foreign Policy.

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