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‘Putin's private foundation,’ spies, and a killer-monk The man who allegedly ordered Arkady Babchenko's murder says was working for Ukrainian counterintelligence all along

Meduza
Boris German in court
Boris German in court
Stepan Franko / EPA / Scanpix / LETA

Late on May 31, a Kiev district court placed the businessman Boris German under arrest for allegedly organizing the attempted murder of the journalist Arkady Babchenko. At the trial, German offered up his own version of events, and it’s radically different from the story we’ve heard from Ukraine’s National Security Agency and the Prosecutor’s Office, which jointly staged Babchenko’s death.

What happened, according to Boris German? Six months ago, German was contacted by an old acquaintance from Moscow who “works at a private Putin foundation, organizing unrest in Ukraine.” German reported this to Ukrainian counterintelligence, and was told to learn more about the flow of Russian money into Ukraine funding certain politicians and “terrorist groups.” When he was asked to arrange Babchenko’s murder, an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” veteran named Alexey Tsymbalyuk was chosen for the job because he is a former monk and would never kill an unarmed man. Ukrainian counterintelligence knew that Tsymbalyuk would “run straight to the National Security Agency” because “that’s what they were trained to do at the front.” Once this happened, counterintelligence knew Babchenko’s murder would be staged. After Babchenko’s death was reported, German received a list from his Russian contact with the names of another 30 targets, which he handed over to Ukrainian counterintelligence. All these actions were documented. The operation was a secret because there are many “moles” in Ukraine’s National Security Agency who leak information to Russia.

What happened, according to Ukraine’s National Security Agency and the Prosecutor’s Office? Boris German isn’t a counterintelligence agent. The case evidence completely refutes his testimony. In early April, the veteran Alexey Tsymbalyuk appealed to the police, saying that he’d been hired to kill Arkady Babchenko. Tsymbalyuk was then brought in on the authorities’ “secret investigative actions.” Boris German paid him a $14,000 advance and gave him an extra $1,000 to buy a weapon with a silencer. Babchenko’s murder was staged so Tsymbalyuk could get the list of 30 additional targets from German. When that list was received, after which German was arrested.

Text by Grigory Levchenko, translation by Kevin Rothrock