The intelligence world is currently roiled by reports that Ukraine's intelligence service had tricked 32 Russian mercenaries accused of war crimes into confessing — and almost got them to Ukraine by setting up fake job interviews under the guise of a security contract.
The allegations were first reported in Ukrainian media on Tuesday evening.
The reports claim that the Ukrainian intelligence (SBU) operation was designed to convince dozens of Russian mercenaries who had fought in the 2014 Donbass war, between Russia- and Ukraine-backed fighters, to provide verification of their presence in the region. The entire operation began nearly a year ago, the reports said.
To extract the mercenaries' confessions and eventually bring them into custody, the SBU created a fake security contract for them, set up fake job interviews, and readied a flight taking them from Moscow to Minsk, then to Istanbul on July 25, the reports said.
The plan was then for the charter flight, secretly arranged by the SBU, to claim a medical or technical emergency while airborne and divert to Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, where the mercenaries could be imprisoned and offered to Russia in a prisoner swap, according to local media.
But at the last moment the operation was delayed for unknown reasons, and the Belarusian secret police (KGB) arrested the men in a spa outside Minsk, where they were awaiting their rescheduled flight.
Belarus quietly deported the 32 mercenaries back to Russia over the weekend. Various political factions in Ukraine are now trading blame for what they say was a leak that rumbled the flight to Kyiv and tipped off Belarus, journalist Christo Grozev tweeted.