Opinion

Who Could Install Spy Equipment in Ukraine’s Top Commander Zaluzhny’s Office?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) and Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny (right). File photo.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) found non-functioning spying devices in an office intended for the work of Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Gen. Valery Zaluzhny on Sunday.The SBU reportedly found eavesdropping devices during a routine inspection of the premises of Gen. Zaluzhny and his apparatus at one of the deployment locations on December 17. The service launched a criminal probe in the wake of the discovery.Commenting on the matter, Zaluzhny specified that the location where the devices were found has not been used for a long time. “This is the room that I was supposed to use today,” the general told reporters on December 18.

"There could be several versions," Volodymyr Oleynyk, a Ukrainian politician and former MP of the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, told Sputnik. "Firstly, everyone knows that Zaluzhny is a political competitor for [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky. Zaluzhny’s rating (…) is twice as high: somewhere around 75%, and Zelensky’s is 32%."

Per Oleynyk, those who installed the devices could be Zelensky’s people, who sought to find out what was happening in the general’s immediate circle. There could likewise be interest in wiretapping conversations about issues besides military matters, he explained. Many military men have recently begun to speak out in support of Zaluzhny, the politician continued, referring in particular to former deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Maj. Gen. Serhiy Kryvonos. Kryvonos has recently been especially critical of Zelensky and his entourage.It could similarly have been Russian special services interested in what is happening at the Ukrainian military premises, the politician continued.”On the other hand, those could have been Zaluzhny’s people,” Sputnik’s interlocutor said. “Wiretapping [devices] were discovered in the [general’s] office and in the assistants’ room. It is clear that this could increase [Zaluzhny’s] rating. (…) That could create an image of [Zaluzhny] as one who is pressured, persecuted.”According to Oleynyk, there are two intelligence agencies that could be behind the incident. One is the SBU which is subordinate to Zelensky; the other is the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, headed by Kyrylo Budanov.The Ukrainian politician explained that Budanov is not subordinate to the chief of the General Staff but to the Ministry of Defense, that is, a political department headed by a civilian official. Presently, the ministry is chaired by Rustem Umerov. Oleynyk does not rule out that the Main Directorate of Intelligence could carry out political plots, especially given that previously it was involved in wiretapping anti-corruption agencies controlled by the US.WorldUkraine’s Blame Game Begins: Who is Responsible for Kiev’s Looming Defeat?27 November 2023, 15:43 GMT

What’s Behind the Timing?

Zaluzhny is being increasingly blamed by President Zelensky and his entourage for the failed counteroffensive, according to Oleynyk. Without naming Zaluzhny, Zelensky warned Ukrainian generals against interfering in the nation’s politics. In late November, the Economist claimed that relations between Zelensky and Zaluzhny were “terrible.”Moreover, last month MP Maryana Bezuglaya from Zelensky’s Servant of the People Party accused Zaluzhny of the unfolding mess at the front, as well as failing to offer a “strategic vision for 2024.” Bezuglaya went even so far as to propose sacking the top commander, Oleynyk remarked.Under these circumstances, the discovery of the eavesdropping equipment could play into the hands of Zaluzhny and make him an unfairly persecuted war hero in the eyes of Ukrainians. Oleynyk recalled that before the discovery of the spying devices, Zaluzhny’s close aide Gennady Chastyakov was suspiciously killed by a grenade blast in early November in the wake of the publication of the general’s article about the counteroffensive failure.”It is possible that Zaluzhny has given a signal to his Western patrons that ‘we have a problem here’,” continued Oleynyk. “If they listen to him, Western intelligence services will certainly intervene. Why? Conversations with Americans, with NATO generals, and so on could have also been a target of [the alleged eavesdropping]. As a rule, such incidents receive special attention from the intelligence services of Western countries in order to prevent information leakage.”The Zelensky government is increasingly facing pressure because of the waning amount of Western financial and military support. The failed counteroffensive, as well as domestic economic problems he appears to have, cooled down the West’s bellicose enthusiasm.WorldWeek of Disappointment: Western Media Admits Ukraine and Zelensky Losing Ground16 December 2023, 09:07 GMT

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