The Bellingcat investigation, published on November 17, states that Andriy Yermak, the Head of the Office of the President, initiated the deferral of the special operation to detain Russian mercenaries at its final stage. According to the journalists, he insisted on postponing it for a week so as not to disrupt the ceasefire agreement in Donbas that was to enter into force on July 27, 2020.
Vasyl Burba, the then director of the Defence Intelligence, told investigative journalists that "the Office of the President believed that if the special operation proceeded as planned and ended with the detentions on July 25, then the truce would end before it could begin."
Mykhailo Podoliak, Advisor to the Head of the OP, denies this information in a commentary to the outlet Ukrayinska Pravda (Ukrainian Truth from Ukrainian). He stresses that Yermak "never and under no circumstances could even try to lead intelligence, and even more so some of its operational measures."
"This is just not possible. Both with regard to the official duties of Andriy Yermak, and with regard to the fact that intelligence leaders simply cannot take orders or instructions from inappropriate persons. Yes, indeed, Andriy Yermak is responsible for the logistics of negotiations on Donbas. And it was extremely topical precisely in July 2020, which, by the way, is eloquently spoken about by the "sources" themselves in the investigation. But Andriy Borysovych was never responsible for the intelligence and its activities," Podoliak says.
He also notes that the investigators themselves pointed out that they could not accurately confirm a number of facts cited in the investigation, since they were based on the words of the former retirees.
"The Bellingcat team failed to independently confirm this conversation," as stated in the investigation.
In addition, Podoliak points out that "there were no President’s decisions to cancel or disrupt any measures against the Wagner mercenaries."
Context. After a year of collecting testimony and data, the Bellingcat reporters released an investigation into the special operation of the Ukrainian special services to detain PMC Wagner's militants. In it, the investigators disclosed the information they had collected and analyzed about the organization of the special operation, the process of recruiting mercenaries, the details of the planned hijacking of the plane with them, and their arrest in Belarus.
Recall that on July 29, 2020, the Belarusian authorities detained 33 militants of PMC Wagner. Ukraine requested their extradition because some of them had fought in Donbas. Minsk handed over all the detainees to Russia.
On August 17, 2020, the media reported that the special services of Ukraine was a special operation to detain the Wagner mercenaries who had fought against Ukraine in Donbas, but it "failed after a meeting at the Office of the President." Andriy Yermak was blamed for the information leak.
At first, the Ukrainian authorities denied the existence of this operation, then they called what was happening "a disinformation attack." Yermak repeated this statement. The Security Service of Ukraine and the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine did not recognize their participation in the operation, and President Zelenskyy called the information about it nonsense.
However, already in June 2021, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged the existence of the special operation. The OP stressed at that time that the Head of State was not involved in it and in its disruption.