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Yanukovych’s "grey cardinal". What's the connection between Demchenko’s dismissal and the Kharkiv Accords?

Demchenko was dismissed from the NSDC and Intelligence Service. Photo: rnbo.gov.ua

Demchenko was dismissed from the NSDC and Intelligence Service. Photo: rnbo.gov.ua

On Monday, July 25, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed Ruslan Demchenko from his position as Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council. At the same time, he was dismissed as head of the Intelligence Committee under the President of Ukraine.

Although the President’s Office attributed Demchenko’s dismissal to his poor health, it surprisingly coincided with notices of suspicion served to persons involved in the case of the Kharkiv Accords, the pact Demchenko lobbied according to the accusations repeatedly leveled against him by journalists and civic activists.

The Page summarized all that is currently known about the dismissal of Ruslan Demchenko.

The official reason for Demchenko’s dismissal

The official reason was said to be the "complex health condition" of the Deputy NSDC Secretary. Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the President’s Chief of Staff, said this in his commentary for LIGA.net.

Quote"Mr. Demchenko will no longer be able to do his job because he needs serious medical treatment," he said, and added that Demchenko’s responsibilities have been redistributed among other team members.

Later, it became known that the official had also ceased to be head of the Intelligence Committee under the President of Ukraine. The media wrote that Demchenko is seriously ill, citing a source in his inner circle.

Ruslan Demchenko’s career: from Kravchuk to Zelenskyy

From 1983 to 1985, Demchenko served in the Armed Forces of the USSR, and in 1989, he graduated from the Kyiv Institute of International Relations.

It’s interesting that, having just graduated, aged 24, he was appointed economist of the international cooperation department of the Ministry of Construction of the Ukrainian SSR and secretary of the consular office at the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine when he was 25.

In 1992, Demchenko’s diplomatic career resumed as he rose from the second secretary of the Ukrainian Embassy in the U.S. (1992–1996) to Deputy Head of the Protocol Service under President Leonid Kuchma (1997–2000).

Already in 2000, Demchenko became the Ukrainian Consul General in Istanbul, and from 2003 to 2005, he was the Ukrainian ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro.

Under the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko, he was appointed first deputy head of the Main Presidential Service for Foreign Policy.

In 2005 and 2006, Demchenko led the State Protocol Service of the President of Ukraine, and in 2006, he was appointed President’s Chief of Staff.

Demchenko’s career also wasn't interrupted during Yanukovych’s presidency, as he worked as Deputy Foreign Minister until the end of 2010, and then was promoted to First Deputy Minister.

It was after Yanukovych’s victory that Demchenko began overseeing Ukraine’s foreign relations with Russia. That is why he’s being accused (still unofficially) of developing the Kharkiv Accords, which allowed the Russian Black Sea fleet to be stationed in Ukraine for 25 more years.

It’s also known that he took part in the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers on November 21, 2013, where it was decided to reject the EU Association Agreement. Later, in the midst of the revolution, Demchenko acted as the Foreign Minister (however, only on February 23–27, 2014).

Most interestingly, this also wasn’t the end of Demchenko’s career. On September 23, 2014, he was appointed as an adviser to President Petro Poroshenko, and later, on July 23, 2019, to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. In 2020, Demchenko became First Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council and the head of the Intelligence Committee under the President of Ukraine.

Lustrated but not lustrated: what was Demchenko accused of?

Formally, Demchenko qualified for the law on lustration adopted under Poroshenko’s presidency. However, according to Zelenskyy, he wasn’t lustrated because he personally didn’t sign any important documents.

Interestingly, Demchenko’s name briefly appeared on the list of persons who qualified for the law on lustration published on the website of the Ministry of Justice in 2014, but later disappeared. In 2012, Zelenskyy’s office restricted access to the results of the official’s lustration check.

In 2021, Serhii Rakhmanin, a journalist and ex-head of the Holos faction in parliament, named Demchenko as the main lobbyist for the Kharkiv Accords.

In November 2021, the Skhemy program showed an investigation where journalists revealed evidence of the official's involvement in lobbying the Accords. According to them, Demchenko urged members of the Committee of the Verkhovna Rada for National Security to vote for the Accords.

In March 2021, the NSDC instructed the Security Service of Ukraine to investigate the circumstances of preparation and ratification of the Accords, but the authorities eventually said they found no evidence of Demchenko’s involvement.

Moreover, editor-in-chief of Censor.net Yurii Butusov accused Demchenko of having thwarted the operation to capture the Wagner mercenaries.

According to Vasyl Burba, the former head of the Defense Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Demchenko was in attendance when President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was briefed on the preparation of the operation to capture the Wagner mercenaries in 2021, which failed eventually.

Former Yanukovych’s ministers declared suspects

It’s no less noteworthy that, on the same day as Demchenko’s dismissal, allegedly for health reasons, the General Prosecutor’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation served notices of suspicion of treason to two former ministers who worked under Yanukovych’s presidency.

The case in question is that of approval of the Kharkiv Accords. The two suspects are ex-Foreign Minister Kostiantyn Hryshchenko and ex-Minister of Justice Oleksandr Lavrynovych.

According to the investigators, in April 2010, the suspects, upon prior conspiracy with Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, acting to the detriment of Ukraine, approved without comments or actual consideration the above Accords, which extended the stationing of the Russian Black Sea fleet in Ukraine by 25 years.

Quote"This created beneficial conditions for further reequipment and modernization of the weapons belonging to the Russian Black Sea fleet, as well for the increasing of its amount in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol instead of withdrawing them from Ukraine," the Prosecutor General’s Office announced.

In turn, the State Bureau of Investigations announced that investigators from the SBI gathered evidence to prosecute two former ministers. They added that the suspects were abroad at the moment, so the notices of suspicion were served in absentia.

Quote"The pre-trial investigation established that the essence and terms of the agreement were forced by the Russian president, Dmitriy Medvedev, on the then-Prime Minister of Ukraine," the SBI officials stated.

They pointed out that the former ministers not only approved the Accords, which haven’t even been subjected to a legal examination, but took part in drafting them. In 2021, notices of suspicion were also served to Viktor Yanukovych and Mykola Azarov.

"The Russian fleet in Crimea means stability"

Commenting on Demchenko’s dismissal, Skhemy stressed that, when lobbying the Kharkiv Accords, he advocated the idea that the Russian fleet staying in Crimea means "stability for Ukraine".

Viktor Shlinchak, Chair of the Supervisory Board of the Institute of World Policy, writes:

Quote"Demchenko, who was suspected of working for Russia and accumulated intelligence data, was monitored by our intelligence agencies for a long time. And by "monitored" I mean that some investigated him while others covered him up. This is how we lived for the last three years."

He thinks that now information about Demchenko’s work for Russia has also been revealed by Western intelligence.

Volodymyr Rysenko, a jurist at the Kharkiv Anti-Corruption Center and a member of the Ukrainian National Bar Association, cites Demchenko’s words, which he said in 2010 about the Russian fleet in Crimea:

Quote"The Black Sea fleet won’t cause increased terrorist activities in the region or destabilization in Crimea. Both sides are bound by serious mutual obligations and intend to invest efforts in making the stationing of the Russian Black Sea fleet in Ukraine enhance European and regional security."

According to Rysenko, on July 23, 2022, information appeared that Mossad, an Israeli intelligence agency, helped Ukraine catch out Russian "moles", and on July 25, Zelenskyy fired Demchenko.

Quote"It’s very important to hear the official reason for the dismissal. Is it what a lot of people have been saying about Demchenko for years, supposedly confirmed by Mossad now? Or have we all been wrong, and is this merely a coincidence?" the lawyer writes.

The "gray cardinal" of Yanukovych’s time

The Anti-Corruption Action Center says that Demchenko’s dismissal is "wonderful news" and calls the official "the gray cardinal of the Foreign Ministry in the times of Yanukovych".

Quote"In exchange for a gas discount, Ukraine allowed Russia not only to extend the stationing of the Black Sea fleet in Crimea but actually to prepare the annexation of the peninsula in 2014," the activists point out.

The Anti-Corruption Action Center stresses that mere dismissal is not enough: Demchenko should be brought to justice for the preparation of the Kharkiv Accords. However, there are problems with it.

Quote"We have information that materials in the criminal case of the Kharkiv Accords were destroyed at the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine," the Center says.

Failed intelligence and preparation for the war

Editor-in-Chief of Censor.net Yurii Butusov writes that Demchenko was dismissed exactly on the anniversary of the "Wagnergate".

Quote"The cost of putting a Russian agent into power turned out to be disastrous. They started to acknowledge the truth about Demchenko only in the fifth month of the war," he stressed.

According to Butusov, in 2020, following Demchenko’s appointment, operations of all Ukrainian intelligence agencies failed within a couple of months.

Quote"Yevhen Holubev, a Ukrainian intelligence officer, was shot by Russians on the border during one of such operations, and our agents suffered heavy losses," the journalist says.

Moreover, Butusov believes that it’s the failed work of the Intelligence Committee in January and February 2022 that is to blame for the following:

  • the operational reserve wasn’t mobilized;
  • the Territorial Defense Force wasn’t deployed;
  • the Chonhar bridges weren’t promptly blown up;
  • Mariupol wasn’t protected from the rear;
  • in the areas of Russia’s offensives, civilians weren’t promptly evacuated.

The journalist stresses that the current Demchenko’s location is an important question now. If he’s in Ukraine, it’s unclear why he hasn’t yet been interrogated by the SSU.


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