Past week has become a disappointing litmus test for the Ukrainian military and intelligence services. It saw the murder of the valuable witness Denis Voronenkov (at least he was described as such by Yurii Lutsenko), the explosions at ammunition depots in Balakliia, Kharkiv oblast, on the same day, and finally the deadly crash of a Mi-2 military helicopter with five Ukrainians on board. In the case of Voronenkov, even the victim claimed while alive that he had been greatly surprised to hear the prosecutor general making public the information that he was the main witness in the Viktor Yanukovych trial. Apparently, it had to stay a secret until the start of the trial of the former president of Ukraine.
“No information was planned to be leaked through the prosecutor general Lutsenko, and it was a shock and surprise for Voronenkov,” Russian opposition leader Ilya Ponomarev told the Russian Novaya Gazeta. Unlike Voronenkov, he did not vote for the annexation of Crimea to Russia. “Military prosecutors intended to make Voronenkov’s presence known at the trial, when his testimony would be read out. He and his wife Masha expected to wind down their Russian connections in the meantime. They needed to sell their apartment, his son remained enrolled in his cadet corps, Masha had some activities of her own and so on.” Why, then, Lutsenko, holding one of the highest offices in the nation, allowed himself to be so talkative, even though a man’s fate depended on it? Is it criminal negligence or a cause for a serious internal investigation into Lutsenko’s possible crime and failure to meet job requirements? Also, are we witnessing an excess of politics and populism in an area that needs caution, professionalism, and exceptional vision in the field of investigation and prosecution? Of course, the prosecutor general’s lack of legal education allows people to argue that he cannot know all the legal nuances (although the very existence of such a prosecutor is nonsensical), but here we are dealing with elementary ethics and safety measures.
Balakliia, Kharkiv oblast, lived through a hellish night on March 23. After a similar tragedy in Svatove at the end of October 2015, one would expect appropriate action to have been taken. Let us recall that Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak then blamed the explosions on enemy sabotage a few hours after they started. As the later investigation revealed, negligence of a few enlisted men was actually to blame. On March 23, after the Balakliia ammunition depots sent their contents into the night sky, it was Chief Military Prosecutor Anatolii Matios who said, as if reading from Poltorak’s notes, that the enemy was active in nighttime as well and committed a sabotage act with a drone. However, a look at Svatove’s distance to the border with Russia makes the drone version more believable there. In the Balakliia case, however, the very idea of a sabotage drone requires drawing appropriate conclusions and punishing some quite high-ranked soldiers.
The Ministry of Defense source that wished to remain anonymous told The Day that the lack of adequate defense of strategic facilities such as military depots in the rear areas was an urgent issue and had to be resolved quickly, because there were adequate and effective systems available abroad.
“Of course, I would not mix the tragedy of Mi-2 with other incidents of the past week: after all, the war, unfortunately, causes non-combat losses and at a time when military activity is relatively low (as compared to large-scale operations), non-combat losses will be highly visible anyway,” MP of the People’s Front faction Dmytro Tymchuk told The Day. “If activity increases, non-combat losses will still be there. Such is life. However, the Voronenkov murder and the Balakliia explosions can be connected. Let us recall that these tragedies happened on the 25th anniversary of the Security Service of Ukraine. One may well suspect that the same decision-making center was behind both. Still, it does not absolve of responsibility our side. Maybe some people forget that we have a permanent threat and thus must be ready for all sorts of incidents. I cannot understand why the Ministry of Defense and the Military Prosecutor’s Office are pursuing the sabotage theory from the very outset. For some reason, our uniformed services use a wrong approach: if an act of sabotage happens, everything can be blamed on it. I see no logic in this approach. Even if this really was an act of sabotage, we cannot ignore its success being a result of negligence and unreliable protection of strategic facilities. Concerning protection, it is difficult to blame this shortcoming on inadequate funding. I, as a member of the National Security and Defense Committee, have never heard of funding shortfalls plaguing any defense programs.”
Therefore, the abovementioned and much-publicized tragedies do not imply but rather scream about systemic negligence or treachery. Of course, it is a thankless job to mention the latter, especially due to the overuse of the term “treachery” on social networks.