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Ukraine's SBU Responsible For Killing Of Banker Who Was Conduit For Russian Intelligence, Says Intel Chief.

Denys Kiryeyev's body was found on a Kyiv sidewalk on March 5, 2022, just 12 days after Russia launched its invasion. (file photo)

Denys Kiryeyev's body was found on a Kyiv sidewalk on March 5, 2022, just 12 days after Russia launched its invasion. (file photo)

KYIV -- Ukrainian security agents were responsible for killing a Ukrainian banker who reportedly served as a crucial information conduit and negotiator with Russia in the run-up to last year's invasion, a top intelligence official said.

The comments, made by General Kyrylo Budanov in an interview with RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, add further to the mystery surrounding the killing of Denys Kiryeyev, who was reportedly honored for his work four months after his death.
Budanov, who heads Ukraine's military intelligence agency, said "he believes the facts" and that Kiryeyev, who was a full-time employee of the agency, was killed by the Security Service of Ukraine, widely known as the SBU. Budanov did not say how long Kiryeyev had worked for the agency. The agents killed Kiryeyev in an SBU car as they "conducted an operation" against him, he said. "It's a fact that he was killed in that car by these operatives," Budanov, whose agency is known as the GUR, said in a January 21 phone interview. Asked specifically if SBU agents killed "a Ukrainian hero," he told RFE/RL: "This is absolutely true." Budanov's comments came three days after a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) story that examined the work of Kiryeyev, who had been employed for several Western banks and had developed ties with powerful businessmen in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk who had strong connections to Russia.

Kiryeyev's body was found on a Kyiv sidewalk on March 5, 12 days after Russia launched its invasion.
According to WSJ, Kiryeyev was investigated by the SBU on suspicion of passing information to Russian officials. The SBU declined to answer questions from RFE/RL regarding Budanov's assertions. Ukraine's main law enforcement agency, the State Bureau of Investigation, declined to comment on Budanov's statement that it had opened a criminal probe of the killing. In the interview, Budanov said that on the day of Kiryeyev's death he had been summoned for a meeting with SBU officials. He was accompanied by two GUR bodyguards, Budanov said, which was standard protocol. On their way to the SBU headquarters, he said, the car Kiryeyev and his escorts were riding in was stopped by armed agents from the SBU's tactical unit, known as Alfa. "Approximately 200 meters from the SBU's main building, a bus pulled out, that is, broke into oncoming traffic," he said. "Alfa agents ran out shouting 'SBU!' Agents burst out, saying they were from the SBU."

"Kiryeyev told everyone to stop," Budanov said. "Then he was transferred to a minibus that went not to the central building but several blocks away. Then what happened is what happened. His body fell out of that van. Those are the facts. Why didn't they go to the SBU building? Let the investigation answer this question."
Budanov confirmed that Kiryeyev had participated in high-level talks with Russian officials held in Belarus just four days after the invasion, and he said that the day before his death Kiryeyev was slated to travel by train again to Belarus for more talks -- at Budanov's directive. "What was the purpose? I sent him there. And the first time and the second time, he had to get on the train right after he was supposed to visit the SBU," Budanov said. "The main task we set for him was to prolong the [negotiating] process in order to buy time. Because Mr. Kiryeyev personally knew two people from the negotiation process who represented the Russian side." In an interview with the Baltic news agency Delfi on January 19, Mykhaylo Podolyak, a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has said Kiryeyev was killed due to a lack of coordination between the SBU and Budanov's agency.
Asked if he agreed with Podolyak's assessment, Budanov said: "I believe that the matter is much deeper. However, I will keep my opinion to myself. Let's evaluate only the facts."

In comments to RFE/RL, Fedir Venislavskiy, a parliamentary lawmaker and member of Zelenskiy's political faction, suggested that in the aftermath of the Russian invasion there had been several examples of "friendly fire" involving rival Ukrainian security agencies.
"Unfortunately, such 'friendly' fire killed people from various components of the security and defense sector," he said. Another lawmaker, Roman Kostenko, who serves in a different political faction, said the SBU must explain what exactly happened and why. And even if Kiryeyev had been a Russian agent, he should have been prosecuted in Ukrainian courts. "We should not turn into the Russian Federation, where sentences are handed down somewhere on the street or on the curbs," he told RFE/RL. In July, Zelenskiy fired his childhood friend and head of the SBU, Ivan Bakanov. The Ukrainian leader also sacked dozens of generals and other top officers in the SBU for their alleged role in allowing the Russian invasion to go forward. Zelenskiy also gave a posthumous honor to Kiryeyev for "exceptional duty in defense of state sovereignty and state security," according to WSJ, and was buried with military honors in a Kyiv cemetery. RFE/RL was unable to confirm Kiryeyev's posthumous honor.

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