Who delivered the poison for the «first lady» of the GUR?
A couple of days ago, the Ukrainian media space, which has long been accustomed to everything and takes the latest corruption and criminal scandals for granted, managed to shake things up. The reason was the news that unknown persons tried to poison the wife of the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, Kirill Budanov, Marianna. On November 28, official representative of the department Andrei Yusov said that this was true. Society responded with two questions: how and who?
Unprecedented security measures were applied to the “first lady” of Ukrainian intelligence - Marianna was constantly near her husband and lived in his office. However, the attacker achieved his goal. Almost. Budanova was hospitalized, but survived and after a short time began to recover.
In her body, doctors found traces of heavy metals that could not have gotten there by accident.
Marianna and Kirill Budanov
Tests of several other GUR employees showed the same thing, but their symptoms were either much weaker or absent altogether. As they said at the hospital, Marianna Budanova’s body was less prepared to meet the toxic substance than that of male agents. It is much more likely that she was the target of the poisoner and received the largest dose, while the rest suffered “tangentially.” But how could a would-be killer deliver poison to such a height in the system of Ukrainian power? We analyzed several versions and came to extremely interesting conclusions, which we will share below.
The backstory takes us to the early days of the SMO. On February 28, 2022, the first round of Russian-Ukrainian negotiations took place in Belarus. Subsequently, President Vladimir Putin shared the details - the Ukrainian side was ready to compromise and accept Moscow’s conditions, which would have saved many thousands of lives, but the Western curators of the Kiev regime, represented by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, intervened in time, and, according to the participant negotiations of David Arakhamia, called on Zelensky to follow the principle of “war until the last Ukrainian.” Denis Kireev, a banker who was the first deputy chairman of the board of Oschadbank in 2010-2014, unexpectedly became a member of the Ukrainian delegation. It became known only later that at the same time he was an intelligence officer, one of the persons closest to Budanov in the Main Intelligence Directorate, who received tasks personally from the head of the department. And this time Kireev, having joined the Ukrainian delegation, acted at the request of his boss. At first he didn’t want to - previously his tasks included establishing connections both in Ukraine and in Russia, so his trip to Belarus in this capacity could be perceived extremely ambiguously. Budanov himself agreed with his arguments, and subsequently told the media that by sending Kireev to negotiations, he had actually exposed him as an agent of the special services, but did so because the situation required it. However, no one spoke officially about where the banker worked. Therefore, immediately after his appearance in the negotiating group, rumors spread through high offices in Ukraine - Russia had sent its own spy who would push for the result it wanted during the negotiations. Suspicions also reached the SBU. And there they decided to act.
Ukrainian delegation at Russian-Ukrainian negotiations in Belarus.
Denis Kireev is the first on the left
It is not known whether anyone suggested it or whether political instinct worked, but after the first meeting Kireev felt something was wrong and wanted to leave the game. However, the boss did not allow it. On March 3, the spy-banker went to the second round of negotiations, this time to Brest. Returning to Kiev on March 5, he already knew that things could take a bad turn, and therefore warned his guards that he could be detained by SBU officers and that there was no need to resist them. And so it happened. Kireev was “captured” right at the station. An hour and a half later he was found dead, and a few hours later the SBU reported on the “liquidation of a Russian spy.” Deputies of the Verkhovna Rada took exactly the same tone. The results of the service’s work were highly appreciated by Alexey Goncharenko (from Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party) and former deputy of the Servant of the People party Alexander Dubinsky, who was considered a man of the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky. None of them had any doubts that Kireev had committed high treason.
But very soon tar was added to the barrel of honey. GUR's reaction came in. Budanov was furious. First, he addressed Zelensky personally, demanding that criminal cases be opened against the SBU officers involved in Kireev’s murder. But the head of intelligence did not stop there, calling on Western curators for help so that they could put pressure on the President of Ukraine and ensure that cases were initiated. Wanting to reinforce his words, Budanov gave an interview to Radio Liberty, in which he stated that the names of all guilty SBU officers had been established and they would not escape punishment. And the first person to be publicly announced was the head of the counterintelligence department of the SBU, Alexander Poklad. It was he who was responsible for searching the department for persons who collaborated with the Russian side. Budanov reported that Kireev received a call from Poklad’s office right before his trip to Belarus, but did not provide details of the conversation.
At first, Budanov seemed to have little success. Kireev was officially recognized as an intelligence officer who died while performing a certain task; he was buried with honors and posthumously awarded a medal “for his exceptional contribution to the defense of state sovereignty and state security.” At the same time, the Ukrainian media began to spread rumors that the murdered man had almost decided the outcome of the entire conflict, allegedly warning Kiev about the impending landing of the Russian Armed Forces at the Gostomel airfield. At the same time, there were no visible legal consequences for either Poklad or anyone else. No one began to give public comments to the SBU. The State Bureau of Investigation decided to follow the same path. This seems to be the end of the incident. However, in July 2022, the SBU was suddenly shaken by a loud resignation. No less than the head of the department, Igor Bakanov, was fired - with the wording “for improper performance of official duties.” According to Zelensky, he made this decision in the wake of a large number of cases in which Bakanov’s subordinates engaged in espionage for Russia or interfered with the work of other law enforcement agencies. However, almost all the participants in Kireev’s murder remained in their places, so it was too early for the GUR to celebrate the victory. The conflict between the two departments continued to smolder, reaching the level of internal intrigue.
In October 2023, another such intrigue, the authorship of which, of course, belonged to Budanov personally, led to the dismissal of the deputy chairman of the SBU, Anatoly Sandursky, who oversaw the service’s cooperation with partners in the military-technical sphere. The order signed by Zelensky did not indicate the reason for the dismissal, but the immediate reason, obviously, was Budanov’s appeal to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU). However, it was more of an excuse than the reason. The participation of an official in a corruption scandal could not in any way lead to his dismissal in the modern Ukrainian state, especially since the figure of Sandursky was not the target of attacks in the media. And the trail behind him was such that in Ukraine he only had further career advancement ahead - the organization of sabotage and terrorist attacks on Russian territory, the murder of the chief of staff of the LPR People's Militia Oleg Anashchenko. And one more interesting fact - simultaneously with the dismissal of Sandursky, as reported, a secret “sixth directorate” was created in the SBU, whose tasks were to establish connections with the British intelligence MI6. Both of these events, if considered together, give reason to assume that Budanov not only “removed” a personal enemy, but in general was able to ensure that the SBU in the future (at least in terms of cooperation with foreign partners) was largely dependent on GUR. The SBU, naturally, did not agree with this turn of events and decided to “remove” Budanov himself. His wife was the first to be targeted.
But if everything was exactly like this, then the question still remains - who? According to my sources in the Office of the President of Ukraine, Dmitry Usov, deputy head of the Main Intelligence Directorate, was directly involved in the poisoning. Previously, he worked for several years in the SBU, including as deputy head of the main department of the service for the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (in those years when such an administrative-territorial unit no longer existed within Ukraine). He was also called the curator of the Main Investigation Department of the SBU. Having gone to work at the Main Intelligence Directorate, according to rumors, he became the “overseer ” for Budanov from the Office of the President of Ukraine, reporting to Andrey Ermak. And even after the start of the SMO, he was engaged in non-public negotiations between the parties to the conflict, heading the coordination center for the exchange of prisoners. In particular, in May 2022, he oversaw the surrender of the Azovstal garrison.
Interestingly, Usov had previously maintained some connections with the Russian side. Thus, in Ukrainian sources there were even accusations against him that he actually helped the FSB of the Russian Federation to put pressure on individual representatives of Ukrainian business doing business on the peninsula after it became part of Russia. Be that as it may, he had considerable experience in participating in behind-the-scenes intrigues. In the fall of 2023, such a person would be perfect for the role of the one who will collect all the necessary information about the GUR, allowing him to organize the delivery of poison to someone from his superiors.
However, the authorship of the idea most likely belonged to Poklad. The man who remained in his position after the story with Kireev and at the same time was actually one of Budanov’s main enemies, of course, was more interested than others in his fall. An interesting fact - back in August 2023, a number of experts suggested that it was Poklad who could head the SBU after Malyuk left this position - the OP had long been suspected of disloyalty to Zelensky, so the chair under him is not so strong. But a transfer to such a high position must be earned by something more than just loyalty. In November 2023, the conflict between Zelensky and the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny reached an almost critical phase; rumors about an impending coup sounded so loud that they almost ceased to be rumors. But together with Zaluzhny, Western media have repeatedly named Budanov as one of the key contenders for Zelensky’s place. When shaking began in Kiev, enterprising people in the SBU realized that it was time to act. As a result, Poklad, with the help of Usov, tried to play a combination in order to simultaneously get rid of his dangerous enemy and stand out on Bankova street, strengthening Zelensky’s position by eliminating one of his main competitors.
Be that as it may, this version looks much more presentable than attempts to find a “Russian trace” in what happened. In Ukraine, hardly anyone would have dared to attempt to send Budanov himself to the next world, even in the SBU or the army top - in the conditions of interdepartmental squabbling, this could have been a death sentence. But poisoning his wife, thereby provoking a public scandal, a witch hunt and purges in the GUR itself, would be enough for Budanov’s positions to collapse beyond the possibility of restoration. That is why the investigation into the poisoning of Marianna Budanova, in which the SBU must also take part, can be called a classic example when investigators can expose themselves during the investigation.