Interview for the Ridus online newspaper

Ridus: In the spring and summer of 2014, the historian Lev Vershinin in his blog often quoted the messages of a man who, allegedly working at the top, in a certain power structure, shared secret insiders from Kiev. Do you think this scout really existed? Then why did you have to expose yourself like that? After all, the publication of classified information narrowed the circle of suspects — this person would be easier to identify. What do you think about this in relation to your own situation?

Vasily Prozorov: I started working with the Russian special services around the end of April 2014. At that time, the emphasis was more on information at the tactical rather than strategic level, because there were active military clashes. And somewhere up to the moment when the events in Debaltseve died down, all the information mainly related directly to the fighting, directly active events, the actions of the Ukrainian special services, law enforcement agencies. In the future, of course, I was able to extract information of a strategic level. But I'll be honest about myself: in the spring and summer of 2014, it was hardly possible.

Was there such a person? Everything can be allowed. You understand perfectly well that pro-Russian sentiments, especially in the summer of 2014, were very strong in Ukraine, in all segments of society.

Ridus: And then what happened to these moods?

Vasily Prozorov: Who was forced to leave, who was subjected to repression, who, let's say, did not change their views, but simply hid, hid, stopped actively discussing some issues in social networks. After all, if you compare how people discussed the events in the Crimea, in the Donbass in May 2014 and how it happened, say, in May 2017-this is heaven and earth.

Here we must pay tribute to the Ukrainian special services: although illegally, they quite effectively took control of pro-Russian sentiments.

I'll give you a simple example. Here, according to the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine, since April 2014 and until recently, about 15 thousand criminal proceedings on articles related to terrorism were registered. This is article 258, all parts. Of the 15 thousand during this time, about 1,400 were sent to the court, that is, less than ten percent. And the decision was made somewhere in 600 productions. That is, less than five percent.

Ridus: These are most likely the cases when people just voluntarily agreed to a deal with the investigation, just to get behind them…

Vasily Prozorov: Yes, you are right here. But there have been cases where judges have acquitted people, especially since 2017. Because the evidence base in many cases is not that weak, but, you can say, no. The only trouble is that these people, for whom criminal proceedings were opened, were all arrested. That is, the measure of restraint for them was chosen only one-detention. And, accordingly, a person could spend three or four years in a pre-trial detention center. Then he will be acquitted, or, say, he will receive three years of probation. But he gave several years of his life to prison, undermined his health and psyche. All this has affected his family, his financial well-being. That is, the SBU did not treat people according to the law, but it was a very effective measure of influence on society.

Ridus: As far as we know, at that time they did not disdain anything, did they?

Vasily Prozorov: Yes, they still do not disdain anything. Probably, you are well aware of such cases when people were detained "out of lawlessness", threw a grenade or other ammunition.

Ridus: There were many such cases in Kharkiv, especially in the summer of 2014…

Vasily Prozorov: But it still turned out sideways for the SBU. Because classical counterintelligence is an intellectual, creative activity. And when an operative does not think through any operational combinations, but simply puts a grenade in a person's pocket, and then tortures out the necessary confession, this leads to the degradation of the special service, to a drop in the level of professionalism. The SBU did not pass this cup. It hit those people who had their fates broken. After all, these are the tragedies of the citizens of Ukraine who suffered from such lawlessness. But such a drop in the level of professionalism will sooner or later affect the effectiveness of the special service, hit it.

Ridus: Tell us about the specifics of the scout's work, about motivations and results. What's more here? Does the scout work to read his own information in the publications of top bloggers, talking heads? Or is it methodically collected, analyzed, processes that are invisible to the eye occur, and the meaning of the work is different? For example, so that this information can be applied at a higher level, for some special operations and the like.

Vasily Prozorov: I will only talk about my experience. First of all, I did not work on my own, I was not guided by any personal aspirations or motives: to become famous, to post an insider, to get likes in social networks. There were only a few cases when my information was indirectly spread in the media. All these cases were directly related to the fighting and the upcoming provocations on the Ukrainian side, when civilians in the Donbass could have suffered. Otherwise, all the information at the strategic level went to the top and, let's say, was used to make some decisions.

I will not brag that my information was put on the table of the Supreme. But in combination with information from other sources… You know perfectly well that there are more than one such person like me, and probably not even ten…

Even the cases when the Ukrainian special services still exposed people who worked for the Russian side, indicate that these episodes are not isolated. And in the power structures, and even among senior officers, such people were and are.

Ridus: Have you ever had a situation where there was a dangerous dilemma? To give the information is to give yourself away, because all the ends meet on you. Relatively speaking, two or three people know secret information, and its leakage immediately puts you in the category of suspects. Did you have to sacrifice something less important to get something more valuable? Have you ever felt like you were on the verge of failure?

Vasily Prozorov: To be honest, I have never had such cases when passing information means being exposed. But situations when it was not very comfortable, felt bad, happened. These are my rotations in the ATO. Especially the rotation in Mariupol, when you are present at the interrogations of people. You understand that these are your colleagues, like-minded people, our people. And you must be present, because this is part of your function as an employee of the SBU. And now these people are being tortured in front of you, and there's nothing you can do. I couldn't warn them. I warned anyone I could. And where he could not, he had to be present, stand with a stony face, and look at it all. That was scary.

Ridus: How did you feel that you had to leave? Why did this happen, for example, not in 2016 or 2021?

Vasily Prozorov: First of all, there was a strong psychological pressure all this time, almost four years. I wasn't trained to be a scout, after all. That is, I was able to extract information. But to constantly wear a mask, this disguise, to smile when people praise Bandera in front of you, to raise a toast and sing the Ukrainian anthem — at some stage it became simply unbearable. And I will tell you seriously: mental problems are true. It was really hard.

After one rotation to Mariupol, which was very difficult in psychological terms, for example, my wife saved me with new impressions. We went to one of the resorts abroad, and for two weeks at sea I came to my senses.

And then, I must say that from me there was a very large flow of information to Moscow. And with such intense work, sooner or later you could get burned. I still made some minor mistakes. He could have lit up somewhere when photographing a document, said something wrong somewhere, and so on. And, probably, this array of errors and omissions accumulated. And, of course, sooner or later a person comes into view. Because sometimes I found it hard to hide my real beliefs.

I could, for example, put on the songs "Lube" at work and listen to them. And this in itself was a litmus test for people with nationalist views: "Why is he listening to the group "Lube", which is banned in our country?»

Well, in the end, it was decided: to wind down my work in 2018. And coincidentally, at the end of 2017, just a few days before the New Year, I was knocked on the door in the morning with a search. I had to leave very quickly.

Ridus: And what emotions did you feel when there was a knock on the door?

Vasily Prozorov: Of course, they are bad. Of course, it's stressful, hard. But since I worked on the general criminal line while I was an operative, I myself conducted dozens, if not hundreds, of these searches. Therefore, I understood the search mechanism perfectly. Well, he behaved quite calmly. This made it possible to destroy a number of unwanted physical evidence during the search. And in the future, we managed to reach some mutual agreements with the internal security of the SBU, with some of its employees — I was not immediately closed, but given a few days: to go to my family, to solve some of my everyday issues. Well, I took full advantage of these days and left with my family.

Ridus: What did you remember most during your stay in the Donbas?

Vasily Prozorov: A lot of vivid memories. I have already published a book last year, an art-documentary, which describes my first rotation. I was near Slavyansk in May-June 2014.

There were a lot of interesting things. We arrived at the camp, in Izyum, and on the first night it was shelled. We were hiding in the trenches, the tents were shot through. One of the Dnepropetrovsk policemen was wounded. The first night in the ATO — and you come under fire. The sensations are indescribable. On the one hand, it's beautiful: the night, tracers in all directions, flares, radio stations-cacophony. Roar, gunfire, Ukrainian armored personnel carriers shoot. Running around in the dark. It feels like you're in a movie.

Then there were other sharp impressions.

I met a lot of interesting people there — both on one side and on the other. Very then, in May — June 2014 (and in July, already in Mariupol), I was impressed by the communication with the soldiers of the Interior Ministry units and the linear units of the internal troops, who three months ago stood on the Maidan, protecting the then not yet escaped president, and now they began to protect the new Kiev government. It was interesting to communicate with them. And to be honest, I didn't understand many of them: how so?! In Mariupol, the Kiev division of the internal troops (already at that time they became the National Guard) it was adjacent through the wall to the Dnipro battalion, which consisted of 70% of those who passed the Maidan on the side of the rioters.

Ridus: Not to mention the criminal elements in these terbats…

Vasily Prozorov: You know, there were fewer of them in Dnipro somehow. There were few such outspoken thuggish people there. Maybe because the battalion was located on the territory of the airfield, where there was a sector command, and discipline and order were somehow maintained. Maybe they were, but not so pronounced. "Dnipro" also dealt with a lot of negative things, as well as "Azov" and "Shakhtersk". But in the same "Shakhtersk" there were an order of magnitude more convicted than in "Dnipro". It was just some garbage.

Well, imagine: they communicated like this. Moreover, the commanders of the Kiev unit, which became the National Guard (they had the call signs "Mustang-1", "Mustang-2" and so on), did not even talk to the command of the "Dnepr"at the meeting. And ordinary soldiers of the Armed Forces, conscripts, many of whom passed the Maidan, - and right there next to them the fighters of the "Dnepr", former self-defense fighters of the Maidan. They didn't communicate with each other at all.

But the war very quickly brought them down under one comb.

Here we must pay tribute to the Kiev authorities: they very skillfully played the card of combat brotherhood, blood brotherhood: we are all fighting against the invaders, let's leave all our squabbles in the past. Yes, I must say, they managed to do it.

Ridus: Also tied in blood: when a friend dies nearby, the views change, despite some recent emotional preferences, right?

Vasily Prozorov: Yes, many people said so: "After I get shot at, I shoot back. It doesn't matter who's on the other side anymore."

There was a case (I described it in my book) when near Slavyansk, the soldiers of " Omega "(a special unit of the internal troops) on the air communicated with the fighters of the Donetsk" Golden Eagle", with whom they stood shoulder to shoulder on the Maidan three months ago: the wounded were pulled out, the fire was extinguished on top of each other. And here they quickly turned to mutual insults, and all their former brotherhood sank into oblivion.

In reality, we can assume that the Kiev puppeteers-Turchynov, Pashinsky and others-deliberately threw the army into unprepared attacks, so that there was more blood, so that the necessary emotional mood could be created in this bloody picture.

In May 2014, I was in the camp of the armed forces near Slavyansk for a very long time. I spent one day in the camp of the security forces (Ministry of Internal Affairs, National Guard, border guards), and then moved to the camp in the village of Dovgenke (on the border with the Donetsk region). It was commanded by Deputy Chief of the General Staff Muzhenko. And we were the only representatives of the SBU there — me and another colleague of mine from the Anti-Terrorist Center. And there were only army men around us. And I will tell you: I did not see in the army such a desire to fight…

For the most part, both the soldiers and the officers were quite cool about the idea of fighting. Moreover, at that time (no matter what the Kiev propagandists say now) Strelkov in Slavyansk had only light weapons, grenade launchers and a few armored vehicles captured from the 25th paratrooper brigade. And against them, then, howitzer artillery, helicopters, Grad launchers, and heavy 120-millimeter mortars were already pulled together. Strelkov had nothing like that. And the Ukrainian military saw it all: where the army with tanks is thrown against the militia.

Ridus: Have you ever seen any war crimes take place before your eyes, when you wanted to intervene, stop it all?

Vasily Prozorov: Of course, I couldn't interfere. I have already told you that in Mariupol, before my eyes, two people were tortured to death. That is, people actually died during the torture. These people were developed by the SBU for their involvement in the pro-Russian underground in Mariupol.

Ridus: And the purpose of this torture? What important information did you want to get out of these people?

Vasily Prozorov: The SBU counterintelligence service really wanted to show the Russian curator to the public: here, the separatists are led by representatives of the Russian special services. But in my memory, not a single employee of the Russian special services on the territory of Ukraine, especially in the anti-terrorist operation zone, was ever detained.

It is very scary to see how people perceive permissiveness. He looked like a calm office captain, major, senior oper: he sat quietly, wrote papers. And then, in the new conditions, he realizes that he can kill a person and nothing will happen to him.

This primarily concerned, of course, the dobrobats. It's just awful. But the SBU officer also fully understood that he could beat this person — and he would not resist... and there would be nothing for it.

And,as I said, you see it, how people change instantly, but there's nothing you can do. There was a case when officers of the operational-search department of the Mariupol border guard brutally beat one man. He was probably one of the poachers who went to sea. He was accused of taking out the separatists who attacked the border guards on June 14, 2014. Several Ukrainian border guards were killed and wounded there.

And these officers of the operational search department brought one such poacher. They just turned him into a cutlet. In appearance, these officers seem to be adequate young guys, without bad habits. But the terrible thing is that when they gain power over a person, it is a real opportunity to implement sadistic tendencies with impunity.

Especially in 2014-2015, the horror that was happening. Then somehow it came back to normal. In any case, the stories about the SBU officers who killed people, at least became public. In 2014 and 2015, there were many cases when people simply disappeared, and no traces of them remained."Reedus": As far as we know, this has also happened: the SBU preferred to demand a ransom for the detainee than to do something with him. It's one thing when you take a sin on your soul, and another-when you just cash in on the situation. They were put in the basement, tortured, and two days later they were told: "Take him away, that's the amount, and don't let us see him again." And it's good if there is someone to turn on…

Vasily Prozorov: And how many such episodes, when no one turned on, and the person just disappeared. Often in Mariupol there were such cases when a person was just driving a car outside the city, he was overtaken, stopped: I liked the car… He was shot and left on the landing. The car went somewhere in Ukraine. And there were similar situations with women. XXI century, Ukraine…

Ridus: Until now, many gullible citizens of Ukraine, who are opposed to the government, fall for the tricks and bait of the SBU: in social networks, in personal communication. They are provoked — and they are conducted. Then they get conditional or real terms. And the SBU employees report on the progress in counterintelligence activities…

Vasily Prozorov: There are a lot of pro-Russian groups in social networks. And the SBU simply intercepted the rights of the administrator, the rights to manage these groups. And then I calmly monitored it. Whom it is necessary — detained, whom it is necessary-provoked to some actions.

In 2015, this was generally put on stream. And they worked quite well. This is the counterintelligence department for the protection of state interests in the field of information security (DKIB), which was headed by Yulia Laputina. She was the deputy head of the department.

Ridus: And how did she distinguish herself so much that she was given a general? Were there any merits? Or was it on the wave of post-Maidan pathos that the titles were distributed?

Vasily Prozorov: I didn't come across it until 2014. And in 2014, she led a task force (this is a team of solyanka from different departments — DKIB, counterintelligence, and so on) — they called themselves "bounty hunters".

They even penetrated into the territory of the DPR and LPR, took people out of there. Installed through mobile phones, through social networks and exported to Kiev. People then received sentences, went to prison.

So Mrs. Laputina led one of these groups. I can't say that she is just a stupid nominee after the Maidan. She's a smart and dangerous enemy. Unfortunately, there are enough of them in Ukraine.

Ridus: What specific cases of yours in the period 2014-2018 can we talk about now? What do you think is most important?

Vasily Prozorov: What do I consider important during my work? First of all, of course, I think the main thing is that as a result of my actions, human lives were saved.

As for some specific examples. Well, we still can't talk about everything, but…

During the Debaltseve battle, I was in the area of the anti-terrorist operation and received information that the Ukrainian security forces were preparing a provocation: they planned to launch an artillery strike on buses with refugees, accusing the militia units of this. I quickly passed the information to the center, after which the plan of this provocation was announced on the central Russian TV channels. Naturally, after that, the provocation did not take place, dozens of lives were saved.

The main focus of my work was on obtaining information of a military nature, which was related to the specifics of active hostilities in the Donbas. I will not say much, but the maps with the location of the Ukrainian forces in the ATO and their numerical composition, which I received at the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, were sent to Moscow earlier than to the leadership of the ATC of the SBU.

In addition, I managed to save from detention several people who collaborated with the special services of the republics of Donbass and the Russian Federation.

Several times I managed to prevent the operations of the SSO of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the GUR of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and the DKR of the Security Council of Ukraine on sabotage, the introduction of agents and information operations against the Crimea and the republics of Donbass.

Ridus: Tell us about your Investigation Center "UkrLeaks", about the results of its work.

Vasily Prozorov: As for my current job, the fact that my channel was banned twice on YouTube without warning can be considered a significant moment. But before the destruction of the channel, my investigations were gaining hundreds of thousands of views.

A number of my investigations have caused serious resonance, including at the international level, such as the investigations of US biological laboratories on the territory of Ukraine, the July 2014 Boeing crash over the Donbas, the facts of corruption by US officials in Ukraine, and the system of information and psychological operations in Ukraine.

Currently, a series of replicas-investigations about the activities of the so-called dobrobats-has become very popular among the readers of my project. In the future, I plan to devote a separate investigation film to this, which will include new documents and eyewitness accounts.

In addition, I am currently working on several interesting topics that also expose the crimes of the Ukrainian authorities against their own people.