Ukraine’s security service welcomes Russian spies, intimidates Catholic church to spy on students (Updated)

From Window On Eurasia:

Aleksandr Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s FSB, and Valery Khoroshkovsky, head of Ukraine’s SBU, have signed a five-year agreement that will allow Moscow again to put intelligence agents in Crimea, from which 19 such Russian officers were expelled at the end of last year for attempting to recruit Ukrainians as spies.

The behavior of Russian agents last year, Rostislav Pavlenko, the director of the School of Political Analysis of the Kyiv-Mohylev Academy, said, raises doubts as to whether any document Moscow officials sign or any statements they make can be trusted. After all, what the Russians did last year was prohibited by bilateral agreements.

Given that Ukraine has agreed to extend the presence of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol for another 25 years, there is certainly time for the appearance of a situation “when the Black Sea Fleet and the special services based within it can be used in actions that are counter to the interests of Ukraine.”
But the impact of this FSB-SBU accord is likely to be even larger, Ukrainian political scientist Yevgeny Zherebetsky argued. That is because the commanders of the Black Sea Fleet, immediately after the extension of the basing accord, began a “massive” downsizing, retiring some 7500 staffers, “of whom 6500 are civilians and citizens of Ukraine.”

In addition, the fleet plans to retire 550 officers, many of whom will like the civilians have relatively low pensions and thus be open as are the civilians for recruitment by the Russian special services for work against Ukraine as a way to supplement their relatively small benefit checks.
According to Zherebetsky, it is “very important for Russians to obtain control over Crimea” because it lacks warm water ports. But “if everything will develop so ‘well’ [for Moscow] as it is now, then the Russians will try to extend their influence to Odessa, Kherson, and Nikolayev,” in an arc extending from Transdniestria to Abkhazia.
For that purpose, he continued, “Russia needs a broad network of agents of the special services,” but its prospects for success if these agents are active are very good because “over the course of the period of independence, the Ukrainian leadership has done nothing so that Ukraine could obtain complete power over the territory of Crimea.”

Read the rest of the article

Meanwhile the SBU recently tried to recruit a Ukrainian Catholic priest to become a secret informant to infiltrate student protests, many whom dislike the Yanukovych government:


Under the Soviets, the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine was the largest illegal religious body in the world, and one of the most persecuted. The legendary Ukrainian Cardinal Josef Slipyi, who spent two decades in the gulags, once said that his church had been buried under "mountains of corpses and rivers of blood." During his 2001 visit to Ukraine, John Paul II beatified 27 Greek Catholic martyrs under the Soviets — one of whom had been boiled alive, another crucified in prison, and a third bricked into a wall.

Given that history, the church’s recovery in the short span of time since the Soviet Union imploded has been nothing short of miraculous. In 1939, the Greek Catholics boasted 2,500 priests; by 1989, the number had fallen to just 300. Today it’s back up to 2,500, with 800 seminarians in the pipeline. Greek Catholics played key roles in the "Orange Revolution" of 2004/05, which for a brief, shining moment, promised to bring democracy and the rule of law to Ukraine.

In many ways, the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine has become a global model for the evangelization of culture.

Today, however, Catholicism in Ukraine may once again be at risk, as a new government has come to power which seems bent on reviving Soviet-style authoritarianism. On May 18, an official of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the successor to the KGB, visited the rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv — the only Catholic university in the former Soviet Union, which means it’s the only Catholic university in twelve time zones. The police official warned the rector, Fr. Borys Gudziak, against students participating in illegal anti-government protests. (Gudziak, by the way, is a 50-year-old Ukrainian-American born in Syracuse, New York, who holds a Harvard doctorate in Slavic and Byzantine Cultural History.)

The SBU official also insisted that Gudziak sign a letter and then give it back, presumably to be placed in police archives. Gudziak refused, charging that asking people to sign letters and turn them over to the police was a classic KGB technique for recruiting collaborators.

Here is a detailed account of what happened:

At 9:27 in the morning Fr. Borys Gudziak received a call on his private mobile phone from a representative of the Security Service of Ukraine requesting a meeting. The meeting was scheduled for 20 minutes later at the rectorate of UCU.

After his oral presentation the agent put on the table between us an unfolded one-page letter that was addressed to me. He asked me to read the letter and then acknowledge with a signature my familiarity with its contents. He stated that after I had read and signed the letter it would be necessary for him to take the letter back. Since I could see that the document was properly addressed to me as rector (I also noticed that it had two signatures giving it a particularly official character) I replied calmly that any letter addressed to me becomes my property and should stay with me — at least in copy form. Only under these conditions could I agree to even read the letter (much less sign).
The agent was evidently taken back by my response. It seemed that the situation for him was without precedent because in my presence using his mobile phone he called his (local) superiors to ask for instructions on how to proceed. The superior refused permission to leave me either the original letter or a copy, saying that the SBU fears I “might publish it in the internet.” I questioned this entire procedure and the need for secrecy and refused to look at the letter and read its contents. The young official was disappointed and somewhat confused but did not exert additional pressure and did not dispute my argumentation.

Signing a document such as the letter that was presented for signature to me is tantamount to agreeing to cooperate (collaborate) with the SBU. The person signing in effect agrees with the contents of the letter and their implication. In KGB practice getting a signature on a document that was drafted and kept by the KGB was a primary method of recruiting secret collaborators.
Such methods have no known (to me) precedent in independent Ukraine in the experience of UCU and of the Lviv National University whose longtime rector (and former Minister of Education, 2008–10) Ivan Vakarchuk I consulted immediately after the meeting.

Read the entire account

This prompted Canadian politician Borys Wrzesnewskyj to denounce this act in parliament:

Mr. Speaker, Canada’s 1.2 million strong Ukrainian Canadian diaspora community is in angst due to recent attempts to muzzle Ukraine’s media, and trumped up criminal charges against opposition leaders.

Mr. Speaker, Canada’s 1.2 million strong Ukrainian Canadian diaspora community is in angst due to recent attempts to muzzle Ukraine’s media, and trumped up criminal charges against opposition leaders.

Read the entire statement

Yet another step backwards in the progress of this country, from freedoms and independence in the Orange Revolution to intimidations and tyranny in the Yanukovych regime.

Update from the U.S. Department of State:

Today, the State Department raised with the Charge d’Affaires of the Ukrainian Embassy issues related to freedom of speech and association in Ukraine, including reports of recent contact between security service officials and the rector of Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. We expressed concern about actions that could be interpreted as restricting basic freedoms. We welcome the public offer by the Ukrainian Security Service Chief to meet with the university rector. Ukrainians should be proud of their democratic progress, and we hope that progress will continue.

You can also read some reactions from people in Ukraine from the Kyiv Post.

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