General Hvozd: what did he know?

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It has been three years since the mysterious death of the former spy chief of Ukraine, head of Military Intelligence (GUR) and Foreign Intelligence (SZRU) retired Lieutenant General Victor Hvozd. He died while diving at the Egypt’s Dahab resort. 

A surprise death of former special services General, who was known as a perfect diver with good health, initiated rumors: many politicians and journalists in Ukraine believe his death was not an accident. Some experts find his death connected with a revenge of influential criminal circles for General’s intrusion into their shadow business affairs. We decided to carry out our own investigation to make it clear who could have been interested in elimination of General Hvozd.

General Viktor Hvozd was an outstanding person with his own unique place in politics and history of independent Ukraine. In February 2014 the pro-Russian corrupt regime of President Viktor Yanukovich was overthrown by the «Revolution of Dignity». It was followed by the collapse of state apparatus and defense and law enforcement agencies. After that General Hvozd took the position of the Foreign Intelligence Service and rebuilt the agency, cleared it from Russia’s henchmen. Yanukovich and ex-chief of SZRU Grigory Ilyashev (along with other high-ranked officials) escaped to Russia with a large number of classified sensitive documents that reveal the Ukraine’s Foreign Intelligence specifics of work, and, probably, its agents. Hvozd understood that SZRU could’ve become a puppet service of Russia, so he organized a wide lustration in his office in a short time and drastically changed the principles of its work.

At those challenging days of spring 2014 the new democratic authorities counted on General Hvozd. Impressive experience and strong support of the Western democratic way for his country made Viktor Hvozd a key figure for reformation of SZRU and its transformation from Russian spy agencies’ branch to an effective intelligence structure capable of facing the modern challenges. According to Oleksandr Turchynov, who was acting President of Ukraine in 2014, Hvozd «worked in the staff of resistance [to regime of Yanukovich] since the first till the last day of the Revolution», therefore there was no doubt he was a perfect candidate for that high position. Turchynov stressed that Hvozd had to «restore the service amid the war that Russia unleashed against Ukraine». 

After a few years Ukrainian experts said Hvozd’s activities as the head of SZRU had positive results. Editor-in-chief of Yury Butusov stated that, while Hvozd was in service, «Ukraine’s intelligence provided [authorities with] very precise and full reports on Russia’s military activities, that allowed to make conclusions over the situation. For example, the prediction of Russia’s military invasion in August 2014 and the structure of its task force. Hvozd 

was an intellectual capable of providing scaled analysis and synthesis, establishing communications, he was a professional at service».

Viktor Hvozd was fired from the position of the head of SZRU by Petro Poroshenko. He started spending more time for his family and hobbies – tennis and photography. But full of energy professional found a new mission for himself. Hvozd began working for independent think tank for geopolitical studies Borysfen-Intel, which he established himself in 2012.

While leading GUR (2008-2010) and SZRU (2014-2016), General Hvozd was known since his public statements – he spoke on TV, gave interviews on events and matters connected with China. In the beginning of his military career after graduating from Kyiv Military College of Frunze (now it’s Odesa Military Academy) he was sent to Zabaikalye (region in the east of modern Russia), where he studied and mastered Chinese and worked as an interpreter.

Hvozd had a reputation of a brilliant intelligence officer and intellectual analyst, who’s been respected by his colleagues in the United States and European countries. His participation in peacemaking missions in Yugoslavia, working in UN and UNSC, and finally leading GUR and SZRU helped Hvozd to make friends with specialists from Western intelligence agencies, think tanks and mass media. His study in Harvard also helped him to become an effective intelligence chief.

In April, 2013 during the interview with Jewish Confederation of Ukraine Hvozd said that his Borysfen-Intel keeps close cooperation with American, Polish, Romanian and Georgian think tanks. The Potomac Foundation (USA) and Geostrategic Pulse (Romania) were also among his partners.

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The site of Borysfen-Intel says his partners are

The Potomac Foundation (USA) and Geostrategic Pulse (Romania)

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The article by Viktor Hvozd for Geostrategic Pulse

The American foundation, in particular, for more than 20 years helped the states of Eastern Europe and former Soviet Republics integrate into the Western community and adapt for the NATO standards.

Viktor Hvozd picked specialists for his Borysfen-Intel very thoroughly. His team included retired officers, mostly from the secret services of Ukraine. He made his deputy director retired Lieutenant General Yury Radkov (now hold position of advisor for information issues of Kyrylo Budanov, head of GUR). 

Experienced General of special services and a brilliant analyst Viktor Hvozd after retirement became an advisor and tutor of new chiefs of GUR and SZRU, and kept on taking missions of the Ukrainian authorities. At this period he worked on relations with China, which made an aggressive attempt to strengthen its political positions in Eastern Europe, including Ukraine. Beijing used economical investments as main instrument for strengthening its stance trying to buy the Ukraine’s largest industrial enterprises.

In August, 2019, The US President National Security Adviser John Bolton arrived in Kyiv to meet President elect Volodymyr Zelensky. That day the US embassy in Ukraine tweeted that high-ranking American politician of Donald Trump’s administration came to show support of the Euro-Atlantic course of Kyiv.

Later The Wall Street Journal unveiled the real mission of John Bolton, covered behind the diplomatic language. He had to disrupt the deal between a group of Chinese companies, Beijing Skyrizon in particular, and Ukraine’s Motor Sich – one of the world leading producers of aviation engines and industrial gas turbines. The United States didn’t want China to get technologies of Motor Sich. The Wall Street Journal experts say Washington considered Beijing’s moves «posed threat to national security of the United States». Earlier in August, 2018 Washington Times said that China put engines of Motor Sich on their JL-10 training and combat jets. Bolton seemed to succeed: in autumn of 2019 a group of specialists from the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) came to Ukraine for «studying the Ukraine’s defense enterprises». The deal between Chinese companies and Motor Sich broke off at the same time.

The scandal was covered by the mass media. After that Volodymyr Zelensky imposed sanctions on March 24, 2021 against Skyrizon and its main shareholder Wang Jing, and Motor Sich was nationalized. It’s worth mentioning that Ukrainian sanctions against Chinese legal entities and individuals followed the restrictions announced by the United States Department of Commerce in January, 2021.

Viktor Hvozd was one of those who countered Chinese expansion in Ukraine, trying to keep Kyiv from drifting towards the Asian autocracy. Using his media resources, Hvozd launched a large-scale informational campaign against China. In 2019-2020 along with the beginning of the Motor Sich deal and Bolton’s visit to Kyiv, Borysfen-Intel and affiliated mass media tripled the number of articles with critics of Beijing’s foreign policy. Moreover, with a strong support of Hvozd, the Ukrainian mass media using documents and witnesses’ statements claimed China’s connection to COVID-19 outbreak and pandemic, proved that China’s territorial claims on Taiwan Island were groundless, made expert judgments that China is an untrustworthy partner for Central and Eastern Europe. 

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Employees of Hvozd’s structures monitored Internet on a daily basis. They searched information on China’s activities in Central and Eastern Europe, so they were able to professionally find breaking issues and arguments to expose the expansionism of China. «Borisfen-Intel» think tank cooperated with foreign experts who provided at international events the firm evidence of growing danger of «Chinese threat» for young democracies of Eastern Europe.

General Viktor Hvozd, thanks to his professionalism and resolute character, made a weighty (but not estimated at true worth) contribution to destroy the ambitions plans of Chinese communist gerontocracy leaders. Hvozd and other altruist patriots like him managed to stop China’s economic expansion not only in Ukraine, but also in most countries of Southern and Eastern Europe.

Viktor Hvozd’s «Borisfen-Intel» center with a strong support of general’s friends in American and European intelligence communities cancelled out all the attempts of China to draw the EU countries into «17+1» format.

The results of general Hvozd’s activities are indeed hard to underestimate. He, as a sinologist, better than anyone else understood the depth of a catastrophe Europe could have faced if China gets in. The threat of deep cooperation with autocracies is seen best at total and complete degradation of democratic institutions in modern Belarus and Georgia, the countries that have strong friendship with communist China and Putin’s Russia. Perspicacious general Hvozd saw similarities of dictatorships in China and Russia, which others discovered only after Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, and when Beijing started to play into Putin’s hand. China supports Russia during the UN votes, pushes the «peace plan» favorable for Kremlin to settle the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and, according to a number of sources, supplies Moscow with weapons, equipment and spare parts for military production, deadly for Ukrainians.

In early 2020s Hvozd managed to show to the political elites in Europe the real motives of Beijing’s strive to deepen economic ties with EU states, which will inevitably lead to strengthening dependence of the European countries on China. Under the pretext of low practical effectiveness of «17+1» initiative and the fact that only half of all stated EU countries were involved in the format, Lithuania announced its decision to leave the initiative in May, 2020. Later, in August 2021 Latvia and Estonia did the same. According to the Pew Research Center, in late 2020 anti-China attitude was seen among the population in developed countries. At that moment the tendency reached its highest point since late 2000s in USA, Great Britain, Germany, Canada, Spain, Netherlands, Sweden, South Korea and Australia.

Decisive actions of the Ukrainian patriots and supporters of the European choice of Ukraine, such as General Viktor Hvozd, didn’t allow Beijing to strengthen destructive influence in Ukraine and other states of Eastern Europe via its controlled financial and industrial groups. This literally infuriated the Chinese investors backed by all those criminal syndicates of communists and mafia. Such reaction is natural: they not only lost billions of dollars, but also an opportunity to convert them into political influence in Ukraine and EU member states. Political elites of communist China had groundless hopes for economic success of their protégés in Ukraine’s military-industrial corporations, such as Motor Sich. Viktor Hvozd and his associates not only came into conflict with powerful Chinese businessmen with dubious reputation, but also destroyed ambitious plans in China’s elites.

Thanks to his work in mass media on pushing the Chinese business out of Ukraine, Hvozd strengthened his reputation of tough and successful statesman capable of standing for national interests of Ukraine before Chinese vis-à-vis. This is why after the death of Serhiy Kamyshev, a Ukrainian envoy in China, on February 14, 2021, Hvozd was the one who could have taken that post – a talented negotiator, experienced sinologist and brilliant interpreter, well informed over the situation in the region. The issue with Motor Sich indicates that Hvozd never had any illusions about the real intentions of Beijing regarding Ukraine and its partners. General proved that with the cost of his life.

Hours after Kamyshev’s death Hvozd stressed in one of his statements that China now «strongly covers the world information sphere in the view of monitoring and control». Due to the issue the Ukrainian general knew that Chinese special services and their agents are very well informed on his role in disruption of Beijing’s expansionist plans. Whether general Hvozd had disturbing premonitions due to his fate, the premonitions did not deceive him. 

Viktor Hvozd wasn’t appointed an envoy of Ukraine to China: on May 28, 2021 general died in unclear circumstances at Egypt’s resort of Dahab while diving. The post of envoy of Ukraine to China would remain vacant for almost two more years, until late April, 2023, when Pavel Ryabikin, ex-minister for strategic industries, came into office. 

The theory that China’s agents were connected to the elimination of the general, who was a big obstacle for China’s expansion in Ukraine and other European states, seems to be realistic. Viktor Hvozd was a key person in China’s influence deterrence, and the general’s neutralization could have disorganized Ukrainian and Western special services activities and create preconditions for restoration of China’s positions in Ukraine and in Europe.

Volodymyr Zelensky and his government did nothing to initiate an independent enquiry into the circumstances of death of Viktor Hvozd, who devoted his life to serving to the independent Ukraine. This fact is very embarrassing. It even looks like the Ukrainian authorities simply ignored the mysterious death of the general. Our investigation is a call to the Ukrainian authorities for open and public inquiry of the cause of death of Viktor Hvozd who stood his ground for the interests of his country till his last days. And history will remember him as an outstanding man and patriot.

Contributed by: Boris Radchenko

Last Updated on by soubhik

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