By Anna Babinets (Hromadske.TV) and Natalie Sedletska (RFE/RL)
As a group of journalists from the yanukovychleaks.org initiative were drying, scanning and publishing online the documents found last week at the lake residence of former president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, they also uncovered another batch of documents. Kostyantyn Kobzar, head of Yanukovych’s personal security detail, was living nearby in a small, simple two-room house. Some documents were rescued by activists before the house was looted. The documents were given to the journalists of the yanukovychleaks.org.
Kobzar was officially appointed to the head of Yanukovych’s personal security in 2011, but, according to evidence on the scene, he had been informally in charge of security as early as 2009. His notebooks and documents provide a rare insight into how exactly Yanukovych’s security was set up, how tight it became in the final days before Yanukovych’s departure, and who was most insisting on meeting the president in person.
Home of Yanukovych’s bodyguard on the presidential compound
Kobzar’s staff may also have been involved in more than just security, according to documents found at the house. They might also have been involved in the severe beating of Tetyana Chornovol, a reporter known for her investigation of the personal wealth of Yanukovych and other top officials, on Dec 25 of last year. According to a handwritten notebook found on the scene obtained by yanukovychleaks.org, Kobzar had written notes of the attack.
According to an interview done a few weeks later, Chornovol said she became aware around midnight that she was being followed. She had just left the EuroMaidan protests and was leaving the scene on Khreshchatyk Street, a major street in the center of the city that has been blockaded in the protests and near where she had parked. As she left the city by car she got on Boryspilska Highway where she tried to avoid the cars following her but the attackers hit her car with theirs and forced her to stop. She was badly beaten by the attackers.
In the notebook, they are notes about the incident. The notebook contains the phrases “Chornovol went to Maidan,” followed by “23:10 turned off her phone. 23:50 turned it on at Khreshchatyk str.” And afterwards: “23:50 cleanup operation started” and “01:00 done (clean).” The notes were made in late December according to dates on other pages but there was no date on that page.
A notebook was found in Kobzar’s house with notes about the beating of a journalist Tetyana Chornovol
The last appearance
On Feb.14 Yanukovych made his last public appearance, as he paid homage to the monument of soldiers who died during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980’s. Kobzar’s notes show that this hour-long appearance involved 651 security officers, and several snipers. One of the documents found at Kobzar’s mansion shows the best spots for the snipers near the monument in Kyiv’s downtown Pechersk district.
The house contained many document describing the president’s security details
Kobzar received daily media monitoring reports on Ukraine’s current situation. It appears, however, that the reports showed a biased picture that downplayed the mass protests that have been taking place in Ukraine since Nov. 21.
Specifically, the report dated Feb. 16 says that the total number of both anti- and pro-government protesters in downtown Kyiv does not exceed 3,000 people, while the actual number of protesters on that date has been estimated by media and independent observers at tens of thousands.
The president’s briefings give an unrealistic account of the number of protestors and public opinion
The code name for Yanukovych’s Mezhyhirya residence in Kobzar’s documents is Object 109. A scheme found at the scene shows exactly where security units were to be located. In addition, the documents show 650 security officers were guarding the 350 acre residence prior to Yanukovych’s escape. The troops came from the Berkut riot police unit, interior ministry troops and other special units.
In February, the security around Object 109 was stepped up even more. The reports kept by Kobzar contain evidence that the policemen were detaining people taking pictures near the residence’s fence, or just transporting beehives from the ground. The detainees were taken to the police precinct to submit a written explanation and be photographed.
Documents from the house of the president’s head of security
According to Kobzar’s notes from December, Serhiy Kurchenko, Ukraine’s 27-year-old oil and gas multimillionaire and owner of Forbes Ukraine, repeatedly asked for a private meeting with Yanukovych. Once, he even requested a three-hour conversation. A note found on the scene says: “Kurchenko asks for a meeting at any time. The issue is coordinated with (former first deputy prime minister Serhiy) Arbuzov.” In addition, Kobzar’s notes contain mention of the name of Yuriy Ivaniushchenko, a member of parliament with the pro-presidential Party of Regions, and Vadym Novinsky, a billionaire and partner of Rinat Akhmetov.
The entrance to Mezhyhirya was strictly limited. Each crossing point, according to the documents, had its own list of permits which was updated daily. At the same time, there also was a master list of people which had free access to Mezhyhirya. The list of cars to be let in freely doesn’t have the names of its owners. Those may be the cars belonging to Yanukovych and his closest circle.
Ravlo Litovchenko, director of Tantalit, a limited liability company that commissioned all the construction and interior design work on Honka, the latest and most luxurious addition to the Mezhyhiryya residence, also enjoyed free access to the place. So did Ivan Tokhtamysh, former head of elite hunting club Kedr, located nearby. For some reason, he enjoyed the access to Mezhyhirya without having to open his trunk.
Guest lists for the president’s estate
See more documents found at the residence of Kobzar here.