A leaked recording exposed how Belarus' KGB plans its assassinations in Europe
- On Monday, the EUobserver news site published an audio file of a 2012 conversation in which the then-leader of the
BelarusKGB could be heard planning dissidents' assassinations in Germany.
- Vadim Zaitsev could be heard planning the murders while citing pressure from Alexander Lukashenko, who was the president of Belarus at the time and remains so.
- "It's important to me that no one even thinks about the KGB ... How to initiate a chance explosion, how to start arson and not leave traces, murder, and stuff like that — this is unclear," Zaitsev is heard saying.
- Three dissidents mentioned in Zaitsev's recording were not previously known to have been targeted.
- A Dutch intelligence official told Insider it was likely the US already had such a recording and passed it to Germany, which then prevented the hits.
- Zaitsev was also heard discussing the death of a fourth dissident, journalist Pavel Sheremet, who later died in a car bomb in Ukraine in 2016.
A leaked audio tape of the then-head of the Belarus KGB planning the murders of three Belarusian dissidents in Germany on the orders of President Alexander Lukashenko, recorded eight years ago, has roiled European diplomats and intelligence agents.
The recording, which was obtained this week by the EUobserver news site, appeared to show Vadim Zaitsev demanding updates on operations to assassinate to three dissident targets in Germany, while citing pressure from Lukashenko.
Zaitsev was at the time the leader of Belarus's intelligence service, which is still known by its retro-Soviet-era KGB designation. Lukashenko has been the president of Belarus since 1994.
EUobserver said it obtained the recording and another leaked file from Igor Makar, a Belarusian opposition activist.
"The president is waiting for these operations," Zaitsev told a group of specialized operatives from the KGB's special operations division, known as Alpha Group, according to EUobserver.
'It's important to me that no one even thinks about the KGB'
According to EUobserver, the April 11, 2012, meeting included discussion of assassinations planned for three dissident Belarusians living in Germany - Oleg Alkaev, Vladimir Borodach, and Vyacheslav Dudkin - who had been members of the country's military or intelligence services before defecting.
"It's important to me that no one even thinks about the KGB," Zaitsev said of the planned European hits, according to the EUobserver's translation of the audio recording.
"It's clear how we could drown or shoot someone. It's clear. But how to initiate a chance explosion, how to start arson and not leave traces, murder, and stuff like that - this is unclear," he said.
None of the three dissidents were previously known to have been targeted. All three are alive.
A Dutch intelligence official told Insider that it is likely the information about the Belarusian plot had been long known to Germany, which possibly prevented further action.
The official asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak to the press, but their identity is known to Insider.
"If a news website has a transcript of the head of the [Belarusian] KGB ordering murders I think it's safe to say the Americans have it," said the official, who described the audio file as credible but would not provide additional information.
"The Americans are obligated to pass on information about the potential killing of almost anyone, let alone to one of their closest allies in Germany," he said, hypothetically, while declining to give specifics.
A future death was graphically and accurately described
According to EUobserver, the 2012 meeting also focused on assassinating Pavel Sheremet, a dissident Belarusian journalist who was living in Russia at the time.
Sheremet died in a car bomb explosion in Kyiv in 2016, but the 2012 discussion about his death, according to EUobserver, was graphic and almost exactly how he eventually died.
Without giving specifics, Dutch official said that Lukashenko's responsibility for Sheremet's murder has been long established, at least by intelligence services.
After first insisting that the three German-based traitors must die mysteriously with no links to Belarus, apparently because of concerns about irritating the Germans, Zaitsev said in the recording that Sheremet's death should be made public, macabre, and obviously the result of Belarusian intelligence for an increased deterrent factor.
"We'll plant [a bomb] and so on and this f---ing rat will be taken down in f---ing pieces - legs in one direction, arms in the other direction," Zaitsev said, according to EUobserver. "If everything [looks like] natural causes, it won't get into people's minds the same way."
Zaitsev also ordered Sheremet be put under close surveillance by the KGB, according to EUobserver. Reports of those operations were leaked alongside the audio file to the news outlet, which you can read here.
According to Reuters, the Ukrainian police released a statement on Monday - the same day EUobserver published the recording of Zaidev - saying they would examine documents and audio recordings dating back to 2012 in their investigation into Sheremet's killing.
The revelations are likely to further isolate Lukashenko, who remains politically and diplomatically isolated from the EU after last year's deeply-criticized presidential election.
Opposition forces claim Lukashenko stole the election, prompting months of widespread demonstrations throughout Belarus.
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