Ukraine Day 1102: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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Just minutes ago, we covered reports from several Ukrainian media outlets, including Ukrainska Pravda and Dumskaya.net, that their reporters had been told by the Odessa Prosecutor’s Office and the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) that MP Aleksei Goncharenko had been kidnapped.
Amazingly, Dumskaya now reports that these reports were a knowing ruse to allow the authorities to arrest conspirators who were planning to kidnap Goncharenko, who is in fact safe.
The SBU said that they had been monitoring a group of separatist activists in Odessa and listening to their conversations.
According to Dumskaya’s report, published in the last few minutes, the SBU has arrested several individuals, including businessman Aleksandr Kusharnev, a member of the Limansky district council in Odessa as well as the Opposition Bloc, formed from the remains of former President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.
Kusharnev’s son, Gennady, was among those killed in the fire that broke out at the House of Trade Unions during clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian activists on May 2, 2014.
As Dumskaya notes, Goncharenko was not a participant in those clashes, but the SBU claims that the would-be kidnappers were planning on blinding him, dousing him in acid and smashing his kneecaps.
The chief of the Odessa regional branch of the SBU, Sergei Batrakov, made these claims during a joint press conference with the regional prosecutor, Oleg Zhuchenko.
“The disinformation on the kidnapping of Aleksei Goncharenko was disseminated by Dumskaya on the request of law enforcement. We offer our apologies to our readers.”
Goncharenko himself has confirmed the story to Ukrainska Pravda, telling them that the story of his kidnapping was a special operation by the security services.
— Pierre Vaux
UPDATE: The Ukrainian Security Service has announced that the story of Goncharenko’s kidnapping was a ruse to allow them to move on a group, including an Opposition Bloc deputy, who had been planning the abduction:
The Odessa Regional Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed to reporters that Aleksei Goncharenko, an MP in President Petro Poroshenko’s political party, has been kidnapped by unidentified individuals.
Goncharenko was absent from a meeting of the Verkhovna Rada in Kiev today.
Oleksandr Bryhynets, a fellow MP in Bloc Petro Poroshenko (BPP) wrote on his Facebook page this afternoon:
“Yesterday evening MP Aleksei Goncharenko left for Odessa for a scheduled meeting. He said yesterday that this was a very important and public meeting.
He’s not in the [Rada] hall… His close friends and relatives don’t know his whereabouts… He’s not answering his phone… The Prosecutor’s Office, possessing a large amount of information, confirms that the most likely scenario is a kidnapping.”
The Prosecutor’s Office soon confirmed that they were investigating a kidnapping in comments to Ukrainska Pravda:
“Yes he was definitely kidnapped, all the details are now being established, we learned of this in the second half of today, when journalists began calling.”
Odessa news site Dumskaya.net reported at 14:49 local time (12:49 GMT) that the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) is leading the search for the MP.
Prosecutors have registered an investigation under Part 2, Article 146 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code, which concerns armed kidnappings.
Dumskaya reports that a press conference will be held by the SBU and Prosecutor’s Office in the coming hour.
Goncharenko was arrested in Moscow on March 1, 2015, while attending a memorial march for Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated on February 27 that year.
He was released the following day, claiming that he had been beaten by police officers and denied access to a lawyer or a doctor.
The Odessa MP said that the police had questioned him about his actions during the Maidan revolution, accusing him of planning to incite a revolution in Moscow, and had searched for a callous on his index finger, suggesting they may have even wanted to link him to Nemtsov’s murder.
— Pierre Vaux