What We Know About the Man Accused of Plotting Babchenko’s Murder
2 June, 2018

On Thursday, Borys Herman – the man who the Ukrainian security service and the Chief military prosecutor suspect of organizing the “terrorist attack” against journalist Arkady Babchenko by order of the Russian intelligence service – stated that he is a Ukrainian counterintelligence agent. Hromadske has gathered information on this mysterious story.

Neighbors in Crime

On the evening of May 31, Ruslan Kravchenko, prosecutor at the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office, requested that 51-year-old man seated opposite him be detained for two months. The Ukrainian security service (SBU) had arrested Borys Herman the day before, naming him the organizer of the attempt on Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko’s life.  

Babchenko’s assassination was actually staged. The assassin hired by Herman – military volunteer Oleksiy Tsymbaliuk – was working with the SBU and only played the part of murderer. Arkady Babchenko “rose from the dead” the day after his death was officially announced, during a joint press conference with the SBU and the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The investigation regards Herman’s actions as preparation for a terrorist attack. In his speech, Ruslan Kravchenko stressed that he had compelling evidence against the suspect – in particular, a copy of his correspondence with Tsymbalyuk from Whatsapp and recorded conversations in which they discuss the murder. According to the investigation’s version of events, an unidentified individual, who is likely to be involved with the Russian intelligence service, gave Herman the order to kill Babchenko, as well as a list of 30 other Russian citizens living in Ukraine to be killed.   

Hromadske has managed to find out more about certain aspects of the criminal case. In the print-outs of conversations between Herman and Tsymbalyuk not a single one mentions Babchenko’s name. However, in some parts it talks about a “journalist,” and they discuss the payments. Tsymbaliuk also asks Herman to get hold of a pistol with a silencer.

The day before the court hearing, Tsymbaliuk himself mentioned his cooperation with the SBU, although the security service had initially denied this fact.

From the materials about the criminal case available to Hromadske, it follows that Tsymbaliuk and Herman had known each other since 2009, when they were neighbors in a housing community outside Kyiv.  

Shady Business

To justify the need for Borys Herman’s arrest, representatives from the Prosecutor General’s Office stated that he is also a suspect in another criminal proceeding and had been released on bail.

Hromadske has ascertained that this case concerns the corporate conflict surrounding the arms manufacturer Schmeisser. Borys Herman is commercial director and cofounder with a 10% share of the company. Officially, Schmeisser is a Ukrainian-German joint venture, but none of the cofounders are German. Other shareholders include Ukrainians Antonina Kapilian (75%), Yuriy Kostianchuk (5%), Anton Bondarenko (5%) and New York resident Vitaliy Milin (5%).

The Kyiv police suspect Herman of forging minutes from the Schmeisser company’s general meetings and excluding the name of one of the shareholders. This is likely to be Valeriy Pavliuk, the former deputy head of the Kyiv tax service.

Borys Herman is a complicated person. According to information on Posipaky – a website dedicated to identifying MPs’ assistants – he has been the assistant of two MPs: the Socialist party’s Mykhailo Honcharov from 2006 to 2007 and the Party of Regions MP Ihor Plokhoy from 2007 to 2012.   

According to the YouControl information and analytics system, he is the cofounder of six other companies: Kyiv Consulting Group, Si Frut, Privatna Sprava-200, Alpiyskiy Klub, Restorator and Pravo. These enterprises specialize in wholesale trade, legal services, real estate and leasing.

The police have been investigating another case concerning Borys Herman since 2016 about the illegal use of weapons. The materials state that an unnamed person sent packages to Herman containing items resembling cartridges and optical sights for a mounted grenade launcher.

Speaking in court on May 31, Herman’s lawyer Yevhen Solodko – known for his defense of former Party of Regions MP Oleksandr Yefremov – stated that his defendant is a respected man, particularly in the arms business, and the Schmeisser company has a contract with the Ministry of Defense.

During the arrest, plane tickets to Milan were confiscated from Herman. Herman justified this by stating that he needed to go to Italy for talks with the Italian arms company Beretta, emphasizing the fact he had a return ticket for June 1.

Yet Another Agent

Herman’s appearance in court turned out to be quite surprising. He stated that he was an undercover counterintelligence officer for the Ukrainian security service, with whom he had been cooperating for almost six months.

“We are looking at the results of a special counterintelligence operation. I was carrying out a special mission to identify the influence of Russian funds on the destabilization of the situation in Ukraine and likely change of power,” the suspect said.  

According to Herman, a long-time acquaintance “who works on Ukrainian unrest in comrade Putin’s fund” approached him one year ago. Herman claims that he reported on this contact to counterintelligence officers, who gave him a “green light” to collect further information on how this mysterious fund was financing Ukrainian political parties, public figures, protest movements, etc.  

Herman claimed his work as an agent revealed that the Rozumna Syla party – founded by the former head of the Ukrainian National Police’s Department of Economic Security Oleksiy Solovyov – exists thanks to Russian money, as do “several individuals from Pashinsky’s circle” [Serhiy Pashinsky is Head of the Parliamentary committee on issues of national security and defense – ed.].   

“I see this as the FSB’s latest clumsy attempt to discredit me,” Pashinsky said in a comment to the BBC.

“We have witnessed the latest dirty accusations against our party. I am not going to justify myself. Neither I nor our party need to justify anything,” Solovyov wrote on Facebook.

Herman asserts that his contact from the “Putin fund” really did give him a list of 30 Russians living in Ukraine, which the Kremlin allegedly wanted to eliminate. According to the suspect, in order to obtain further information, he had to prove the first murder was in preparation.

“The counterintelligence chose Tsymbaliuk because he is a volunteer and a priest, and could not kill anyone. Everyone knew full well that he would run to the SBU and tell them everything, and that there would not be a murder, but it would be staged. However, we did not show our cards because we knew that there are a lot of Russian intelligence service ‘moles’ in the SBU,” Herman said.

There is at least one significant contradiction in what he is saying. Herman claims that he worked with counterintelligence “because he believes that this is not an SBU case,” but the counterintelligence department is a structural unit of the security service. It should be noted that the case concerning the assassination attempt against Babchenko was led by another subdivision of the SBU – the Department for the Protection of National Statehood.

After the court hearing, prosecutor Ruslan Kravchenko told journalists that he had checked Herman’s claims and that the suspect is neither cooperating with nor an agent of SBU counterintelligence. When asked whether or not Herman could have been an agent for the Chief Directorate of Intelligence (HUR) of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Kravchenko stated that the HUR does not have a counterintelligence department.

However, Herman claims that he gave the investigators his contact in the security service – someone named “Dima.” “Maybe, this is a situation typical of our security service, where the right hand does not know what the left is doing,” says his lawyer Yevhen Solodko.

Mysterious Mr. Pivovarnik

Herman named his contact from “Putin’s fund” in court. It was his longtime acquaintance Viacheslav Pivovarnik.

A person with the same name and surname is also a partner in Herman’s company Kyiv Consulting Group. According to the YouControl system, Viacheslav Oleksandrovich Pivovarnik, who owns 11% of the company, is registered in the city of Chop in western Ukraine.

Pivovarnik is the co-owner or manager of at least five legal entities in Ukraine, including the logistics company Global Container Service and Ruskon-Ukraine (the daughter company of the Russian container operator Ruskon). He also co-owns the Kyiv-based company Public Security Service of Ukraine with Serhiy Yeremiyovych Deyev. A person with the same name has been featured in the media as an activist for Ukrainian Old Believers and an expert of the Russian Foundation for National and International Security.

There is a profile under the name Viacheslav Pivovarnik, born 1984, on the Russian social media site Odnoklassniki. He studied at the Uzhhorod State Institution of Information and the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. Borys Herman is also his “friend” on Odnoklassniki.

More information on someone with the name Viacheslav Pivovarnik can be found on the website, where he is referred to as a leading partner of Talentkapital. According to the YouControl system, this is one of the companies cofounded by Pivovarnik. The company’s Twitter page shows they organized business training programs in Kyiv in 2009–2010. In the company’s registration data, there is another address given as Pivovarnik’s place of residence: Kyiv.  

Internet publication The Bell also looked for Pivovarnik’s profile on LinkedIn, but it was soon deleted, as was his profile on Russian social media site VKontakte. The cache of data aggregators from social networks indicate that the last place of residence on Pivovarnik’s social media pages is St. Petersburg.

Herman and Pivovarnik’s business partner – in the companies Kyiv Consulting Group and Global Container Service – Hennadiy Krot commented on television program TSN that they have been friends for seven years.

However, Krot refused to answer Hromadske’s questions about the relationship between Pivovarnik and Herman.

The latter, according to the ruling from the Shevchenkivskiy court, will remain in custody at the SBU detention facility until the end of July. His lawyers plan to appeal this decision.

/By Igor Burdyga

/Translated by Sofia Fedeczko