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Former SBU general who helped Russians seize Chernobyl may be granted asylum in Russia in exchange for testimony against Zelensky

The former head of the SBU’s Main Directorate of Internal Security, Andriy Naumov, was detained in Serbia on June 7, 2022. He shared a car with a Ukrainian businessman and German citizen Alexander Akst, who has been the subject of numerous journalistic investigations into smuggling in Ukraine. The car in which the couple was traveling was stopped at a border checkpoint while attempting to cross the border between Serbia and Northern Macedonia. According to The Insider's sources, the former SBU officer lived in Germany for several months after fleeing Ukraine, then he managed to cross EU borders with undeclared valuables and get to Serbia. Now he may become a participant in the show trial of President Zelensky in Russia. 

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Andrei Naumov's motorcade with money and jewelry hastily left the territory of Ukraine just hours before the war began. He used several vans loaded with cash and jewelry, including diamonds, to flee the country. The vehicles headed for Germany, where the former brigadier-general was hiding until his detention in Serbia.

Andrei Naumov's career, according to The Insider's sources in the security services, was closely linked to the head of the SBU, Ivan Bakanov. He had been considered Bakanov's protégé even before Russia's war against Ukraine began. The media even referred to him as “Bakanov's wallet.”

After he fled, Naumov lost his general's rank; President Vladimir Zelensky demoted him on March 31, 2022 “for anti-heroism.” In July, Bakanov also lost his post as head of the SBU. The Verkhovna Rada approved Zelensky's decision to dismiss him because of the large number of cases of collaborationism among SBU officers.

Naumov was head of the SBU's Main Directorate of Internal Security from the summer of 2019 until July 2021. Prior to that, he led the state enterprise Center for Organizational, Technical and Information Support for Exclusion Zone Management,” and by the nature of his work he could have known and collected information that constituted a state secret concerning the security systems of the Chernobyl NPP facilities.

The State Bureau of Investigation of Ukraine has currently opened criminal proceedings over Naumov's possible state treason. The official response of the State Bureau of Investigation to the journalists’ inquiry said:

“A pre-trial investigation is underway into the fact of possible high treason committed by a citizen of Ukraine, who held the position of head of a state enterprise that ensures the operation of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, and subsequently a senior position in the Security Service of Ukraine, collected information on the functioning of Chernobyl Exclusion Zone security systems and other classified information.”

In July, it was reported that another SBU officer, Colonel Valentin Viter, was suspected of high treason in connection with the events at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. When it became known that the Russian military was moving toward the Chernobyl nuclear plant, Viter, according to Reuters, called the National Guard commander who was at the plant and told him, “Take pity on your people.” Undercover Russian agents had been in contact with the employees who were responsible for the safety of the Chernobyl plant since late 2021. At least three investigations have been opened against them to date, and Andrei Naumov is the subject of one of them.

The Insider's sources in the Ukrainian security services believe that Andrey Naumov may have passed information to the Russian security services that allowed the Russian army to quickly seize the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. It had been under Russian military control for a month before the Russian troops retreated from the Kyiv region in March 2022.

Andrei Naumov and Alexander Akst are currently in a detention center in the city of Nis after being detained in Serbia. 600,000 euros in cash, a large amount in U.S. dollars, precious stones, including diamonds, were found in the BMW in which he tried to cross the border, according to official information. For smuggling undeclared valuables, according to Serbian law, he faces up to 12 years in prison, but he can evade responsibility. The Ukrainian newspaper Obozrevatel, citing its own sources, found out that the money had been prepared by Naumov to bribe Serbian officials in order to avoid extradition to his homeland. He also refused consular assistance from the Ukrainian embassy, while Russia has shown interest in his case.

Obozrevatel’s editor-in-chief Orest Sokhar quoted his own sources as saying that the demoted general may take part in the show trial of President Zelensky, which is being staged by the Russian authorities. Naumov is to become one of the key participants in the trial, as a uniformed witness. A high-ranking ex SBU employee who is to testify about “the genocide of the peaceful population of Donbass” allegedly ordered by Vladimir Zelensky.

A source in the security services told The Insider that after the start of the war, while “on the run,” Naumov visited Austria, where he met with businessman Dmitry Firtash, one of the organizers of the “gas arrangement” between Russia and Ukraine during Vladimir Putin's first two terms, whose extradition is sought by the United States. Naumov's conversation with Firtash lasted a little more than an hour and a half. In Serbia Naumov was going to pay a large bribe for a guarantee of his personal safety. Russia, according to Obozrevatel, offered Andrey Naumov “asylum” in exchange for testimony against Zelensky. In Serbia, the issue of Andrei Naumov's extradition to Russia is being handled by Interior Minister Alexander Vulin.

On August 23, the Serbian Interior Minister met in Moscow with Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev. The official report of the meeting does not say anything about Andrei Naumov's fate, but according to The Insider's sources, the issue was discussed. Alexander Vulin had already been of service to the Russian authorities; for example, in 2021 he supplied Patrushev with wiretaps of Russian opposition activists in Serbia, which could have been the reason for the arrest and conviction of the former head of Open Russia Andrei Pivovarov.

After the extradition of the fugitive Ukrainian ex-general suspected of treason, Interior Minister Vulin may himself move to Moscow; he is awaiting appointment as Serbia's ambassador to Russia, The Insider's source says.

Andrei Naumov has been repeatedly linked by Ukrainian journalists to smuggling operations, and his partner Alexander Akst is known in Ukraine as the “king of smuggling,” under the control of his SBU patrons. In 2020, he was named as the organizer of a scheme to smuggle containers of clothing and other goods worth tens of millions of dollars through the port of Odessa, and later journalists accused Akst of organizing a scheme to smuggle expensive electronics under the guise of private parcels sent through Premium-Packet, a firm under his control, which handled hundreds of thousands of shipments per year. According to investigative journalists, Andriy Naumov was in charge of protecting this business on behalf of the SBU.

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