Andriy Yusov told Kyiv Post that despite knowing where the two men are and how well they’re protected, ‘as a civilized state,’ the priority is to capture rather than kill them.
The location and security detail of President Putin and Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin are known to Ukraine and are “often monitored in real-time,” a representative of Ukraine’s military intelligence has told Kyiv Post.
In an exclusive interview, Andriy Yusov said that “despite all the attempts and efforts to conceal this information” and the alleged used of “various technologies, including body doubles” it is “not something that can be hidden.”
“As for their whereabouts, of course we know,” Yusov said. “Putin is guarded, he is a well-guarded person.
“Prigozhin is less so by comparison and behaves perhaps the most freely among the Russian establishment.
“All this information is known to us and our partners and is often monitored in real-time.”
Yusov claimed the difference in protection styles was a deliberate attempt by Prigozhin to show himself in a more positive light than the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and top general Valery Gerasimov, with whom has been locked in a long-running battle for power and influence.
“[His behavior] is a kind of antidote to Shoigu and Gerasimov,” Yusov said. “He is trying to show a different style, more daring and piratical than Putin’s old guard.”
Prigozhin has repeatedly clashed publicly with the Russian Defense Ministry over the supply of ammunition to his troops during the battle to take the ruined city of Bakhmut.
In a series of profanity-laden videos and interviews this month, including one filmed in front of the dead bodies of Wagner fighters, he said: “We have a 70% ammunition shortage, f**k! Shoigu! Gerasimov! Where is the f**king ammunition? Look at them!
“You are sitting in expensive clubs. Your kids are having a blast making videos on YouTube. You think you are the masters of this life and have the right to dispose of their lives.”
He has also accused a “happy grandfather” – a thinly-veiled reference to President Putin – of allowing it all to happen.
"But what should the country do, what should our children, grandchildren, and the future of Russia do, and how to win the war if, by chance, I just assume, it turns out that this grandfather is a complete a**hole?" he said.
Yusov said all of this is being done with an eye to a post-Putin Russia in which Prigozhin is positioning himself for a role at the very top.
“It was not enough for Prigozhin to become Russia's defense minister because the defense minister of a degrading empire that has already suffered a geopolitical defeat and has [lost] any goals or benefits from this senseless criminal war against Ukraine,” Yusov said.
“It's like being the captain of a sinking ship that has almost sunk. But the political future in post-Putin Russia is what Prigozhin and the people who cooperate with him and some of the inhabitants of the Kremlin towers are interested in.
“To be at the top, to be alive in both the political and literal sense in post-Putin Russia, to retain opportunities and wealth - yes, this is what these people are interested in.”
Yet despite the threat Prigozhin poses to Ukraine and the claim that his whereabouts are known, Yusov insists there is currently no desire to assassinate the Wagner Chief, or Putin.
“As for the priority targets, all war criminals must be punished,” he said. “As a civilized state, Ukraine is interested in this punishment being carried out within the framework of international law at an international tribunal.
“The Hague is waiting for Putin to be alive behind bars during his tribunal. In this context, the number one priority for Ukraine and the Main Intelligence Directorate is indeed to bring Putin to The Hague for trial at this tribunal.”
Yusov’s comments are markedly different from those made recently by his boss about Russian propagandists.
Earlier this month, Major General Kyrylo Budanov, admitted Kyiv is behind several well-publicized assassinations.
“We’ve already successfully targeted quite a few people,” he said. “
“There have been well-publicized cases everyone knows about, thanks to the media coverage.”
Yusov also discussed the possibility of civil war in Russia in light of the actions of Russian volunteers who last week launched an incursion into the Belgorod region.
“Support for protest actions is possible, and it is growing. We see a geographic spread of such events, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Moreover, the spontaneous evacuation of the population that took place - people were not fleeing from the rebels. They were fleeing from Russian army aviation and artillery that began to bomb civilian housing and civilian objects, already inhabited by the residents of the Belgorod region, which showed the real attitude of the Putin regime towards its residents.
“Regarding civil war. Russia is a complex country with many contradictions - inter-regional, inter-ethnic, social, and political. There are a huge number of indigenous peoples whose rights are being ignored, and there are regional elites who would like their peoples and countries to have a different status. The greatest threat to civil confrontation and conflict comes from the Putin regime and those surrounding and serving it. Today, the creation of the so-called PMCs, according to Wagner's model, is nothing more than preparation for a war against everyone on Russia's territory. When each Gazprom or Gazprombank will have its own small military company to protect its own, squeeze something from others, or help its boss evacuate. They are a source of military threat.
“If the Russian population wakes up to defend their rights and supports actions like the recent events in the Belgorod region. In that case, it will become a source of stability and order for Russia and a cleansing of this shameful regime.”