© Reuters. Andriy Tuz, a former worker of Zaporizhzhia nuclear energy plant in Ukraine, poses after an interview with Reuters in Geneva, Switzerland, August 18, 2022. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
By Cecile Mantovani, Maria Tsvetkova and Christian Lowe
GENEVA (Reuters) – A former deputy spokesman at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear energy plant who helped inform the world that Russian troops had seized the strategic web site, is now in exile, now not in his job and, in line with a doc from his ex-employer, is suspected by Ukrainian intelligence of collaborating with Russia.
Andriy Tuz’s journey from Ukrainian patriot to pariah included an encounter with Russian intelligence and a June video – which he mentioned he was pressured to report after being tortured by Russian intelligence officers – the place he states earlier public feedback he’d made about Russia shelling the plant have been false. “Now I perceive that the data was not true,” he mentioned within the video.
Tuz has develop into caught up in a high-stakes propaganda battle between Kyiv and Moscow over the destiny of Europe’s largest nuclear energy plant https://graphics.reuters.com/UKRAINE-CRISIS/ZAPORIZHZHIA/mypmnznjqvr/, which has been a sizzling spot of the six-month battle.
The Safety Service of Ukraine (SBU), the nation’s intelligence service, suspects 32-year previous Tuz of collaboration for serving to the Russian navy, in line with a July 11 inner Energoatom doc that Reuters reviewed. Energoatom is the Ukrainian state atomic power company that operates the plant. The doc included directions to finish Tuz’s employment.
Neither the SBU’s suspicions nor his dismissal have been beforehand reported.
Reuters was unable to substantiate that Tuz was tortured or pressured to make the pro-Russian public statements.
The SBU, in a September assertion to Reuters, mentioned details about Tuz “has been taken under consideration within the operational-service exercise” of the service’s related division however mentioned it could actually’t disclose particulars as a consequence of legal guidelines defending the secrecy of the service’s operations. It added that no felony pre-trial proceedings in opposition to him have been initiated. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s workplace didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Russia’s intelligence company, known as the Federal Safety Service or FSB, and the Kremlin didn’t reply to requests for remark. Russia has mentioned it’s doing all the pieces to make sure the plant might function safely.
Energoatom spokesman Leonid Oliynyk instructed Reuters Tuz was now not employed on the firm and that Tuz “labored with the FSB,” directing additional inquiries to the SBU. Tuz instructed Reuters he plans to problem his dismissal and says he hopes Ukrainian authorities will absolve him once they perceive what occurred to him.
Russian forces have occupied the plant in southern Ukraine since early March, whereas Ukrainian staff proceed to function it at what Kyiv says is, successfully, gunpoint.
Artillery shells have landed at or close to the facility station, which sits on the entrance line between Russian and Ukrainian forces, prompting worldwide concern a few Chornobyl-style radiation catastrophe. The United Nations’ nuclear security watchdog final week mentioned its consultants had discovered in depth injury on the plant and known as the scenario unsustainable https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/iaea-report-ukraine-says-situation-zaporizhzhia-not-sustainable-2022-09-06/.
The shelling has unleashed a public blame sport, with Kyiv and Moscow every accusing one another of firing the shells and pushing their very own narratives of what’s occurring on the plant by way of a gradual stream of social media posts, official statements and different channels. Kyiv and Moscow have every described the opposite as committing “nuclear terrorism.”
Tuz mentioned he began working on the plant in 2012 and was appointed deputy chief spokesperson final yr.
In early March, as Russian forces drew nearer to the gates of the plant, Tuz posted common movies on Energoatom and the plant’s accounts on the Telegram social media platform and made tv appearances.
That included a sequence of movies posted on March 4 on Telegram. In a single, Tuz seemed immediately into the digital camera and mentioned: “Consideration! Weapons of the Russian Federation are firing on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear energy plant.” In one other, he mentioned a constructing on the plant had caught hearth and firefighters couldn’t strategy due to the taking pictures.
Russian forces took management of the plant that day. Across the similar time, in addition they captured the close by metropolis of Enerhodar, the place most plant staff reside. Tuz’s social media updates stopped.
Tuz mentioned he left Enerhodar together with his aged mom in June, planning to go to Georgia by way of Russia due to the hazards of crossing the entrance line into Kyiv-controlled territory.
On June 21, his automobile was stopped at a site visitors police checkpoint in southern Russia, in line with Tuz and a doc he shared that he says was issued by site visitors police. A person listed on the doc as a witness to the police search of Tuz’s car instructed Reuters he recalled the search, the motive force and an older lady. Tuz’s mom confirmed the account of their journey and the site visitors police cease.
In response to Tuz, the site visitors police then handed him to the FSB, who detained Tuz and transported him to the Russian metropolis of Sochi, about 90 kilometres away.
In Sochi, police charged Tuz with hooliganism, in line with Tuz and an undated fine-payment order considered by Reuters that Tuz says was issued to him by police. Tuz mentioned the cost was fabricated to provide the FSB a pretext to carry him.
The final directorate of the inside ministry for the Krasnodar area, which oversees each police and site visitors police, didn’t reply to requests for remark.
Tuz mentioned that in Sochi, officers put a plastic bag over his head, tied ligatures round his wrists, beat him, and burned his fingers utilizing a lighter.
Ultimately, he mentioned he had begged his captors to inform him what he might do to cease the torture and was supplied an opportunity – to reply questions and later to report a video, the place he would deny that Russia shelled the facility plant.
“I spotted nobody would ever imagine this nonsense anyway,” he mentioned, referring to the script for the video that he mentioned FSB officers proposed that he recite.
The following day he was taken to a park in Sochi and instructed to handle the digital camera, in line with Tuz. “I am on trip within the city of Sochi. Individuals listed below are very welcoming and well mannered,” he mentioned within the video, through which he stares into the digital camera as he walks down a tree-lined avenue. Referring to his March feedback about Russia shelling the nuclear plant, he mentioned within the video that he now understood that info wasn’t true.
The professional-Russian video was circulated on Russian social media accounts, together with YouTube on June 23.
The FSB didn’t reply to questions on Tuz’s account of his detention and remedy.
Tuz’s mom, Zhanna Gorobets, instructed Reuters that when her son was launched he seemed “exhausted” and there was blood on his shirt.
After recording the video, Tuz mentioned he was launched from custody on the night of June 22 however that the FSB didn’t return his passport till July 8, which meant he wasn’t instantly in a position to journey.
Throughout this era, he mentioned one of many FSB officers who detained him and recognized himself by the primary identify Matvei stayed in contact by cell phone.
Reuters known as what Tuz mentioned was the officer’s cellphone quantity and spoke to a person who responded to the identify Matvei. The person, who didn’t dispute that he labored for Russian intelligence, mentioned that he met Tuz and that his colleagues had accompanied Tuz to Sochi as a result of he had some fascinating info to share. The person declined to say what sort of info.
He mentioned he let Tuz go after he had shared the data and denied torturing Tuz. “After all not,” the person instructed Reuters. “Why would that be wanted if the individual got here right here by himself?”
The FSB didn’t reply to questions on whether or not somebody known as Matvei labored for the service.
Tuz mentioned that after he was tortured he was requested to provide names of people that have been lively in native politics in Enerhodar. He mentioned he recognized a handful of people that he knew had left Russian-occupied territory.
Tuz mentioned he additionally acquired a name on July 1 from a person who launched himself as a Kremlin aide and who supplied him a job producing and publishing video blogs from the Russian-controlled energy plant, which he mentioned he declined. Reuters traced the quantity from which the decision was made to somebody named Ilya Chermensky.
When contacted by Reuters, Chermensky mentioned he labored for the presidential administration and that he had spoken to Tuz, however denied making an attempt to recruit him. He mentioned he known as Tuz to ask him to place him in contact with contacts on the nuclear plant as a way to prepare a go to to the plant. Chermensky mentioned he knew nothing of Tuz being tortured or the remainder of the previous plant worker’s account.
The Kremlin additionally didn’t reply to questions on Chermensky or whether or not he tried to recruit Tuz.
Within the early hours of July 12, Tuz and his mom crossed into Georgia, he mentioned. It was whereas driving from there to Switzerland that he discovered from a colleague that he had been fired, in line with Tuz.
Tuz, who spoke to Reuters whereas in Switzerland, is now in the US. He mentioned that he determined to talk out, regardless of what he mentioned was a menace by the FSB officer he knew as Matvei to poison him if he did go public, as a result of he didn’t need to permit Russia to intimidate him. “That is why I am sharing the story regardless of all of the dangers and fears,” Tuz mentioned.
When Reuters known as again the identical quantity it had beforehand used to succeed in the person who responded to the identify Matvei, the one who answered mentioned it was the incorrect quantity. The FSB additionally didn’t reply to questions on Tuz’s account of the menace.