Catch Her If You Can

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As I tweeted late last night, Olga Kulygina has been captured by the Ukrainian special services, while trying to import three trucks overloaded with weapons via the border from Russia into Lugansk.

People who have not read my epos on the Orthodox Crusaders might wonder why that is so remarkable. The long answer is: read the story.

The short answer is: Olga Kulygina is by far the biggest catch the SBU has had thus far. All previous Russian saboteurs, weapons donkeys, cash couriers and facilitators caught thus far, pale in comparison to her. Why is that so?

For one thing, she was caught trying to smuggle the largest cache of weapons ever caught in a single batch. Her shipment was three trucks full of AK-47, RPGs and self-propelled anti-airplane rocket launchers. With the rockets thereto, as a bonus. She was also carrying two large bags of cash. How does one hope to smuggle that mini-battalion the border, one might ask. Easy – by bribing  corrupt and demotivated Ukrainian border guards. This wasn’t their lucky day, though – the SBU had intercepted a logistical-arrangements phone call, and they knew someone was going to meet someone from Moscow – but they had no clue whom and with what.

But all of that that’s the least remarkable thing about the lady who showed up and got caught. Olga Kulygina, a professor of strategic management at the Moscow State Economic University, by day, and an exporter of Russian mercenaries to Syria by night, is a PhD in Biotechnology. She is also an author of numerous handbooks on (fighting) financial crime, such as “Methods to observe illicit export of capital” (in her case pretty easy: you just spot two bags of cash). Okay, not your everyday arms smuggler, indeed. But still that’s NOT what makes her most remarkable.

What does make her remarkable is that she is extremely close – emotionally – to three of the key players in the invasion of Ukraine. First, she is as close as it gets to her boss: Marat Musin, the head of the Strategic Department at her university, and her co-author on a number of books. More importantly, Marat has been her mentor and friend (at least) since 1993, when he was one of the ideologues of the anti-Western putsch in Russia, while she carried an AK47 to the streets to fight against the traitor Yeltsin. Musin is one of the ideologues of today’s invasion into Ukraine, and a denier of the Ukrainian national identity and statehood, too. Oh, Marat was also Assad’s direct partner for the export of Russian mercenaries to Syria in 2012 and 2013.

Second bond: she is close friends with Alexander Boroday, the prime-minister of the non-existent Donetsk People’s Republic and Russian political strategist. Boroday and Kulygina fought together in the secession war of Transnistria in 1992, and both tried to overthrow the government in October 1993. Here they reminisce, sweetly, about their failed putsch attempt.

But most remarkably, Olga has been best friends with Igor Girkin, the brooding, cross-era-dressing Defense Minister of said non-existent Republic, and retired FSB operative. Girkin fought hand to hand with Olga in Transnistria, they started a relationship that only got stronger over time. Olga was by far the most frequent correspondent of Girkin’s during the 2009-2014 period, based on my analysis of over 3.5 GB of hacked emails. She was also the only person he confided in, and who knew his inner most world, including his travails with women, evil colleagues and psychiatrists.

It is not surprising, therefore, that when Olga – risking her career, freedom, and life – got caught while bringing Girkin the arms and cash he desperately needs, Girkin freaked out. Have you noticed his dooms-day stare in his latest video appeals, too suicidal even for his standards?

Just imagine the chagrin he is going through. Immediately after her capture, Two SBU sources confirm to me that Girkin – via his hatchet-man Bezzler (also known by his codename “Demon”) proposed to the head of the SBU a “hostage swap”. In exchange for “the release of some woman you are holding”, he said, pretending he didn’t know who SBU had captured, Girkin was willing to free 5 hostages. When this offer was passed over by the SBU, he raised the stakes to 10 (!) hostages, in exchange for “a woman”. There was, reportedly, very high pressure on the SBU to agree to this offer and release her; including from the highest of places. Yet, some of the President’s advisers felt there was something fishy here, and that she was more important than they might have earlier thought. So they just kept her.

Girkin, totally freaked out, ordered Bezler to retaliate by shooting – on camera – two policemen that were part of the original swap offer (later it turned out the shooting had been staged).

It seems that they had good reason to panic. Not only because of old love and friendship. But because after a few days of steely silence, Olga started cooperating with the security services. And the stuff she knows…well, let’s say it will keep Putin (but mostly Malofeev) awake for a long while.

What does that all mean about the war?

For one thing, if the SBU play their card well (and a good start would be to read my blog, otherwise they would have known whom they caught), they can exchange her not for 10 hostages, but for something much more valuable. For example, for Girkin. Yes, that sounds crazy, but as @Vieta_Rusanova correctly tweeted, Igor Girkin has a split personality and is living (now) the life of his in-game persona, Col. Strelkov. And Strelkov is a hero. Strelkov would trade places with the dame of his life. Even if this means the end of his freedom. But especially if it seems like that might be a good deal given the alternatives, which are – well, the death of him, sooner or later. And he would go down in history as the hero we wanted to be.

But there’s another scenario. I wouldn’t be shocked if in the next few days, Putin – knowing the level of exposure via Olga’s testimony – simply jumps the bandwagon and arrests Kulygina’s co-conspirators, say Marat Musin and – bang – Konstantin Malofeev. This way he would disown the mercenary war and blame it on extreme left-wingers and rogue oligarchs with their own agenda.

Which way it will go – we are bound to find out in the next few days. And we should be happy with either outcome.

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