Judge Chaus fled to Chisinau on the afternoon of April 3. The man has been hiding in Moldova for years since in Ukraine he is suspected of corruption. He hoped to get political asylum there and avoid extradition to his homeland. In recent years, the courts have continued on this score, but the Moldovan court has not yet made a final decision. However, Chaus did not wait for him. According to the information announced by Minister of Internal Affairs of Moldova Pavel Voicu, after the abduction, the judge was taken out of the country, possibly to the territory of Ukraine.
The team of Slidstvo.Info together with colleagues from RISE Moldova found out that people associated with the Ukrainian intelligence and law enforcement agencies could be involved in the abduction of the judge. Also in this story, we traced signs of a secret special operation, since some of the persons involved in our investigation could use fake documents to cross the border. In conversations with journalists, at least two of them confirmed that they were in Moldova these days.
In Moldova, Nikolai Chaus was hiding from Ukrainian law enforcement officers for more than 4 years. In 2016, in Ukraine, he was exposed for receiving $ 150,000 in bribes. The judge hid the money in glass jars buried in the ground in his own yard. Since then he had judicial immunity, he was not detained, and he fled from Ukraine. As previously reported by Slidstvo.Info, the former head of the presidential guard Petro Poroshenko, as well as some employees of the Ukrainian special services, could have been involved in his removal from Ukraine. Before the bribery scandal, Mykola Chaus was a judge in the case of businessman Gennady Korban, who was in opposition to President Poroshenko. The story of the flight of a judge from Ukraine is the subject of a separate investigation in Ukraine. Now a politician connected with the government says that Chaus, after returning to his homeland, may testify against Petro Poroshenko.
A month ago, the Moldovan and Ukrainian media reported that Chisinau finally refused Chaus political asylum and would soon be extradited to Ukraine. It turned out that this is not true, because the trial of granting asylum to Chaus in Moldova is still ongoing. It is possible that the spread of false information was a preparation for the special operation, which we will tell you about.
A few days after Chaus's abduction, the Moldovan Minister of Internal Affairs announced that the judge had probably been taken to Ukraine. Local law enforcement officers claim that they detained one of the kidnappers, partially identified the organizers of the crime and the cars in which they traveled. Later, local media reported that Chaus was taken out in a car that is related to the Ukrainian embassy. At the same time, the Ukrainian side assured its neighbors that it was not involved in this story.
Investigative journalists from the RISE Moldova newspaper received copies of the passports of ten people who are now being checked by local law enforcement officers for involvement in the abduction of the judge. All of them are citizens of Ukraine. Some of these documents have also been released by other media outlets.
Mysterious guests from Ukraine
According to RISE Moldova sources in the Moldovan border authorities, two middle-aged men reached the Mohyliv-Podolskiy – Otach checkpoint in the afternoon on March 24. They crossed the bridge over the Dniester River and ended up in Moldova.
The bridge over the Dniester river, which was crossed by Yuriy Kovalenko and a man with a passport in the name of Eduard Stavytsky.
In the hands of the men were Ukrainian passports in the name of Yuriy Kovalenko and Eduard Stavytsky. Both men are associated with Ukrainian military intelligence. Although at first glance this is not obvious.
It is difficult to find at least some information in the public domain about Yuri Kovalenko. Neither his place of work, nor his place of study, nor his real residence are known. The journalists managed to find only his mobile phone number. This allowed us to move on in our search, since Yuri's Facebook page is tied to this number.
From their own sources, the journalists of Slidstvo.Info received documents with some personal data of Yuriy Kovalenko. These documents allowed us to make sure that with a high probability the person on the passport, whose photo was provided by Moldovan sources, and citizen of Ukraine Yuriy Kovalenko are the same person. The man, who is now 34 years old, studied at the higher military educational institution in Odesa.
As of 2018, Yuri Kovalenko, according to the data we received, indicated his place of residence at 33 Elektrykiv Street on the Rybalskiy Peninsula of the capital. The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine is located at the same address.
We contacted Yuriy Kovalenko on the evening of April 7th. The man said he could not comment on his involvement in military intelligence.
“Sorry, I don’t give any comments yet. I can’t tell you anything about this,” Kovalenko said. At the same time, he confirmed that he was in Moldova from March 24 to April 3. But what exactly he was doing there, the man refused to explain.
To a direct question from journalists whether he was involved in the abduction of Judge Chaus, Yuriy Kovalenko replied: "Let me write down your phone number, and, perhaps, I will contact you. Because our dialogue will not be constructive yet."
According to RISE Moldova journalists, on March 24, another citizen of Ukraine, Eduard Stavytsky, arrived in Moldova together with Yuriy Kovalenko. Interestingly, he received his passport a month before his trip to Moldova. After a long search, we could not find a person with the same data as in the passport.
But we found that Andrey Kutsenko from Kyiv has a significant resemblance to the face on this passport. On Facebook, he is signed as Kut Andriy. In the video where he is designated, his face is clearly visible and there is an obvious resemblance to Eduard Stavytsky. We found other photos of this person on his Telegram page.
In the documents received, it is noted that Andriy Kutsenko was recruited in 2009 into a military unit located in Kyiv on the Rybalsky Peninsula. The already mentioned Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense is located at this address. The aforementioned Yuriy Kovalenko was also registered there.
In a telephone conversation, Kutsenko objected that he was working in the intelligence service of the Ministry of Defense. After clarifying questions from journalists, he hung up.
Yuriy Kovalenko declined to comment on whether he is familiar with Kutsenko.
The journalists have at their disposal a video from the border checkpoint, where people similar to Kovalenko and Stavytsky-Kutsenko, on April 3 (the day of the abduction of Chaus - ed.) left the territory of Moldova on foot. We will publish it later.
RISE Moldova journalists received from their sources the passport of another interesting Ukrainian who may be involved in the abduction of the judge. We are talking about 36-year-old Oleksandr Kosteniuk. It was easiest to identify this man because he is a former law enforcement officer and has published his income statements in recent years. The photos that we have at our disposal allow us to assert that it is he who is depicted on the aforementioned passport.
At least until June 2018, Kosteniuk worked in the Lviv National Police - he held a leading position in the Criminal Investigation Department.
Moldova as a country of wine
30-year-old Mykhailo Bulega, whose passport also got to journalists, was previously a senior instructor in a separate special forces unit of the National Guard. He retired from service in 2019. He was engaged in hand-to-hand combat, and now he is the head of a division of the Federation of Military Applied and Sports Universal Combat of Ukraine.
In a commentary to Slidstvo.Info, Bulega confirmed that he had traveled to Moldova "for a couple of days." He says that he does not remember the name of the hotel where he stayed. He says that he was there on vacation himself, without a family. "I went, let's say, to have more rest. Moldova is a country of wine," Bulega explains.
And his stay in a neighboring country and the decision to leave it on the same day when Judge Chaus was kidnapped, the former soldier calls a coincidence. “Maybe it sounds funny - a coincidence. I have nothing to do with this case,” Bulega assured us.
Bulega also convinced Slidstvo.Info that he was not familiar with the other persons involved in this story - with Kovalenko and Stavitsky-Kutsenko. However, according to sources from RISE Moldova, Bulega left Moldova through the same checkpoint as they, with a difference of two hours.
So, as we can see, in the story of the abduction of a Ukrainian judge in Moldova, the trail of the Ukrainian special services and former security officials is quite clearly traced. They arrived in Moldova and left it almost at the same time, and two of them themselves confirmed to journalists that they were in Moldova exactly at the time when Chaus was abducted.
But this is not all the facts collected by the journalists of RISE Moldova and Slidstvo.Info. In the second part of the joint investigation, we will release more details and evidence of this special operation.