DThe “Ukrainian Village” holiday complex offers everything you need for a traditional break from the hustle and bustle of the city: a birch forest, a church, several saunas and a restaurant with hearty home-cooked food. The complex's museum is full of vyshyvankas and ruzhnyks, the traditional Ukrainian costumes and shawls. Now in winter only a few guests walk across the extensive grounds. Nevertheless, the recreation complex located twenty kilometers west of Kiev is a big topic right now.

The most complex secret service operation to discredit journalists in recent years took place here. On Monday evening, the investigative reporters from “Bihus.info” published a precise reconstruction of the events. The domestic secret service SBU reacted minutes after the publication with a statement that can certainly be interpreted as an admission. Thirty agents had installed cameras in the bedrooms and the sauna before a company party for the medium in the “Ukrainian Village”.

A compilation of the intimate recordings, supposedly compromising material, was later published on an anonymous YouTube channel. A frontal attack on press freedom that many in today's Ukraine would not have thought possible. Ten years after the so-called “Revolution of Dignity” and during a major Russian invasion, the defense of which the services should actually be more than full.

The Secret Service forgot to destroy evidence

Denis Bihus stands in one of the village's white-painted wooden houses with a screwdriver in his hand. The founder of the investigative portal points to a square hole in the wall – where a wooden wardrobe previously hung. There was a camera behind the wardrobe, from where the entire bedroom could be seen through a small hole in the wood. Bihus uses his eyes to scan the walls for other possible hiding places. In addition to him, there are several cameramen in the room. They shoot the material for the film, which will appear on YouTube a few days later.

Bihus then replays the introduction to his video over and over again as he makes his way across the site. His cameramen walk backwards in front of him. They try to prevent themselves from stumbling with quick glances over their shoulders. Right from the start, Bihus expresses how much he respects the SBU for all its successes in repelling Russian aggression. Then he says which part of the SBU he is ashamed of. Namely for thirty agents of the “Department for the Protection of National Sovereignty” (DSND). They were the ones who spied on the journalists in search of information and didn't even manage to destroy the evidence of their actions. The employees of the “Ukrainian Village” – who were not involved in the wiretapping operation – handed over the recordings from the regular surveillance cameras of the recreation complex to the journalists before the secret service could confiscate them. With the help of the videos, “Bihus.info” was able to completely reconstruct the operation.

In their reveal video, they show it all: the faces of the agents scouting out the resort complex and carrying gym bags full of equipment inside. Their fake license plates and their phone numbers with only the last two digits different. They show the names under which other people have saved the agents in their phones, for example “Igor Kravchenko SBU Clown”. They show how they ambush some of them near an SBU building and confront them with their own involvement. The revelations are reminiscent of those of Bellingcat or Alexei Navalnyj. From their videos we know uncensored recordings of secret service employees, reconstructions of their operations and their mistakes. It is not for nothing that he says in the last sentence of his video: “Nothing is more damaging to our sovereignty than the use of these rotten Russian methods.”