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Detained Ukrainian Industry 'Icon' Has Russian Citizenship, RFE/RL Investigation Finds


According to the database of the Russian Federation's passport registry, Vyacheslav Bohuslayev received a Russian passport in October 2000.

KYIV -- Until last month, Vyacheslav Bohuslayev was in an enviable position: the longtime head of the well-known engine maker Motor Sich is a decorated Hero of Ukraine and one of the country's leading industrialists.

Now, Motor Sich is in state hands as Ukraine seeks to drive Russian forces out of the country following Moscow's full-scale invasion in February. And Bohuslayev is in custody on suspicion of collaborating with and assisting the "aggressor state."

But that's not all: The mechanical engineer and former lawmaker has held Russian citizenship for the past 22 years, Schemes, the investigative unit of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, found in a journalistic probe whose results were published late last month.

The Schemes finding adds to questions about Bohuslayev's past and future just as the fate of the $32.6 million company -- a manufacturer of helicopter and airplane engines, aircraft and spacecraft, gas turbines, and other industrial equipment with 16,400 employees -- also hangs in the balance.

On November 7, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov announced that the Defense Ministry would take over the management of Motor Sich and four other companies deemed strategically important to Ukraine's war effort. Once martial law ends, the ministry will either return the companies to their owners or reimburse their value, Danilov said.

The takeover is not the first government intervention in Motor Sich. In 2021, amid U.S. concerns about the investor, the Ukrainian government seized Motor Sich shares and imposed sanctions on a Chinese firm, Beijing Skyrizon Aviation Industry Investment Co., that attempted to buy a controlling stake in the 114-year-old company. In 2017, according to court documents, Bohuslayev sold his 48.8-percent share in the firm to Skyrizon's owner, but he is widely reported to remain a minority shareholder.

Vyacheslav Bohuslayev (right) attends a helicopter industry exhibition outside Moscow in 2017.
Vyacheslav Bohuslayev (right) attends a helicopter industry exhibition outside Moscow in 2017.

Prior to the government's November 7 decision to take control of Motor Sich, the firm's director of public relations, Ruslan Pydorych, assured Schemes that the public joint-stock company would function as usual despite the detention of Bohuslayev, who has run the company for more than 30 years.

"There is a board of directors; there is a chairman of the board. Everyone fulfills their duties," Pydorych said.

On October 22, 2022, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) detained Bohuslayev and the head of Motor Sich's department for foreign economic ties, Oleh Dzyuba, as part of its criminal investigation into what it alleged was the engine maker's "illegal" supply of parts for Russian attack helicopters.

The pair are suspected of collaboration and "assistance to an aggressor state," charges punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If tried and convicted, Bohuslayev could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

On November 4, the SBU said it seized property owned by the two men worth more than 1 billion hryvnyas ($27 million) in connection with the case.

The agency alleges that the management of a Motor Sich factory in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhya, where the company is based, colluded with Rostec, a Russian state conglomerate that is a key manufacturer for the military and that the SBU deems "close to the Kremlin." According to the SBU, Motor Sich shipped to Rostec via "transnational channels" products used to manufacture and repair three types of Russian attack helicopters.

The SBU has published several audio recordings that it claims are discussions between Bohuslayev and contacts in Russian defense-industry companies about selling Motor Sich items to Russia since the start of the large-scale invasion in February.

The recordings, which RFE/RL cannot independently verify, present Bohuslayev as an eager salesman to Russian customers, formerly the bulk of Motor Sich's clientele -- so eager, in fact, that in one conversation he allegedly assures a Russian military contractor that there are "no hard feelings" about a Russian missile strike on a Motor Sich factory in the city of Zaporizhzhya, where the company is headquartered. In another, he allegedly denies that he is "with Ukraine," and remarks that, amid the Russian military bombardment of Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's government will fall.

In one March 2022 recording, he suggests to a man identified as the head of a Moscow-based Motor Sich joint venture -- Anatoly Sitnov, a retired Russian general and former Russian Defense Ministry armaments chief -- that the company can get around sanctions by shipping spare parts through a third country -- "maybe through Croatia or wherever you had...Montenegro? You had some good links somewhere." By law, Ukraine has banned such shipments to Russia since 2014.

The voice attributed to Sitnov responds, "We've got Croatia, Kazakhstan, or maybe even Kyrgyzstan."

Bohuslayev allegedly then says, "We'll calculate for how much we can [sell the spare parts], and you make up your mind about how and through [where]."

The recordings present Bohuslayev as a businessman willing to lower his price and provide extra supplies, too.

The SBU claims that Motor Sich parts have been found in an unspecified number of Russian helicopters downed by the Ukrainian armed forces.

Responding to journalists' questions about the government's allegations during an October 24 court appearance in Kyiv, Bohuslayev said, "I've been the chief designer for 20 years, based on a government decision." He added, "My job is to make helicopters."

His lawyer, Yaroslav Volynets, stated at the hearing that Bohuslayev had told him that conversations about deliveries to Russia had taken place, based on contracts from 2021 and 2008, but that no deliveries had occurred, the media outlet Ukrayinska Pravda reported. Volynets claimed that "state bodies" had approved the 2021 contract and asserted that investigators had not proven that Motor Sich products sent "through a country friendly to us" ever reached Russia.

Speaking shortly after the Schemes report was published, Volynets confirmed that Bohuslayev does have a Russian passport, but said that he had not discussed the matter with him. Motor Sich's Pydorych told Schemes the same day that he knew nothing about Bohuslayev's Russian citizenship, and that he was "hearing about it for the first time."

An image of Vyacheslav Bohuslayev's Russian passport from the Russian passport registry agency, Rospasport.
An image of Vyacheslav Bohuslayev's Russian passport from the Russian passport registry agency, Rospasport.

Bohuslayev is now in a detention center in Kyiv until December 20, a period that can be extended by court order, as the state's investigation continues.

At the hearing, Bohuslayev told reporters that the court's decision was a "misunderstanding." Asked about prosecutors' suspicion that he worked with Russia, he responded: "I don't know. I'm a designer. For the Ukrainian Army." He has not responded to the Schemes finding that he is a Russian citizen.

Already, though, that finding has attracted government attention.

A senior adviser to Zelenskiy, Mykhaylo Podolyak, told Current Time on October 25 that Bohuslayev's Russian citizenship could potentially place him on a list of people Kyiv is willing to exchange with Moscow for "real citizens of Ukraine" -- Ukrainians held by Russia. Neither government has confirmed that a swap involving Bohuslayev will occur.

Under Ukrainian law, dual citizenship is a murky concept. The Ukrainian Constitution states that "a single citizenship" exists in Ukraine, yet, currently, individuals with dual citizenship are not explicitly barred from running for seats in parliament.

Russian government documents indicate that Bohuslayev has been a Russian citizen for the majority of his decades-long leadership of Motor Sich, and throughout his 2006-2019 tenure in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament.

Representing the Moscow-friendly Party of Regions, Bohuslayev served as deputy chairman of the Rada's National Security and Defense Committee in 2007-12 and as deputy chairman of the Industrial and Investment Policy Committee in 2012-14.

Returned to parliament as an independent deputy after the 2014 Euromaidan protests pushed President Viktor Yanukovych from power after the Party of Regions member scrapped plans to cement closer ties to the European Union and turned instead to Moscow, Bohuslayev again served on the National Security and Defense Committee until his defeat in the 2019 parliamentary elections.

In all these positions, Bohuslayev had access to state secrets, multiple former National Security and Defense Committee members told Schemes. He is not under suspicion for passing state secrets to Russia during his parliamentary tenure.

Vyacheslav Bohuslayev in 2019
Vyacheslav Bohuslayev in 2019

According to the database of the Russian Federation's passport registry, Rospasport, Bohuslayev received a Russian passport on October 18, 2000, roughly nine months after Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma named him a Hero of Ukraine for his contributions to Ukrainian mechanical engineering. In exchange for the Russian passport, Bohuslayev apparently surrendered a 1979 Soviet passport, as allowed by Russian law.

At the time, he was Motor Sich's general director and chairman of its board of directors -- a position he would hold until 2013. Known as a "red director," an executive who has headed a company since Soviet times, Bohuslayev, a native of the Kazakh city of Oral, was named in 1988 to head the company that became Motor Sich.

The SBU alleges that he is a shareholder in an unidentified Ukrainian bank that owns 100 percent of the shares in the private Motor Bank. According to the agency, he also holds "significant stakes" in several other private Ukrainian companies.

In 2020, Forbes Ukraine estimated his net worth at $125 million, ranking him as one of the country's 100 richest individuals.

As of November 7, the database for the Interior Ministry's Main Administration for Migration Issues did not list Bohuslayev's passport among its record of expired or annulled passport numbers.

The website of the Russian Tax Service shows that Bohuslayev has a Russian taxpayer-identification number, linked to his passport as a citizen of the Russian Federation.

The website of the Russian Tax Service shows that Bohuslayev has a Russian taxpayer-identification number, linked to his passport as a citizen of the Russian Federation.
The website of the Russian Tax Service shows that Bohuslayev has a Russian taxpayer-identification number, linked to his passport as a citizen of the Russian Federation.

Schemes found evidence in the Russian real-estate registry that he owns two pieces of property in Moscow -- an apartment in a residential complex at 84 Khoroshevskoye Shosse, Building 6, and a warehouse at 7a Ulitsa Zorge. These properties, which Bohuslayev has owned since 2002, according to the registry, were not included in his 2006-2019 property declarations as a member of parliament. Under Ukrainian law, inaccurate property declarations are an administrative offense.

Since Russia launched its large-scale invasion in February, the SBU has intensified its search for collaborators, but the suspicions of Bohuslayev and Motor Sich's activities are not new.

In 2019, the independent outlet Bihus.info reported that Motor Sich had been defying sanctions and funneling engine parts via Bosnia-Herzegovina to Russia, including for the Russian Army.

Ukrainian investigative journalist Yevhen Plinskiy also reported in 2019 that Motor Sich had sold more than $40 million worth of helicopter engines and airplane engines to Russia via Bulgaria, Hong Kong, Latvia, and the United Arab Emirates.

In remarks to Current Time, Podolyak scoffed that Kyiv formerly looked on Bohuslayev as "an icon." Now, he said, after years of aggression and eight months of intense attacks by Russia, Ukrainians should "forget this era of icons."

"People must take full responsibility for their actions," he said.

Written by Elizabeth Owen based on reporting by Kyrylo Ovsyaniy and Natalie Sedletska of Schemes. Current Time contributed to this report
  • 16x9 Image

    Kyrylo Ovsyaniy

    Kyrylo Ovsyaniy is an investigative journalist with Schemes (Skhemy), an investigative news project run by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. Since 2021 he has worked on the Corruption In Detail program, after beginning in 2019 with a regional  project. Born in Odesa, he has worked as a journalist there since 2018.

  • 16x9 Image

    Natalie Sedletska

    Natalie Sedletska is a Ukrainian investigative reporter and executive producer of Schemes, an investigative unit of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service.

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