The name of Kyrylo Budanov. In the West, at least for the general public, he is still a secondary actor next to Oleksii Reznikov either Volodimir Zelensky. For Putin, on the other hand, that name appears on the blacklist of Ukrainians to be liquidated for five years. In the end, you know: everyone remembers Elijah Woodbut it seems that the actor who plays his companion in search of the ring, Samwise Gamy, does not have a name. Sean Astin: That’s what it’s called. And Budanov, like Astin, had been in the background of the media until now: in the next few hours he will replace Reznikov as Ukrainian Defense Minister, just at a time when the war is reaching a decisive phase.
The government crisis caused by the allegations of corruption within the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, which caused a wave of resignations and dismissals, has ended up also taking away Minister Reznikov, who in the last year had become an international star. “War dictates changes in personnel policy“, justified this Sunday David Arakhamia, head of the parliamentary bloc of the Servant of the People party.
Despite the unknown of his name, Kyrylo Budanov is one of the key figures in the country’s resistance strategy. Since August 2020 and until he becomes minister, Budanov has been the head of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence (GUR). In fact, for the Kremlin it is one of the main military objectives: he has survived more assassination attempts than Reznikov himself.
It all started in 2016, when the shy and extremely reserved Budanov became one of the youngest generals in Ukrainian history. The reason: he had devised the strategy of an operation about which hardly anything is known even today, but which killed a lieutenant colonel of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) on a bridge in the Crimea, which also earned him the Order of Valor.
Four years later, the meteoric rise culminated in his appointment as head of Defense Intelligencesince it suits his cautious personality like a glove. I was only 34 years old. “All the attempts on my life began after the Crimea event,” he told The Washington Post.
[El batallón Bratstvo se infiltra en Rusia: saboteadores ucranianos que atacan y secuestran]
The one that came closest to ending his life took place in 2019. The Russians placed a bomb under his car that it exploded before its time, at least, before it had time to mount itself.
More recently, a group of contract killers were captured by the security services during preparations for liquidate him and Reznikov, as well as a well-known Ukrainian activist. For the murder of Budanov they paid the same as for the minister: “Between $100,000 and $150,000“.
The truth is that Budanov has more lives than a cat: in total, the Kremlin has tried to kill him a dozen times, a number similar to the number of known attacks against Zelensky. A dozen failures.
Budanov the cautious
In Budanov’s office – adorned with military paintings, weapons and animal figures: Budanov adores them and has a pet frog – there is classical music playing 24 hours a day. An old trick taken from the days of the Cold War and George Smiley which makes any attempt to listen impossible.
Without a doubt, live knowing that anyone could be his killer It has made him extreme caution and suspicion. He has left his house and has settled in the office. He never appears in public anymore, despite the fact that he always tries to attend to the media: he has done so with The Washington Post, The New York Times, spoke with Christine Amanpour for and has served the vast majority of Ukrainian newspapers.
However, neither Budanov nor any other member of the Ukrainian government has claimed responsibility for the explosion on the Crimean bridge that killed the FSB lieutenant general.
Asked about this event by the Pravda newspaper, he said that it was something “difficult to answer” and that I would talk about it another time. “All I can say is that the Crimean bridge was badly damaged. This bridge is one of the symbols of the “Russian world”. The Crimean bridge sank as the Moskva cruiser did before it. These are all signs that this regime does not have much time left.“, he added.
[En Lublin, con la primera línea de defensa de la UE: el ejército de 35.000 civiles armados que Polonia adiestra contra Rusia]
Be that as it may, Zelensky has insinuated several times that the incident on the Crimean bridge resulted, in addition to the assassination attempts on Budanov, in a conflict between Russian Intelligence and the Army. Budanov, does not confirm or deny anything, but he does assure something: “When we recover Crimea, the bridge is a symbol that will be destroyed. No one needs this transportation artery and it will cease to exist.”
On October 10, Russia launched a major attack on a large part of the territory of Ukraine. One as big as was not remembered since the first days of the invasion when they tried to take kyiv. Budanov then became clear about the reason for the offensive at that time: it was the response to the explosion of the Crimean bridge, which had also been on October 10. “Russians love numerology and everything related to it: 10.10.22,” he explained.
At this time when one year has passed since the start of the war (February 24), speculation with a major Russian offensive in the Donbas is winning whole. Ukraine prepares for a mobilization of half a million Russian militaryand in this scenario the prediction of Budanov as the new defense minister may be important.
The night of February 23 last year Budanov moved his wife into his office. There were only a few hours left before the Russian invasion was confirmed, something that he had already foreseen long before. In fact, he was practically the only member of Ukrainian intelligence who had tipped off months in advance that Russia was going to attack kyiv shortly.
It was not something easy to affirm: a mistake could have cost you the job, while the comfortable position was to remain skeptical. His more daring compatriots were just waiting for a Russian invasion that covered only the eastern area, rather than the full-scale attack on three different fronts that finally took place.
When the hands of the clock passed the 04:00Budanov made the most painful success of his career: if events had not unfolded as he had imagined and communicated to the Government, today he would not be a minister or even head of Intelligence, but there would be no war either.
“We had this conversation that if that attack didn’t happen we weren’t going to look good,” he said in an interview. “Specifically we had specified that the invasion would begin at four in the morning. It sounds really weird, but I was afraid it wouldn’t turn out the way it should.”
[Andriy, el abad ortodoxo que espiaba para Moscú: le acusan de sentenciar a un batallón ucraniano entero]
Budanov’s prediction earned him Zelensky’s respect almost as if Nostradamus were treated. Throughout the war, Budanov has made more predictions: some correct, others unsuccessful, and also those that have not been confirmed but have been echoed throughout the international scene.
In the first group are, for example, his forecast that Russia would focus at this beginning of 2023 on occupying more territory in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. “We must do everything possible to ensure that Crimea returns home by the summer,” he said ahead of the coming summer.
He has also succeeded, for the moment, in that Putin will not use nuclear weapons: “It’s a scare tactic. Russia is a country you can expect a lot from, but not complete idiocy. Sorry, but it’s not going to happen. Carrying out a nuclear attack would result not only in a military defeat for Russia, but also in its collapse. They know it very well.”
It remains to be seen if his speculations regarding Putin, of whom he has said that suffers from terminal cancer among other ailments, is true. Zelensky takes it for granted: “I’m not sure Putin is still alive,” he said at the Davos World Economic Forum. However, William J. Burns, director of the CIA, has stated that there is no intelligence report to suggest that Putin is ill.
Budanov’s most serious failure was when, in 2022, assured that the war would end by the end of that year. Asked about this in The Washington Post on January 31, 2023, Budanov qualified his forecast: “It all started in Crimea in 2014 and it will all end there“.
Budanov’s name will go on to star in the stories of the resistance. Not surprisingly, he challenge The one he is facing is huge: to the wear and tear of the Ministry and the suspicions of corruption, the resistance joins the front of Donbas. “There are always doubts from others. How effective I am in this position will likely only become apparent in the future.. I cannot objectively evaluate myself. Time will tell”.