#UKRAINERUSSIAWAR. The thousand faces of Zelenskiy’s military adviser: Oleksiy Nikolaevich Arestovich

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Profiling Aleksej (Oleksiy) Nikolaevich Arestovich is an arduous task because we don’t know where the truth begins; Arestovich says very good things about himself that we report below, along with comments from Ukrainian journalists and colleagues who have been writing about him since he rose to fame in 2014.

He is of Belarusian and Polish descent; born on 3 August 1975 in Dedoplistskaro, in a military garrison in Kakheti, Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia; the son of the then head of the selection committee of the National Defence Academy of Ukraine. As soon as he was born, his family came to Kiev; in 1992 he graduated from the 178 school in Kiev. He enrolled in the biology faculty of Tara Shevchenko University, but scientific study was not for him.

After leaving the university, he found his vocation and in 1993 he started acting at the Kiev theatre studio, Black Square, where he remained for 17 years while at the same time he entered the Odessa Land Forces Institute. Since 2000 he has been conducting psychological seminars and training. Author of a course on teaching the art of dramatic improvisation, he wrote the book The ABC of Chiron. Elementary course in improvisational theatre. In 2003 he joined the author school ‘A Man Among People’ of the Russian psychologist Absalom Podvodny, from which, he says, he graduated in 2010. He studied theology at the St Thomas Aquinas Higher Institute of Religious Sciences.

In military matters Alexei Arestovich specialised as a military translator (from Ukrainian-Russian to English) at the Odessa Land Forces Institute. From 1994-2005 he worked in the Main Intelligence Directorate and is now a reserve officer. High sources report that he served from 1999 to 2005 and was a career intelligence officer in the Armed Forces, worked in the Main Intelligence Directorate under Igor Smeshko. He resigned in 2005 due to a scandal within the Armed Forces. His personal comment was: ‘I served in the Strategic Studies Department of the Ministry of Defence. The reports we prepared went directly to the desk of the president, prime minister, defence minister, head of the Verkhovna Rada, etc.’. After the Orange Revolution, the situation in the country changed. When former directors of sugar factories start issuing directives and teaching military officers how to serve them – this is nonsense, which I once reported to the command. In response, they told me: where you go, you will serve. But the next day I didn’t go to work and, after long discussions, I left.”

In 2005, he joined the Brotherhood party and was vice-president of the party of  Dmitry Korchinsky, a TV presenter. One of his biographical profiles of the military adviser reads: ‘Arestovich became a deputy of the party and was noted for his firm opposition to the “orange plague” and the followers of the “Orange Revolution”‘. At first, he travelled (he says) regularly with Korchinsky to Russia to the conference of Alexander Dugin’s ‘Eurasian Movement’ (the same one who invited Putin to send troops to Ukraine). He actively urged Russian public organisations, foundations and institutions ‘to resist various orange invasions both within the country and throughout the post-Soviet space’. In 2008, their political course changed radically and the Arestovich-Korchinsky duo was already building a ‘defence strategy for Crimea’ against Russian invaders. In early 2009, the two jointly organised the civil initiative ‘Get Usіh’, in which Arestovich’s main tasks were to organise actions in Sumy, Odessa and Kiev with the participation of businessmen and transporters to fight the current government. The civil initiative did not last long: he organised some small actions (400-500 people each), and appeared in Savik Shuster’s show, then the civil initiative died out. Moreover, Korchinsky, Arestovich and company headed for Odessa.

From 2007 he became co-organiser of the film production company Aegis Artist Group, nothing is known about the company, rumours claim it only served to attract funding from the Brotherhood party.

In 2009, Korchinsky sent his ‘right hand’ Arestovich to Odessa to organise and carry out actions in support of his friend, then Mayor of Odessa, Eduard Gurvits. On 3 June 2009, Gurvits appointed Aleksey Arestovich to the post of vice-president of the Primorsky district administration, which even awarded him the 9th rank of civil servant and a 50% bonus on his salary, taking into account bonuses for rank and seniority. But, apparently, something went wrong and three months later he fired Alexei from his post. In early 2009, Arestovich, together with Dmitry Korchinsky, organised the civil initiative Down with Everyone, whose task was “to convince the authorities to solve the main problems of the country’s small and medium-sized enterprises and road carriers”.

In 2013, he participated in the filming of the show “Teach Us to Live” on the ICTV channel as a certified family psychologist and presenter. He has acted in commercials and TV series – “The Return of Mukhtar”, “Waiting List”, “Brother for Brother”, and many more. In 2012, he played the lead role in the comedy Don’t Be Afraid, I’m Near. His character is Igor Smirnov, aka Lucy Zaitseva. According to the plot, Arestovich’s hero is a bank clerk, but our hero is bad at combining work and personal life. The girl he loves leaves him. Igor intends to win back his beloved at any cost. In order to achieve a positive result, the protagonist of the play devises a very unconventional solution: taking a close friend-journalist as a partner, Igor goes to a company party at the home of his brazen rival, the singer Lyusya Zaitseva. Alexey Arestovich also stars in the film “Don’t be afraid, I’m near”.

An active blogger, he has hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook and YouTube, his fan readers and detractors have nicknamed him “Mr. Fake” because in one day he would be able to say everything and its opposite. On 29 November 2020, for example, after the end of the meeting of the Contact Group for the Donbass a bot was launched on his articles, in 24 hours he had published 428 of them. Giving of course in each one conflicting news about how the meetings on the implementation of the Minsk agreements had gone.

After Euromaidan 2014, Arestovich, began to position himself as a military expert, appearing frequently in the media and social networks. The military advisor’s credibility is also minimal in the social sphere: one of his colleagues wrote in September of the same year: ‘Alexey Arrestovich is suddenly becoming popular, feasting now on peaceful strategies to change society, now on hints that weapons should not be forgotten. On both occasions he mentions that he is a spy graduated from the Odessa Institute of Terrestrial Forces and a psychologist. Much less does he boast of being a military translator from English, an actor, having served in a peacekeeping contingent in the Balkans, having participated in joint competitions/training with the US Marines and the British Army, and having 6 combat awards. OK, the last three merits he attributed to himself on some forum to sound more intriguing, but that was a figment of the imagination of a 27 year old man, not a 14 year old teenager. I didn’t write to MIA (although I should have), so I don’t know if he served there or not (until 2005), but he certainly had enough time to act in films (since 2005), participate in plays (e.g. 2004), conducting training and consultations in group psychology, resistance to unscrupulous manipulation, communication skills, public speaking, negotiation techniques, acting and psychology of social contacts (since 2000). After a couple of psychology seminars, in 2003 Aleksey decided to get professional training and attended Absalom Podvodnyi’s school of psychology “A man among men”, where he studied psychic archetypes, astrology, public speaking skills and the basics of structural massage. By correspondence. And he continued his film career. In 2005 he started a rumour that he was Dmitriy Korchinsky’s right-hand man, there was even a photo of him, but the link on the Brotherhood website does not open. In 2008 he and Korchynsky were working on the strategy for the defence of Crimea, and in early 2009 they went on a rampage and organised the civic initiative “Get Ukh”. The civic initiative aired on Savik Shuster’s show and then fell into silence: the group’s LiveJournal became covered in cobwebs, while the official website became a haven for pest control specialists.

Arestovich set his sights on Odessa: Gurvits appointed him deputy chairman of the Primorsky district administration of the Odessa city council for the summer holidays. Arestovich left an indelible impression on Odessa resident P.P. Kukushkin, who came to say “I owe him!” a week after his dismissal. Arestovich returned to the Brotherhood, writing strong texts about the need to burn Moscow, which as well as the photo were removed from the Brotherhood’s website. In 2010 Arestovich finished Absalom Podvodnyi’s school of psychology, and with a diploma (?) as a psychologist he was hired again to act in films, and then on ICTV hired as a family psychologist (SOS!). On the social forum, where he also draws his knowledge about military affairs and discusses religious topics, they don’t take him seriously and say he “lies as he breathes” and is an “80th level troll”. And now for something that gives me the creeps personally. In 2007 Arestovich set up an event group, Aegis Artist Group, which for some reason he is not very keen on publicising. One of his techniques for improving his acting skills is: ‘He chooses a profession he knows absolutely nothing about, studies everything about it for a day or two, and then tries to get a job. The goal is to go through all the stages of selection, right up to the invitation to work the next day.” I want it to be crazy. The lyrics are encouraging to me, but his ability to change people’s minds is not great. Anyway – shouldn’t you get to know him better before promoting him?”.

Since 2014, Arestovich says, he has also trained military formations under the People’s Reservist programme and was the organiser of a charity to provide psychological support to the military in the ATO area. But all-Ukrainian fame came to Aleksey Arestovich in 2017, when he admitted that since the start of the war in the Donbass, he has been methodically lying in his blogs and comments, acting as a “military expert”.

Alexei Arestovich’s Facebook post, in which he admitted to deceiving the public for 3 years by engaging in propaganda is still online, we publish excerpts: “Dear friends! I have been lying to you a lot since the spring of 2014. I launched the distortion of information along two main lines: – the creation of a patriotic lubok, in which “we unite strong, walk heroically”, and bright prospects await Ukraine, – black propaganda against the Russian Federation. It was purely propaganda, brought to life by Russian military aggression against Ukraine. Three years later I concluded that: – propaganda is part of war, it is possible and even (unfortunately) necessary, but only on an anonymous basis, i.e. when you do not sign up with your name. Now, about my real position. 1. I am not a patriot. Moreover, not only of Ukraine, but also of any nation-state, as such, I am a “patriot of the fifth project”, the project of the United Earth in the spirit of Teilhard de Chardin (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit, philosopher and palaeontologist, ed), Vernadsky (Vladimir Ivanovič Vernadsky was a Russian mineralogist and geochemist who introduced the concept of the noosphere and made an important contribution to Russian cosmism, ed.) and Jean Fresco (Jacque Fresco was an American planner and social reformer, founder of The Venus Project, ed.); 2. And because I am not at all concerned with national issues I am not leaving (yet, anyway) Ukraine. I have fulfilled and continue to fulfil my civil duties, mainly in the field of security, with my small contribution (military training, analytical material) Not because of patriotism. Not because of honest sharing. However, for me there are two specific red lines, if they are crossed, I will reconsider the terms of cooperation: – if the state/society starts to force a certain socio-political project in a violent way; – if the state/society starts to restrict the possibility of free thought, activity and speech. 3. I am not at all concerned about the development of Ukrainian culture, as such. […] I do not consider the Ukrainian people something exceptional and our society is special… On the whole, I have a feeling close to moderate distaste for the public mass (in its current state), although I remain cautiously optimistic about its prospects. In fact, very modestly. Very much so.” 

From September 2018 to September 2019, he served in the JFO area near Kramatorsk in the 72nd Mechanised Brigade as a scout. According to Arestovich himself, he fought among the volunteers and has 33 combat outings in tow. Interestingly, during his service, Arestovich continued to blog and appear on television as a full-time expert. “Service as a volunteer,” the blogger noted, “contributed to promotion in the military service: I was a captain, now I have become a major.” Ukrainian journalists have often had something to say about his military life: in fact, Arestovich has repeatedly found himself at the centre of scandals because of his statements, including those on the subject of the Donbass. In particular, after the fighting in the Debaltseve area (February 2015), Arestovich claimed that the Ukrainian army’s losses were very low.

And again, the press questioned the fact that he served in intelligence and in one of the mechanised brigades in the Donbass. According to Alexei Arestovich himself, he survived the explosion and was the only one not hit in the group, while in Kramatorsk, where he served, the fact is that the area is quite far from the combat area. And it is not clear what kind of explosion he suffered and where his reconnaissance group survived and where the reconnaissance even was. He himself on 29 September 2019 states, “I went as a volunteer, a little east of Kramatorsk. I started in reconnaissance of one of our mechanised brigades. Among other adventures, I survived an explosion on something very similar to an OZM (anti-personnel mine), remaining the only one unscathed in the group.” There was also a verbal clash accessed with Sergey Krivonos, then deputy head of the National Security and Defence Council; colonel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, first deputy commander of the Special Operations Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, later removed from office after the broadsides to Arestovich.  Krivonos, on 29 December 2020 stated that: “The adviser to the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group, Oleksiy Arestovich, led a group of snipers into a minefield. When Arestovich presents himself as a professional, a military expert – but which platoon, which company did Mr. Arestovich command? None. And why did he only enter the war in August 2018? And why won’t Mr Arestovich tell us how on 8 November 2018 he led a group of Desna snipers into a minefield, where two were killed and three seriously wounded? Why won’t he tell us how and why he did it? The deputy secretary of the NSBO calls Arestovich a: “pure water manipulator”, a “provocateur” and “Pop Gapon, who leads our society to a firing squad: He was invited to the broadcasts because those who were not in the war were invited. All the proper professionals and patriots were at war, while this miracle worker stayed behind and started presenting himself as a military super-specialist. Because those who were supposed to defend Ukraine – they defended it at the front. And he, who was sitting in the bushes, began to present himself as a military expert’.

A role as a military expert that, according to his tax return, has earned him until 2019: 1,014,053 hryvnia.

Opponent and critic of Vladimir Zelensky when he was a candidate for the presidency of Ukraine. Immediately after his election, he predicted that Zelensky would lose the state presidency before the end of his term and that Ukraine would lose territories anyway. However, he later changed his mind: he re-evaluated the values of the incumbent presidency and said that Zelensky was working hard. So Arestovich gave an interview in which he praised Zelensky’s idea of holding a poll on local election day later became a member of his team.

On 28 October 2020, he was appointed by Leonid Kravchuk as an advisor on information policy and official rapporteur of the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group at the talks in Minsk to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Kravchuk noted that Arestovich’s candidacy was chosen because of his military experience and the presence of a vision and position on issues being considered by the GCC. On 1 December 2020, the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak appointed Oleksiy Arestovich as his non-personal adviser on strategic communications in the field of national security and defence. On 16 January 2022, Aleksey Arestovich resigned from both positions. He attributed his resignation to personal reasons and criticised President Volodymyr Zelensky for bureaucracy. According to the former adviser, the Ukrainian leader’s election campaign was based on the fact that he spoke sincerely with people. But the president has not spoken anywhere “off record” for a long time. “Our strength lies in the fact that the president speaks directly to everyone, this is his main feature: explaining his policy. Where is everything? Who have we become? Bureaucracy, reference, protocol. You couldn’t hit yourself harder in the balls. Well, this is the worst thing that could be done to us: ‘becoming bureaucratic’,” said Arestovich.

On February 24, 2022, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Oleksiy became known for his 2019 prediction of inevitable war with Russia and thus appointed Advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine

During his role as advisor to the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group, he distinguished himself by his total ignorance of the terms of the agreements by presenting himself at meetings with meaningless catchphrases. The press said that Zelensky had appointed him to sink Minsk-2. On 24 November 2020, a tam tam arose on the social sphere about what Arestovich had published, “which exposed the full layout of the US plans, including spying on Macron in full”.

The post which quotes Arestovich’s sentences reads, “Ukraine refuses compromise; Ukraine DEMANDS that the US be involved in Minsk; Ukraine counts on France, Germany and the OSCE to “crush” Russia; Ukraine’s “new plan” fits well into the reintegration law and future internment law; Ukraine categorically refuses to implement Minsk-2 as agreed by the UN, And so on.”

The post closes with the following comment: ‘I believe Arestovich has been instructed to prepare the people for Ukraine’s refusal to implement the Minsk agreements and, consequently, the Donbass territories – otherwise his pearls cannot be considered in any way.  Yes, I am afraid that Ukraine will lick, to death, Biden before he even becomes president.”

Graziella Giangiulio