Bihus: At least 30 people involved in the surveillance, cameras installed in women's rooms too
At least 30 people were involved in the surveillance operation targeting the Bihus.info team. The surveillance cameras were installed in the rooms where the project's employees, mostly women, stayed, according to Denys Bihus' new video.
The editors were staying in the ethnic-themed hotel complex "Ukrainian Village" on the outskirts of Kyiv. Media workers have no complaints against the staff, as the staff are actively helping Bihus.info to learn the details of the surveillance incident.
The journalists booked a conference hall, a gazebo, a barbecue grill and six hours of sauna for the evening of December 27.
Bihus clarified that the rooms in the hotel complex are ethnic-themed bungalows for two to four people. The team reserved the conference hall as well because on December 27 they took a training class on working with foreign registries. After the class, in the evening of that day, the team had free time to relax. For this, they ordered a grill-equipped gazebo and a sauna.
"Around December 20, a strange character arrives at the complex. He is mostly interested in the restaurant. However, it is not the menu that interests him, but where the speakers stand, where the Christmas tree is. And he books exactly the same rooms for the December 26 as we booked for December 27," Bihus said.
According to Bihus, the stranger also booked the sauna. He and the other men accompanying him called themselves office employees; they sat in the restaurant and fell silent whenever the waiter entered.
"That's several dozen people, mind you. You don't really need that many. Just for this grandiose operation, half a department got to spend the New Year's hanging out in the countryside," the journalist added.
He stressed that surveillance cameras were installed in the bedrooms of all team members, most of whom are women.
"The rooms were booked for them. And I have a hard time imagining what must be going on in the minds of these bastards who carried out this operation, what must be going on in the mind of the one who planned it, approved it, sent the people in, because there were many of them," the investigator added.
Denys Bihus noted that his colleagues noticed the fire alarm-like devices in the rooms. And the day before yesterday (January 17), when the team searched the rooms, the devices were already gone.
On December 28, after the team left the hotel, a man called the complex and rebooked the rooms previously rented by Bihus.info. Eventually, this large number of rooms was visited by a couple of guests who took the keys to all the rooms in order to remove the cameras.
"But the interesting part is that some of those rooms were occupied, and they could not get into them right away and booked them only four days later. And the sauna was all booked out, because it was already the New Year's season," Bihus said.
He stressed that unidentified persons were filming the private life, including the sauna visits, of complete outsiders with no relation to the team for four days.
As the IMI reported, on January 16, the head of the Bihus.Info project, Denys Bihus, recorded a statement in response to a provocative video shared on YouTube by the website "Narodna Pravda", wherein his employees negotiate the purchase of drugs and use them, and reported unlawful surveillance and wiretapping. He also announced staff changes.
The phones of the Bihus.Info team were wiretapped for several months, according to Denys Bihus's second video address. He says that the leaked phone conversation recordings point to this. These conversations happened some time apart.
The director of the Institute of Mass Information, Oksana Romaniuk, demands that the authorities address systematic pressure on journalists. She said this while commenting on the pressure on journalist Yuriy Nikolov, whose apartment suffered a break-in attempt by unknown men, and the Bihus.Info team.
On January 17, the Media Movement called on President Volodymyr Zelensky to resolutely condemn the pressure campaign on independent journalists and investigators and ensure that the crimes against the media are properly investigated.
On January 17, the Security Service of Ukraine opened a case over unlawful wiretapping and video surveillance of Bihus.Info employees. On the same day, SBU officers searched at the suburban complex where the Bihus.Info team members were illegally recorded on video. The law enforcers confiscated the hard drives with CCTV footage.
On January 18, 2024, it was reported that the Kyiv Oblast National Police HQ had opened a pre-trial investigation into the violation of privacy following a statement by Bihus.Info journalist Maria Zemlyanska.
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