Push and hold

Valentyn Dyomin: “After My Work in the Intelligence Service, I Would Throw Myself into Implementation of Any Project”

During his business trip abroad, within a month Valentyn Dyomin was awarded two orders and two medals.

That was a unique case in the history of the Intelligence. The experience gained in the Foreign Intelligence Service, later helped him realize himself in business and as a diplomat, as well as in the public service in the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine


Dyomin Valentyn Serhiyovych was born August 28, 1948 in the village of Levkivka in Kharkiv region. He graduated from Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute. He worked in units of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Soviet Union and Ukraine. Colonel of reserve. Having retired from military service (in 1992), V. Dyomin worked as Deputy Chief Engineer of the Kharkiv Electric Lamp Plant, then in commercial structures, created several joint ventures. In 1997-2001 he worked at the Embassy of Ukraine in Iran first as the Second, then as the First Secretary, and for six months served as Ambassador. In 2002-2004, he was Ukraine’s Sales Representative in Iran. After that he worked in the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. The last position was Deputy Chief of the International Cooperation Department.

The way into the Intelligence Service

In 1975 the talented graduate of the Kharkiv Polytechnical Institute Valentyn Dyomin, who had worked well as an engineer at Zmiivskyi Engineering Plant, was noticed by representatives of the KGB and offered to change his job.

After special training, for two years he had been engaged in operational work in Kharkiv, when the city was suddenly visited by representatives of the Centre, engaged in the study and selection of candidates for work in the Foreign Intelligence Service. Dyomin was on the list of the candidates. During testing, he surprised the present when without a slightest mistake reproduced the entire table with 25 different characters. He had a good memory that always helped in studying (in youth he learned by heart almost all Sergei Yesenin’s poems). Such skills were needed for mastering foreign languages in the higher education institution of the Foreign Intelligence.

The group, in which he was, was engaged in advanced study of the East and the Persian language. Of course, special intelligence training was first thing. Taking into consideration the developments in Afghanistan, soon everybody realized that they were being prepared for work in that country. Everything became clear in December 1980, when after all the final examinations they all were appointed Advisers to the KGB Mission in Afghanistan.

Three Business Trips to Afghanistan

Upon his arrival in Kabul, Dyomin received instructions to go to Jalalabad, into one of the units of the Soviet Mission, to collect intelligence and serve as an Adviser to help local security services.

He carefully studied the situation, established the necessary contacts with Afghan counterparts and gave good advice, which often contributed to the success of operations. His intelligence activity must have gone far enough, as among illegal armed groups there was an order for his capture. Once at the local market, where he came with the Tajik interpreter, he was approached from behind by a newly recruited Afghan and warned that he would be attacked.

- Those fifty meters that separated us from the Office’s “Niva”, we covered in a matter of seconds- says Valentyn Serhiyovych. – When the engine began working and I pressed the accelerator, the car did not move from the spot. In the mirror I saw that some people had raised the tail of the car and were holding it on their hands. I turned on the front-wheel drive, but in a second the bearded men were already before me. Then I ordered my counterpart: “Fire!” After a long salvo straight from the cabin through the windshield, over the heads of the attackers, they fell to the ground, and I again pressed the accelerator pedal – and the car, raising a cloud of dust, rushed forward. A few shots sounded behind, but fortunately they missed. The car, roaring, rushed to the base. Only after a few hundred meters I realized that I had not switched over.

Later Dyomin learned that his head had been priced at 100,000 US dollars.

Having completed his business trip, Dyomin returned to Kharkiv, where he worked in the Intelligence Service until August 1982. Soon he was sent to 2 -year courses training future professionals to be sent into English-speaking countries. There he mastered the English language, and in addition perfected his knowledge of Farsi and successfully passed the exam. He was supposed to go to Canada, but it so happened that someone else was sent there, who had some connections in Moscow, and Dyomin was again sent to Afghanistan.

In September 1984, V. Dyomin was Deputy Commander of Special Task Force for Intelligence in Host province, located on the border with Pakistan, where the situation was very complicated. He felt it already while landing at the airport, where on the move he had to jump out of the plane which took off immediately, rapidly gained the maximum height and flew backwards. Afghan colleagues quickly brought the newly arrived under thick adobe walls of buildings to save them from shooting to which the runway was constantly subject.

The information which he managed to collect at the new place, was very valuable. Once he had to deliver to Kabul an especially valuable agent, with whom he worked together with representatives of Afghan security agencies. The agent provided information about the training camps of mercenaries in Pakistan, the place of their infiltration into Afghanistan, the ways of supply of weapons, financing schemes, accounts in foreign banks. That is why the Chief of Afghanistan’s State Security Service Najib, the future president of Afghanistan, wanted to meet with him in person.

To change the appearance of the secret agent, he was made up (and so were all who were accompanying him), and so they managed to smoothly reach the capital. V. Dyomin witnessed how Najib after a long conversation with the agent and all those who worked with him, praised highly the work of the information provided and immediately ordered to give the agent, as a reward, one million Afghanis.
Valentyn Dyomin had important sources of information in Kunduz province, on the border with China, where he was sent later. There he participated in the operations of Soviet prisoners’ buying out or exchanging for arrested members of anti-government groups. After participating in major events on disclosing corruption among public authorities and management and agencies of Internal Affairs of Afghanistan, he was invited to Kabul. Before this, an arrest warrant was received for the leader of the Audit Office of the Kunduz province of Afghanistan. The man was a nephew of the former president Babrak Karmal. As a result of operational activities, important and very resonant information was collected on his abuse of power.

Valentyn Dyomin got the permission on the highest level to participate in clarifying all the circumstances of the case. Once the investigation was completed, a number of officials were held responsible, the process was widely covered in the press and on television, which increased the public credibility of the current government, which began restoring the order. A number of officials were put to justice.

V. Dyomin’s contribution to this was valued highly enough. Just within two – three weeks he was awarded the Order of the Red Star, Afghanistan’s Order “For Courage” and two medals (from Soviet and Afghan border agencies). Besides, for participation in other operations in the years of the Afghan saga he was awarded another Order of the Red Star, and medals.

After this business trip V. Dyomin again returned to Kharkiv. Soon V. Dyomin’s former colleague from the KGB Mission in Afghanistan called him. He was about to fly to Kabul, now as head of the Representative Office, and invited him to go on a business trip abroad in General’s post. Dyomin agreed. 

From the third trip to Afghanistan, which ended early in January 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Colonel Dyomin returned to Moscow – the capital of the already nonexistent country, settled in the hotel “Pekin” and began to wait for further instructions. But all in vain.

Then he called his native Kharkiv, the Regional Department of the State Security Service of Ukraine (at that time it was already so called), from where he had been sent abroad. At the other end of the wire the man said, “ We can’t promise you a General’s post, but you won’t be jobless. Do come here, we’ll be glad”. And he returned to where his professional career started, where he studied and grew.


Valentyn was going to serve at the special service of the independent Ukrainian state as long as he could , but his acquaintance with the dacha’s neighbor turned all his plans upside down. The neighbor was the Director of the Kharkiv Electric Lamp Plant Bilousov Mykola Petrovych. One evening over a cup of tea, he said:

- Now we are working with the US firm to launch in Syria a plant to assemble electric engines in the free economic zone. In 12 days we are starting shipping the equipment. I need an expert on East countries there. Would you go?

Dyomin agreed. Three days later he was already appointed Deputy Chief Engineer of the plant and at the same time – the head of a team of specialists for equipment installation and arranging production of electric engines in Syria. That rapid retirement from service could happen only through the authority and persistence of the Director of the plant.

On his return to Kharkiv in 1993, Dyomin within a few months worked at the plant, but realized that the monotonous routine work was not to his liking. And he decided to go into businesses structures that were being widely created then in Ukraine.

So he became Deputy General Director of the Ukrainian-American enterprise “Unibank”, which was mainly engaged in the sale of used cars. Things were going well, until one day he received another offer – to head a joint Iranian-Ukrainian company to establish trade of various goods. Valentyn enjoyed the new job. His knowledge of Farsi and English and of the psychology of the inhabitants of the East, contributed to the successful development of the business project.

Rumors about his ability to solve most complicated issues rapidly spread among Kharkiv entrepreneurs, businessmen, directors of plants. Once he was addressed by one of the deputies of Kharkiv City Council: “Help to find in Iran Ukraine’s money – a million of dollars”. 

Having weighed all the risks, Valentyn decided to try. In search of money he had to keep track of the whole chain of its transfer, starting with the Central Bank of Iran and ending with the local branch, where he managed to get a paper that the Iranian partners did receive the money. Then events began to develop like in a detective movie.

- A local businessman who had to return the money to Ukraine,- says Dyomin, – immediately offered us half a million in cash, to put an end to this case. That was a mug’s game. We had already figured out that he bought for a fee at the Iranian customs “fake” documents, which then were used by the Ukrainian side for pseudo-customs clearance of goods. Thus was created the scheme of theft of the Ukrainian budget money and its transferring abroad as payment for the delivery of non-existent diesel fuel to Ukraine.

When Dyomin reported that he had found the money, he was extremely surprised by the new instruction: to transfer it to a London bank to the personal account of a man, whose surname he was told. That was a very complicated procedure. It was necessary to buy on the Tehran Stock Exchange illegal contracts with European countries and to transfer the money to London. As he was explained, there was no other way to return that million dollars.

- Our actions were illegal – says Dyomin, – in case of detention we could have been severely punished for such transactions, even to death. But nothing happened.

Negotiations Expert

Having returned from Iran, Dyomin was asked by Deputy General Director of the Kharkiv Aviation Plant Anatoliy Myalytsya to assist in negotiations with Iranian partners. It was about selling planes to Iranians. Soon Valentyn was part of the government delegation, which was going to Iran. It consisted of Petro Balabuyev, Dmytro Kyva, Vyacheslav Boguslayev, Fedir Muravchenko and other well-known experts in the field of aviation and foreign economic relations.

The negotiations were progressing too slowly, sometimes coming to a standstill. There was trade for every and each word and every and each dollar. Finally, it all ended in signing in 1995 of the first contract for the sale of 12 AN-74 TK200 worth 124 million US dollars. Dyomin had a lot to bear being the main interpreter. 

- Iranians called me names – he recalls – a sly fox and a cunning devil. But after the negotiations they began to treat me with respect.

In the same year a contract was signed on construction in the city of Isfahan of the plant for production of AN-140. Ukraine received 324 million US dollars, which allowed the aviation industry to survive and start producing the plane at the Kharkiv Aircraft Plant. Dyomin was part of the delegation to negotiate on this issue.

Another Business Project

After all the talks were over, Valentyn Dyomin, already in Kharkiv was surprised to see that his firm, which he left to the Deputy, went bankrupt. He, in fact, lost all his money and car. He did not start sorting this out with the partner whom he had fully trusted before. Just did not want to spoil anybody’s nerves. Besides, he was invited to work as an advisor for another commercial firm, which at the time was unprofitable, but had ambitious plans.

Having developed a new business plan, the council of the founders of the company, which had developed into a group, appointed him first the Deputy General Director, and two months later – the CEO. The concern included 12 subsidiaries, and the total staff numbered more than 500 employees.

- At that time a common practice was mutual settlements- says Dyomin, – while we needed real money. The plan of work was as follows. Abroad we purchased equipment for mining associations “Rovenkyantratsyt” and “Pavlogradvuhillya”, they paid us with coal, which we supplied to Vuhlehirsk TPP and Zmiivska GRES. Tsentrenergo sent electricity through energy companies in Kharkiv, Poltava and Sumy regions, then through regional energy structures – to the farms. From them we received agricultural products, which we processed and sold abroad. And only at this stage we received real money.

During that year he had driven 110 thousand kilometers by his car. He seldom was home, ate whatever chance threw in his way, and hardly rested. But the concern got big profits, employees’ salaries went up, three-room apartments were bought for senior managers who needed housing, the firm purchased a bank, and even a disbanded complex for launching ballistic strategic missiles SS-20 in Sumy region and two holiday homes where four companies were placed.

But tense work without holidays and weekends took toll. Valentyn Dyomin was taken to hospital. When he returned after treatment, he was surprised to find out that the founder transferred all the available funds to Russia. There they vanished into thin air. As a result, the company, which cost Valentyn so much efforts and health, fell apart…

Dyomin’s Diplomatic Career and Work at the Cabinet of Ministers

He had been offered a job at the Embassy of Ukraine in Iran before, but could not abandon his successful business. Now he agreed. The last interview was with the Foreign Minister Henadiy Udovenko, who approved of his candidacy.

In Iran he worked from 1997 to 2001 first as the Second, then the First Secretary of the Embassy. And within six months, in the absence of the Ambassador, was a Charge D’Affairs. He had to solve a variety of issues, from support to the visit of Prime Minister of Ukraine to resolving lawsuits in favor of our state and arranging diplomatic receptions to national holidays.

On the completion of the business trip and his return home, Dyomin was offered a job at the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. He began as a leading expert of the International Relations Sector of the International Cooperation Department. Within four years he rose to the First Deputy Chief of the Department. At the same time he worked as Ukraine’s Trade Representative in Iran.
At one of the official events in a talk with the then Deputy Head of Presidential Administration of Ukraine namesake Oleh Dyomin and Deputy Economy Minister Andriy Honcharuk, Valentyn Dyomin mentioned a number of arguments for the need for Ukraine’s Trade and Economic Mission in Iran. His idea was supported and a verdict was immediate: “It is your initiative, so it is up to you to put it into life!” He, as always before, did not object.

It took six months to do all bureaucratic formalities, then Ukraine’s Trade Representative Valentyn Dyomin was back on Iranian land. There was plenty of work, as the trade and economic relations between the two countries were gaining momentum. But he had been used to the tense rhythm since his service in the Foreign Intelligence.
- I have lived a life full of events and experiences, well, – four lives, to be exact – concludes our conversation Valentyn Dyomin. – I was an intelligence officer, a businessman, a diplomat and a public servant. On my way I met many interesting and wonderful people. I always studied hard, I have a large store of knowledge, skills and experience. The main thing is in any situation to be decent and honest man, to be one’s own self.

Now the 67-year old veteran is happy with the success of his children and grandchildren, is building (with his own hands) a dacha near Kyiv, is looking after a small apiary, enjoys fishing and is happy to see his numerous friends and to treat them with the wine from his own vineyard.


Oleksandr Skrypnyk,
“Robotodavets”(“Employer”) magazine, Issue 8

Valentyn Dyomin

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