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25/10/2023 | Ukraine’s spy services are using assassinations as weapons or war, report claims

Joseph Fitsanakis

THE GROWING LIST OF assassinations of prominent Russians and Ukrainian separatists shows that the Ukrainian intelligence services are using “liquidations” as a weapon of war, according to The Washington Post.

 

Citing “current and former Ukrainian and United States officials”, the paper said on Monday that funding and training by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) explains much of the success of Ukraine’s covert operations against Russia. However, the CIA is not involved in Ukraine’s state-sponsored assassination efforts at the operational level, and some US officials are uneasy about these activities.

A CIA Spy Directorate in Ukraine

In 2014, when Russia invaded Crimea, Ukrainian intelligence services were in an almost paralytic state. Like most of Ukraine’s state sector, the intelligence agencies were endemically bloated and closely resembled Soviet-style bureaucracies in sluggishness and corruption. More importantly, they were “riddled with Russian spies, sympathizers and turncoats”, according to observers. Few were surprised when, almost as soon as Russia annexed Crimea, the local head of the domestic security agency, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) defected to Russia.

According to The Washington Post, immediately after the Russian invasion of Crimea, the CIA sought to prevent further Russian encroachment in Ukraine. That is why in 2015 it built the SBU’s Fifth Directorate. That entirely new directorate was —and today remains— insulated from the rest of the SBU. The CIA also reportedly built a new division, complete with a brand-new headquarters building, inside Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR), which operates as the intelligence wing of the Ministry of Defense.

Active-Measures Training

Seeing the GUR as a more agile and flexible agency than the SBU, the CIA began to train GUR paramilitary “spetsnaz” divisions in “active measures” —a term that describes methods of political warfare, ranging from propaganda, sabotage operations, and even assassinations. However, The Washington Post claims that the CIA training focused on “secure communications and tradecraft” with an eye to enabling GUR teams to operate covertly behind enemy lines using clandestine maneuvers. Targeted assassinations were not included in the training.

In the meantime, the CIA retained a significant presence on the ground Kyiv. As the SBU’s Fifth Directorate and the GUR’s paramilitary division became more skilled, the CIA began to receive troves of data from them. The grateful Ukrainians even allowed CIA case officers direct access to Russian assets they had recruited. That essentially amounted to a co-handling arrangement, which is something that rarely occurs, even among friendly intelligence services.

Liquidation as a Weapon of War

However, even before February 2022, when Russia attempted to invade all of Ukraine, Kyiv began to adopt a policy of “liquidation” as a weapon of war. In what The Washington Post refers to as a “raging shadow war”, SBU and GUR operatives have been carrying out “dozens of assassinations” against pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists and prominent pro-Kremlin Russians —some of them deep inside Russia. The paper claims that every assassination carried out by the SBU and the GUR has been directly approved by the Ukrainian President, Volodimir Zelensky.

In every operation, the Ukrainians ensured that they used no CIA-provided equipment or weapons, so as not to implicate the US in the assassinations. Even the funding used for the operations came from what The Washington Post calls “segregated covert funding streams” that did not involve CIA resources. The paper cites US intelligence officials who “stressed that the [CIA] has had no involvement in targeted killing operations by Ukrainian agencies”. According to those officials, the CIA trained the Ukrainian spy agencies on how to collect intelligence behind enemy lines, not on how to carry out targeted killings.

Unease at the CIA

Despite the segregation of resources, the Ukrainians’ decision to pursue an aggressive campaign of assassinations behind enemy lines has caused unease inside the CIA. The Washington Post suggests that the US is concerned about being accused by Russia of complicity in these unconventional acts. The possibility that the Russians may eventually respond in kind must also be of some concern to the CIA. The use of assassinations as part of active measures is not typical of the CIA’s operational style. The paper quotes one unnamed former CIA official, who says that “we are seeing the birth of a set of intelligence services that are like Mossad in the 1970s”. The statement refers to the covert assassination war that raged between Israel and the Palestinians following the Munich massacre of 1972.

https://intelnews.org/2023/10/25/01-3314/

 

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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