China may be preparing to give Russia military aid for Ukraine, sources claim

Vladimir Putin Xi JinpingTHE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT HAS asked China to supply it with military hardware, as well as diplomatic and financial support, which would allow it to weather Western-imposed sanctions against it, according to Western officials. In what bears the marks of a controlled leak by the White House, several American and British news outlets reported late last night that Moscow had approached Beijing with a request for support across many levels, as the war in Ukraine continues to escalate.

The New York Times said that “an official” in the US government had confirmed that Russia and China were in communication about the possibility of Beijing providing Moscow with military support for its war in Ukraine. However, the official would not comment about the intelligence sources and methods that the US employed to secure this information. Separately, Politico reported yesterday that the details of Russia’s alleged request remained secret. According to the American news outlet CNN, China’s response to Russia’s request was not known as of last night.

Later in the evening, London-based newspaper The Financial Times said there were early “indicators that China may be preparing to help Russia” in Ukraine. American officials told news outlets last night that Washington was “watching closely” to see whether Moscow’s request would be granted by the Chinese. The BBC reported late last night that the administration of US President Joe Biden was urgently putting pressure on China, hoping to convince it to refrain from taking steps to help Russia in Ukraine, militarily or economically.

This development comes less than 24 hours before President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, is scheduled to hold a closed-door meeting in Rome, Italy, with Yang Jiechi, director of the Communist Party of China’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission. The Commission is chaired by no other than Chinese Premier and Communist Party of China General Secretary Xi Jinping. Moscow will need the Commission’s support for its request for Chinese military assistance, if it is to receive it in the coming days.

There is a general consensus among observers that the meeting in Rome between Sullivan and Yang is of critical importance for the future of the war in Ukraine. The United States will try to convince China that it has much to lose economically by siding with Russia in this war. Meanwhile, Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the embassy of China in Washington, was telling Western news media last night that the embassy had “never heard” of a request for military assistance from Russia.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 March 2022 | Permalink

Concern mounts over Russia’s possible use of chemical weapons in Ukraine

Russia Ukraine WarTHERE ARE GROWING CONCERNS in Western intelligence circles that the war in Ukraine may be entering an unconventional phase in the coming days, as Russia may deploy chemical weapons on the war-torn country. Alert levels quickly rose in Western capitals late yesterday, after Russia +Text- the United States and Ukraine of planning to use biological weapons against its military. Some Western observers expressed fears that the accusations may be an attempt by the Kremlin to justify the large-scale deployment of unconventional weapons in Ukraine.

This is not the first time that Moscow has leveled such accusations against the United States and Ukraine. For over a decade, senior officials in the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin have claimed that the United States and Britain have maintained secret networks of biological weapons laboratories in Eastern Europe. But the Kremlin’s accusations have been getting more frequent and more specific in recent days. On March 7, Igor Kirillov, Chief of the Russian military’s Radiation, Chemical and Biological Defense Forces, alleged that American and Ukrainian soldiers were destroying biological weapons facilities in Western Ukraine. Their goal, Kirillov claimed, was to keep lethal biological agents from falling into the hands of the Russian military.

Two days later, on March 9, Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Major General Igor Konashenkov stated that Ukrainian forces had secretly transported “80 tons of ammonia” to a location northwest of Kharkiv. The purpose of the operation, Konashenkov said, was to carry out a “provocation using toxic substances”, and then blame Russia of using chemical weapons. During the Syrian Civil War, Moscow leveled similar allegations against Syrian rebels shortly before the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched chemical attacks against rebel-held areass.

There is also concern among Western analysts that the disconnection of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s electrical network from Ukraine’s electrical grid may be “a Russian attempt to trigger nuclear panic over a potential radiological incident” in Ukraine. In light of this incident, some observers are beginning to interpret prior attacks on the Zaporizhia nuclear facility on March 4, and on a research facility containing a nuclear reactor in Kharkiv on March 6, as deliberate acts by Moscow. They say that the Kremlin may actively be seeking to introduce unconventional weapons into the war in Ukraine.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 March 2022 | Permalink

Seized Russian weapons systems could be ‘goldmine’ for Western intelligence

Russia Ukraine warA WIDE ARRAY OF Russian military equipment, which has been falling in the hands of the Ukrainian forces since February 24, could prove a “goldmine” for American and other Western spy agencies, experts claim. As the war enters its third week, there are reports that the Ukrainian forces have captured numerous Russian command-and-control vehicles, as well as other logistical military equipment. Reports also suggest that a large array of Russian weapons systems have been falling into the hands of the Ukrainian armed forces and paramilitary units.

Some of the confiscated Russian weapons include Pantsir surface-to-air missile systems and TOS-1A thermobaric multiple-launch rocket systems, which have been found mounted on abandoned tanks or armored trucks. The Ukrainians also claim to have captured Russian fighter jets, such as the Sukhoi Su-34, in working condition. The government in Kyiv is frequently reminding Ukrainian regular troops and paramilitaries to preserve the integrity of captured Russian military equipment, to include helicopters, warplanes and land-based weapons systems, as well as Russian-language user manuals.

On Tuesday, the American newsmagazine Newsweek cited “current and former US military personnel” as stating that the war in Ukraine gives Washington a rare opportunity to get its hands on the latest Russian military equipment. There is a longstanding intelligence cooperation agreement between the US and Ukraine, so sharing captured military and intelligence equipment is “normal practice”, especially on the Ukrainian side, sources told Newsweek. In today’s digitized combat environment, such equipment regularly includes microchips, which enable communication with command posts. The software found on this equipment can be critical for rival intelligence agencies, as they can use it to develop and test malware. Such malware can be deployed during combat, with potentially disastrous consequences for the adversary’s military.

Some of this equipment can be so crucial that “it’s like capturing an Enigma machine”, one expert told Newsweek, referring to the sophisticated cipher device used by the Wehrmacht during World War II to secure its military communications. Such equipment can potentially be reverse-engineered, and then shared by the United States with other Western intelligence agencies, for purposes of developing ways of jamming them, sabotaging them, or otherwise compromising them, experts said.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 March 2022 | Permalink

Private military contractors stream into Ukraine as experts see ‘market frenzy’

Ukraine warTHE DEMAND FOR PRIVATE military contractors (PMCs) in Ukraine is rising by the day, as experts see “a frenzy in the market” for security personnel consisting primarily of former soldiers with combat experience. According to the BBC, some PMC companies are offering between $1,000 and $2,000 a day, excluding bonuses, for those with combat experience who are willing to make the trip to the war-torn country.

Ever since the collapse of Soviet communism in the early 1990s, Eastern Europe has been fertile ground for PMC firms, which are usually employed to provide protection to corporations and wealthy families. Now the demand for PMCs in the region is rising fast and is expected to be constant for the foreseeable future, according to the BBC. Currently PMC jobs in Ukraine, an active warzone, comes with a host of physical-security challenges. Experts tell the BBC that most of the missions in which PMCs expert to participate involve logistical support and so-called “extraction” operations. These refer to organized efforts to help remove people from Ukraine. They can range from simple to very complex operations, sometimes involving entire families of people who have the means to pay for their security. In such cases, operations may be priced in the millions, with handsome profits for those involved. In many cases, PMCs can charge in excess of $10,000 per person for extraction operations.

Industry insiders tell the BBC that a number of non-governmental organizations operating inside or around Ukraine, are hiring now PMCs for protection. In such cases, PMC personnel are “supposed to protect people, places or assets, rather than engage in direct combat”. However, there are instances of intelligence agencies that are hiring PMCs in order to extract some of their personnel who have gotten stuck in Ukraine amidst the conflict. These operations are among the most complex, because they involve contractual work on behalf of foreign governments.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government said on Tuesday it would make provisions to offer Ukrainian citizenship to international volunteers who join the ranks of its military. Ukraine’s Deputy Interior Minister, Yevhen Yenin, said in an interview that a special Ukrainian “military passport” will be given to international volunteers. The passport will replace the need for a visa, and can potentially be replaced with a Ukrainian passport for those who wish to acquire citizenship. On the same day, a number of African countries, among them Senegal, Nigeria and Algeria, cautioned their citizens against traveling to Ukraine to fight in the war in exchange for money or citizenship.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 March 2022 | Permalink

Ukrainian officials claim 16,000 foreign volunteers to join ‘International Legion’

Military of UkraineAt least 16,000 foreign volunteers had come forward as of Thursday, answering a call by the Ukrainian government to join the armed fight against the invading Russian army, according to officials in Kiev. The Washington Post reports that many of the volunteers come from post-Soviet states, while others are believed to come from as far away as the United States, Canada and Japan.

Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invited “all citizens of the world, friends of Ukraine, peace and democracy” to “come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals”. Later that evening, Ukraine’s Minster of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, tweeted that Ukraine had officially formed the International Legion of [the] Territorial Defense of Ukraine. The new body would be open to “foreigners willing to defend Ukraine and [the] world order” from Russian attacks, said Kuleba. Subsequent reports suggested that Ukrainian embassies around the world are instructing potential volunteers to contact Ukrainian defense attachés for more information.

On Thursday, The Washington Post said that, in a video posted on the social media application Telegram, President Zelensky claimed that over 16,000 foreign volunteers had asked to “join the defense of Ukraine, Europe and the world” in just a few days. The announcement by the Ukrainian leader follows news that the government of Ukraine has now lifted entry visa requirements, in order to allow foreign volunteers to travel to the country.

The Post also said that the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine issued an official communique intended for those interested in joining the International Legion of the Territorial Defense of Ukraine. According to the notice, those interested in traveling to Ukraine to fight should visit, call or email the embassy of Ukraine in their respective countries. “Once their application is processed, they will be given assistance on routes to arrive in Ukraine”, the notice by the General Staff said.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 March 2022 | Permalink

Ukrainian forces allegedly foiled plan by Chechen paramilitaries to kill president

Russia UkraineA PLOT BY A notorious Chechen paramilitary group to assassinate the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, was foiled by Ukrainian forces, according to a Ukrainian government official. The claim was made on Tuesday by Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications, a government-linked enterprise that works closely with the country’s Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The source of the allegation is Oleksiy Danilov, chair of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council—which is believed to be closely linked with the Center for Strategic Communications. Danilov said on Tuesday that members of the Kadyrovtsy (known in English as Kadyrovites), a Chechen paramilitary regiment, had been dispatched to Ukraine in order to “eliminate” Zelensky.

The Kadyrovites are rooted in the Chechen separatist movement of the 1990s, when Chechen militants fought against the Russian military. But a sizeable group of Chechen fighters entered the conflict on behalf of the Russian state when their leader, Akhmad Kadyrov, took Moscow’s side during the Second Chechen War. Today they operate as a personal protection squadron for Kadyrov’s son, Ramzan Kadyrov, who rules Chechnya on behalf of the Kremlin. Occasionally the Kadyrovites have been participated in foreign missions on behalf of Moscow, notably in Syria in 2017 and 2018.

Danilov said the assassins had attempted to approach Kiev from the northwest, separated in two groups. One of the groups was allegedly “destroyed” in the town of Hostomel, which borders the northwest suburbs of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. Another group had come “under fire” in Kiev, Danilov claimed. It is worth noting that, according to Danilov, Ukrainian forces “received information” about the alleged assassination plot by agents of Russia’s Federal Security Service —Russia’s counterintelligence and counterterrorism agency— who “do not want to take part in this bloody war”.

Earlier this week, British newspaper The Times reported that 400 Russian paramilitaries belonging to the Wagner Group were heading to Kiev in order to assassinate Zelensky. Wagner, a secretive security firm believed to operate on behalf of Russian military intelligence, first appeared in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the company has operated around the world as a private paramilitary entity. Its mission is allegedly to afford the Kremlin “plausible deniability” capabilities for operations in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 March 2022 | Permalink

Ukraine war is being crowdfunded through cryptocurrencies, experts say

CryptocurrenciesTHE WAR BETWEEN RUSSIA and Ukraine is being crowdfunded with the use of cryptocurrencies, making it history’s first major conflict to occur in the era of cryptocurrencies, according to observers. Crowdfunded conflicts are not new phenomena. In the years following its establishment, Israel is believed to have raised $50 million from individual donors around the world for its army. In the 1970s, militant groups like the Irish Republican Army solicited steady streams of donations from expatriate communities. The difference in this war is the pervasive nature of the Internet and cryptocurrencies, which have become “another front” in the quickly escalating conflict in Ukraine.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s science correspondent, James Purtill, points out that some aspects of this war are being increasingly impacted by decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). DAOs are member-owned online communities that engage in crowdfunding activities outside of any government-mandated regulatory framework. They are not governed by boards of directors, but instead maintain their financial transaction records on a blockchain. They therefore operate in a legal grey zone, which is facilitated with the use of cryptocurrencies in financial transactions.

Purtill notes that, in recent years, the administration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had aspirations to become the world’s most cryptocurrency-friendly country. It was therefore not a surprise when, just minutes after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the government in Kiev launched an official cryptocurrency fund, named Crypto Fund of Ukraine. As of Monday, the fund had amassed over $22 million and was continuing to grow exponentially. Communities of pro-Ukrainian DAOs, such as Come Back Alive, have mushroomed around these cryptocurrencies, and have raised substantial donations, which are now being used to equip the Ukrainian army and volunteer militias.

There is also concern among experts that the Russian government, as well as individual pro-Kremlin oligarchs, may resort to using cryptocurrencies in order to evade international sanctions. Notably, the use of cryptocurrencies may allow Moscow to overcome the barriers posed by its exclusion from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT), which is the global standard for secure financial transactions. Last weekend, Kiev issued calls to the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges to block Russian clients, including the Russian government, from conducting transactions. However, experts point out that it is extremely difficult to prevent specific users—including governments— from trading on the blockchain, given its decentralized nature.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 02 March 2022 | Permalink

Ukrainian cities could soon face ‘profound pressure’ by Russian forces, US warns

Kiev KyivLARGE URBAN CENTERS IN Ukraine, such as Kiev, are likely to come “under profound pressure” by Russian forces in the coming days, as an “increasingly frustrated” Vladimir Putin demands results from his generals, according to reports by United States intelligence agencies. At least three American news outlets have cited unnamed “American officials” briefed on the intelligence about Ukraine, in claiming that the Russian president is growing impatient with the progress of the military campaign. Putin may therefore “see his only option as doubling down on violence” and could “imminently increase the intensity of the attack” on Ukrainian cities, according to CNN.

Quoting “an American source familiar with the intelligence”, the news network warned that, from a purely military and tactical standpoint “Russia has the manpower and firepower to take [Kiev]. No question. And no matter how much resistance the Ukrainians put up”. Unnamed American lawmakers and administration officials, who are familiar with intelligence briefings on the matter, told CNN that Ukraine is “massively outgunned and outmanned” and could “by sheer numbers be able to overcome the Ukrainian resistance”. According to two sources “familiar with the intelligence”, some analysts are speculating that Russia may be planning to attack Ukraine “in waves”. The idea would be to exhaust the Ukrainian defenses with the first wave, before “demolish[ing] them with a second wave of fresh troops”.

The question is, how brutal are Putin’s intentions? The American news network NBC cites “current and former US officials briefed on the matter” in claiming that the Russian president may be close to ordering an all-out attack on Ukrainian cities. The officials tell NBC that Putin has been displaying “a different pattern of behavior than in the past” and has been “lashing out in anger at underlings” during “unusual bursts of anger”, while remaining “largely isolated from the Kremlin” due partly to concerns about COVID-19. Due to his isolation from the majority of his advisors, Putin may not have been able to form “a realistic understanding” of the situation on the ground in Ukraine, according to the report.

Some suggest that the Russian dictator may be feeling like he is “backed into a corner”. Consequently, he may resort to using “brute force to seize [Kiev] and other cities, by employing indiscriminate bombing and shelling of civilian areas”. This would not be a first for Putin. He instructed his generals to make use of “scorched earth” tactics in Syria during the civil war there, and he authorized the Russian military to flatten Grozny, the capital of the Russian province of Chechnya, during the Second Chechen War of 1999-2000.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 01 March 2022 | Permalink

Ukrainian government issues call for volunteers to join ‘International Legion’

Ukraine militarySENIOR UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, including the president, vice president and foreign minister, have begun issuing open calls for foreign volunteers to go to Ukraine and form an international armed brigade. A number of Ukrainian ambassadors around the world are reporting that groups of foreign volunteers are already en route to Ukraine. Others are said to be answering calls to form a pro-Ukrainian ‘cyber army’.

Early on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video statement posted on social media that “all citizens of the world, friends of Ukraine, peace and democracy” should “come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals”. He added that such an act would be “key evidence” of foreigners’ support for Ukraine, and that his government would arm all international volunteers. President Zelensky concluded his message by urging those interested in going to Ukraine to fight should contact the defense attachés at the Ukrainian embassies in their respective countries.

Later that evening, Ukrainian Minster of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that Ukraine had officially formed the International Legion of [the] Territorial Defense of Ukraine. The new body would be open to “foreigners willing to defend Ukraine and [the] world order” from Russian attacks, said Kuleba. The BBC later quoted Ukraine’s Ambassador to London, Vadym Prystaiko, as saying that “overwhelming” numbers of foreign nationals were “demanding to be allowed to fight” in Ukraine. In a message posted on Facebook (later deleted), the embassy of Ukraine in Israel said on Sunday that it had “begun forming lists of [Israeli] volunteers who wish to participate in combat actions against the Russian aggressor”.

That same afternoon, Britain’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Liz Truss, said in an interview with the BBC that it was up to individual British citizens to make their own decisions about whether to go to Ukraine and fight, “not just for Ukraine, but for the whole of Europe”. Also on Sunday, BuzzFeed reported that a multinational group of one German, six American and three British citizens were already heading to Ukraine, in hopes of being “among the first to officially join the new International Legion of the Territorial Defense of Ukraine”. They told BuzzFeed that two other Americans with military experience were on their way to Ukraine to provide “leadership” for the international group of fighters. Read more of this post

Ukrainian leader Zelensky says Russian assassins are in Kiev with orders to kill him

Volodymyr ZelenskyTHE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE, Volodymyr Zelensky, warned on Thursday that teams or Russian assassins have already entered the nation’s capital, Kiev, with orders to kill him and his family. Zelensky made this statement during a late-night address to the nation from an undisclosed location, presumably in Kiev. Referring to “enemy sabotage groups”, he said they had already “entered Kiev” and were seeking to “destroy Ukraine politically by destroying [its] head of state”.

Zelensky referred to “information we have”, according to which he had been “marked by the enemy as the number one target” and his family as “the number two target”. The statement was an apparent reference to an alleged “kill/capture list” that Moscow plans to put to use in Ukraine. As intelNews explained last week, United States officials have said that the purpose of the alleged list is two-fold: first, to minimize popular resistance by Ukrainians to an invading Russian army; and, second, to destabilize the government in Kiev, so that a pro-Russian government can eventually replace it.

According to the United States government, the list contains the names of senior Ukrainian politicians, Ukraine-based critics of the Russian and Belarusian governments, as well as journalists and other activists. According to Washington, the alleged list is maintained by the foreign intelligence arm of the Russia’s Federal Security Service—known as the Service for Operational Information and International Communications—or the Fifth Service, in short. The Fifth Service is political action of a covert nature, which is aimed at electoral subversion, political influence campaigns, psychological operations, and the undermining of groups or movements that Russia perceives as adversarial.

On Thursday, Foreign Policy’s national security and intelligence reporter Amy MacKinnon told SpyTalk’s Jeff Stein and Jeanne Meserve that the existence “kill/capture” list seemed credible, when one considers the Kremlin’s long history of assassination operations. MacKinnon was the first reporter to write about the alleged list. She told SpyTalk that it was part of a “campaign of arrests and assassinations”, which Moscow aimed to carry out on Ukrainian soil. She added that, although the names of potential victims have not been revealed, the list is “quite detailed and relatively extensive”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 February 2022 | Permalink

Analysis: A Western-supported anti-Russian insurgency in Ukraine is unlikely

Ukraine RussiaAS THE FULL-SCALE invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Armed Forces continues to unfold, some Western commentators have begun to speculate about the possible launch of an anti-Russian insurgency by the Ukrainian population. This kind of speculation is not unreasonable. Indeed, given their enormous disparity in size and might, a symmetric confrontation between the two belligerents seems unthinkable. One simply cannot imagine that a direct military confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian military forces could result in anything other than a resounding victory for Moscow. However, although the rise of an armed anti-Russian insurgency in Ukraine is possible, it is unlikely to be large in scale, and even more unlikely to succeed.

On first glance, Ukraine seems like a textbook case for a possible insurgency. Russia aside, it is Europe’s largest country by landmass, with a population of nearly 50 million. Even under the most favorable conditions, the Russians would find it difficult to occupy and control it without the consent of the local populace. Moreover, Ukraine shares borders with seven countries, including Russia, four of which—Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Poland—are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The geographic proximity of a host of NATO bases would easily allow Western intelligence agencies to provide the local population with war materiel, including advanced military hardware and other supplies. Lastly, due to the protracted war in Donetsk and Luhansk, the Ukrainian military has amassed significant experience in insurgency over the past decade.

However, as Brown University visiting professor Lyle Goldstein cautions in a recent article, things are never simple in war. Although no fewer than four NATO states border Ukraine, the military alliance and its leading patron, the United States, will need to exercise immense caution. In using these states to arm Ukrainian insurgents, Western powers will need to ensure a maximum degree of plausible deniability. Should Russia determine that Western countries are using these NATO powers as front-line states in a new Cold War, it could be tempted to launch military operations against them—an act that could spiral into an out-of-control multi-state war. It is also likely that these front-line NATO member-states will resist calls to be involved in this conflict, in order to avoid being dragged into a wider regional war.

Moreover, although numerous regions of Ukraine appear to be under fire at the moment, it is doubtful that the Russian military will seek to occupy the entire country. Moscow is thus unlikely to try to extend its control past the largely pro-Russian regions of eastern and east-central Ukraine. Such a strategy would ensure that Russian troops would be able to operate in a largely friendly environment. It would also make it difficult for Ukrainian insurgents to operate effectively anywhere east of Kiev. Lastly, the Russian Armed Forces have amassed substantial counter-insurgency experience in the post-Cold War era, having fought in large numbers in Chechnya and Syria, as well as in various regions of Africa through the Wagner Group.

In short, unless the Russians over-play their hand and try to take over the entire country, Western powers are likely to find it difficult to organize, support and sustain a concerted armed insurgency on Ukrainian soil. This does not mean that the ongoing Russian military campaign in Ukraine will inevitably be successful. War is inherently unpredictable, so anything can happen in the coming weeks and months. However, defeating the Russians in any military context will require many years of extremely brutal, bloody and fierce war.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 24 February 2022 | Permalink

Little-known Russian spy unit is behind alleged Ukraine ‘kill/capture list’

FSB - JFA LITTLE KNOWN SPY unit, which experts have described as a mysterious “third espionage agency” inside the Russian intelligence apparatus, is said to be behind a “kill/capture list” that Moscow allegedly plans to put to use in Ukraine. United States government officials insisted on Monday that such a list exists, despite strong denials from Russia. American officials claimed that the purpose of the list is to minimize popular resistance by Ukrainians to an invading Russian army, and to destabilize the government in Kiev, so that a pro-Russian government can eventually replace it.

The alleged list reportedly contains the names of senior Ukrainian politicians, Ukraine-based critics of the Russian and Belarusian governments, journalists and other activists. These individuals are to be captured or killed in the event of an invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, according to Washington. Speaking on Monday on behalf of the Kremlin, Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the list “a fake” and insisted that it does not exist. Moscow also stressed that the United States did not provide details about the alleged list, nor did it cite the sources of its information.

According to the United States government, the alleged kill/capture list is maintained by the foreign intelligence arm of the Russia’s Federal Security Service. Known as FSB, the agency’s primary mission is to carry out counterintelligence and counterterrorism tasks inside the borders of the Russian Federation. But the FSB includes a little-known intelligence unit, known as the Service for Operational Information and International Communications—or the Fifth Service, in short.

The Fifth Service was created in 1992 to fill the vacuum left by a host of no-spy agreements, which were signed between Moscow and the governments of former Soviet Republics. These agreements prevent Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) to spy inside the territories of former Soviet states. By 1995, the Fifth Service had become known as the foreign spy wing of the FSB. It grew in size drastically after 1999, and some claim that it “graduated into [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s imperial gendarme”. Today it is led by close Putin ally Sergei Beseda, who is a colonel general in the FSB. Its Ukraine wing is believed to have grown to over 200 officers in recent years.

The main task of the Fifth Service is political action of a covert nature, aimed at electoral subversion, political influence campaigns, psychological operations, and the undermining of groups or movements that oppose Russia’s continuing influence in the territories of the former Soviet Union. Some Western news sources have recently alleged that the Fifth Service has been tasked with coordinating activities between the Russian government and pro-Russian groups inside Ukraine, as well as “engineering [mini] coups in Ukraine’s major cities”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 February 2022 | Permalink

British military warns 50% of Russia’s entire ground force has now encircled Ukraine

UK Ministry of DefenceIN A VIDEO MESSAGE described by observers as “extraordinary”, the British Ministry of Defence has warned that at least half of the Russian military’s ground combat units have now encircled much of Ukraine. The report describes this as “the largest gathering of Russian troops” anywhere in the world since 1991—the year when the Soviet Union collapsed.

The video, titled “intelligence update”, was posted on Thursday on the social media application Twitter by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence. It appears to be an example of what some observers are viewing as a “new front of information war” between Western and Russian intelligence agencies. As intelNews reported last week, American intelligence agencies have been instructed by the White House to release raw intelligence directly to the public about Russia’s intentions on Ukraine. This new method of public intelligence reporting has been described as “highly unusual” and even “unprecedented”.

British newspaper The Guardian called the two-minute video by the Ministry of Defence “extraordinary” in its candor and its attempt to communicate directly with the public. It includes visuals, such as satellite imagery, as well as graphics that show possible routes that Russian forces could take to invade Ukraine. The video warns that the scale of the Russian military presence along the Ukrainian border with Russia and Belarus is “far beyond that needed for a large-scale training exercise”. It concludes that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could take place “within days”.

The paper observes that Western spy agencies appear to be trying to use their intelligence information to “shape the narrative” about the crisis in Ukraine, before Moscow is able to use its formidable disinformation capabilities to set the agenda.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 February 2022 | Permalink

US strategy of revealing raw intelligence on Russia seen as ‘unusual’, ‘unprecedented’

Ukraine Russia borderTHE DECISION BY UNITED States officials to release what appears to be raw intelligence about Russia’s intentions on Ukraine is being described by observers as “highly unusual” and even “unprecedented”. Two weeks ago, American officials said they were in possession of intelligence about an alleged Russian false-flag operation targeting Ukraine. The operation revolved around a fake video, allegedly using paid actors, which would be used by Moscow as evidence of a campaign of ethnic cleansing by Kiev against eastern Ukraine’s Russian population.

More recently, the United States government claimed that Russia was potentially preparing to attack Ukraine on Wednesday, February 16. Such specific intelligence about an adversary’s intentions is rarely released to the public, especially during periods of international tension like the present. The decision by the US government to release this intelligence on an almost daily basis is being described by observers as “unprecedented”. It is broadly seen as one of the most aggressive “transparency-as-strategy” campaigns by American intelligence agencies since at least the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

One such observer, Thomas Rid, Professor of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, calls this novel approach by the US Intelligence Community “ambitious”. It is too early to say, however, whether this approach has actually helped prevent a conflict that the Russians were otherwise determined to see erupt in Ukraine. It is even more difficult to say whether this strategy will prove successful for the US government and the US Intelligence Community in the long run.

This is especially pertinent in relation to “sources and methods”—namely the precise source or sources that are presumably providing Washington with actionable intelligence from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Douglas London, a recently retired Central Intelligence Agency case officer, points out that, the more Washington reveals precise details about the Kremlin’s intentions, the more it risks helping the Russians narrow in on the potential mole that is supplying America with intelligence. This tactic might provide the US with “a short-term gain right now in the Ukraine”, says London; however, it runs the risk of blinding American intelligence agencies “in the future to what the Russians are planning there and elsewhere”, he warns.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 February 2022 | Permalink

Dutch intelligence service warns public about online recruitment by foreign spies

AIVD HollandLAST WEEK, THE DUTCH General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) launched an awareness campaign dubbed ‘Check before connecting’. The purpose of the campaign is to inform the Dutch public about risks of foreign actors using fake accounts on social media, in efforts to acquire sensitive business information. According to the AIVD, such online campaigns frequently target and recruit employees of Dutch private sector companies. The awareness campaign is carried out via Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. It is aimed at raising awareness in society at-large. The AIVD will publish a number of fictitious practical examples over time, in order to educate the public.

AIVD director-general Erik Akerboom told Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad that Dutch and other Western secret services have been surprised by the sheer number of cases in which private sector employees disclosed sensitive information, after being blackmailed or enticed with money to share information. After foreign intelligence operatives make initial contact with their target via LinkedIn, the relationship quickly turns more “personal”, according to Akerboom. The new contact acts flatteringly about the unsuspecting target’s knowledge and competence. “You are asked to translate something. This can be followed by a physical meeting”, he says.

Potential targets are “ranked” by their position in an organization, position in a business network, and level of access to sensitive information. “The rankings determine which persons are prioritized for recruitment attempts”, according to Akerboom. This sometimes involves the creation of fake human resource recruitment agencies, as British, Australian and American intelligence agencies have warned about in the past.

While not a new phenomenon, the scope and effectiveness of foreign infiltration attempts have now reached a scale that has prompted the AIVD to warn the public. China and Russia have made attempts to acquire advanced technology in Western countries, including the Netherlands, via corporate takeovers, digital espionage, and human intelligence operations. Last year, the Netherlands expelled two Russian spies who successfully recruited employees at a number of Dutch high-tech companies. One of the Russians created fake profiles posing as a scientist, consultant and recruiter. The AIVD did not disclose the names of these companies. Read more of this post

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