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

Russia gives indirect support to Western far-right groups: US intelligence report

Pro-Russian forces in UkraineTHE KREMLIN IS PROVIDING “indirect and passive support” to Western neo-Nazi, white supremacist and other far-right groups, in an effort to subvert Western security, according to a leaked report produced by United States intelligence agencies. The report is titled “Russian Federation Support of Racially and Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists”. It was produced in July of 2021 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), with information provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency.

According to Yahoo News, which obtained a copy of the unclassified report, it “stops short” of claiming that the government of Russia is giving direct financial and other material assistance to Western far-right groups. The report admits that US intelligence agencies do not have “indications of direct Russian government support” for such groups. However, it claims that Moscow appears to tolerate “some private Russian entities’ support” for American and European far-right organizations.

A number of Russian far-right groups are “actively training foreign white nationalists” and are engaged in efforts to recruit Western far-right extremists. These recruits come from countries such as Germany, Canada and the United States. They regularly travel to Russia, where they receive paramilitary training. Upon returning to their home countries, they help Russian far-right groups to “expand their reach into the West, increase membership and raise money”, the report claims.

The report cites the example of the St. Petersburg-based Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), which is known to have provided paramilitary training to Western white supremacists and neo-Nazis. In 2020 the US Department of State designated the RIM a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group. The designation marked the first time in history that the US Department of State had formally applied the label of terrorist to a white supremacist organization. The ODNI report also cites the case of the neo-Nazi Rusich Reconnaissance and Sabotage Group, which has links with Russia’s Wagner Group, a private military contractor with significant presence in Ukraine, Africa and elsewhere.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 11 February 2022 | Permalink

Even Russian military commanders don’t know what Putin’s plans are on Ukraine

Vladimir PutinEVEN RUSSIAN MILITARY COMMANDERS and intelligence officials on the ground near the Ukrainian border are in the dark about whether the Kremlin intends to invade Ukraine in the coming weeks, according to a report. The American news network CNN reported on Monday that Russian “intelligence and military operatives” stationed near the Ukrainian border are “not really understanding what the game plan is”.

Citing “four people familiar with the intelligence” on the matter, the news network said United States spy agencies had intercepted communications between Russian military and intelligence officials on the ground near Ukraine. The intercepts suggest that at least some Russian government personnel are concerned that the Kremlin may have miscalculated the tactical, financial and logistical challenges of a possible full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The CNN report noted that Russian military commanders on the ground are unlikely to oppose, or even hesitate to carry out, a direct order to invade Ukraine by the government in Moscow. However, there is reportedly concern among the Russian military and intelligence forces at the border that logistical support remains inadequate. It is currently believed that the size of the Russian military force along the Ukrainian border remains about 30 percent below what is needed to mount a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine.

Nevertheless, there are now indications that crucial supply lines needed to provide frontline Russian troops with war materiel, fuel, medicine, food, and other supplies, are being assembled. These supply lines could potentially allow the Kremlin’s forces to persist during a protracted conventional war through the upcoming spring and summer months. However, the intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin remain a mystery, even to most Russian government officials. American intelligence agencies have “insights into the Russian military and foreign ministry”, according to CNN. However, they still lack adequate access to Putin’s inner circle, whose members remain firmly in control of plans for a possible invasion of Ukraine.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 08 February 2022 | Permalink

Ukraine relies on expanded intelligence relationship with the US, sources claim

Ukraine Russia borderUKRAINE IS INCREASINGLY RELIANT on its close intelligence relationship with the United States, which has grown dramatically in depth and intensity since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, according to a new report. The report, authored by Zach Dorfman, national security correspondent for Yahoo News, cites “more than half a dozen former US intelligence and national security officials”. It suggests that the intelligence relationship between Ukraine and the US has been “mutually advantageous” in recent years, and is “as robust […] as just about [any other] in Europe”.

On the American side, the intelligence cooperation effort is led by the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, two agencies that frequently exchange information with their Ukrainian counterparts. The information, which includes intelligence obtained from intercepted communications, has largely concentrated as of late on Russian military operations and activities. The two agencies have also participated in intelligence exchanges with the Ukrainians, with officials from the two sides engaging in reciprocal visits “to swap information” and provide training.

According to Yahoo News, CIA paramilitary operations officers have been training Ukrainian special operations forces personnel, as well as Ukrainian intelligence officers, since 2015. The training takes place “at an undisclosed facility in the southern United States”, the report states. Moreover, the NSA has engaged in offensive cyber operations against Russian government targets jointly with Ukrainian government agencies. This collaboration is especially lucrative for the NSA, whose collection capabilities in Eastern Europe are relatively limited.

Lastly, the Ukrainians have been providing US government agencies like the Department of the Treasury with financial intelligence on Russian efforts to evade economic sanctions. This information often includes data on the collusion between Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs, as many of the latter have close ties to the Russian government.

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

US, British spy agencies preparing Ukraine to withstand Russian invasion – reports

Ukraine Russia borderBRITISH, AMERICAN AND OTHER Western intelligence agencies are quietly preparing Ukrainian military and security experts to withstand a possible Russian attack, according to a number of media reports. The New York Times reported on Monday that cyberwarfare units from the United States and the United Kingdom have been dispatched to Ukraine. Their mission is believed to be helping the former Soviet republic in confronting possible large-scale cyberattacks from Moscow.

According to The Times, Ukraine has been undergoing a widespread series of cyberattacks from Russia almost without stop during the past several years. The attacks have consisted of multiple sabotage and espionage campaigns, which have targeted nearly every Ukrainian government agency, as well as the country’s energy infrastructure. These attacks have historically been low in number and intensity. This has changed in recent months, however, according to American officials.

Some observers are concerned that a series of large-scale cyberattacks may precede a military invasion by the nearly 200,000 Russian troops that are currently present along the Russian-Ukrainian border. Were they to materialize, these cyberattacks will probably attempt to sabotage core functions of Ukraine’s economy and government, including the banking and air-traffic systems. Moscow’s broader goal, according to The Times, would be to subvert the ability of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government to govern Ukraine. This, in turn, could lead to its fall and replacement by a pro-Russian administration. If a pro-Russian government is threatened by a pro-Western revolt —something that Ukraine has seen in the past— it could potentially request military assistance from Moscow, which would provide a political pretext for an invasion.

Meanwhile, British newspaper The Daily Mirror said on Monday that American intelligence agencies have “secretly agreed to arm and train Ukrainian troops on how to fight a guerrilla war against Russian forces if they invade”. The paper said that meetings to discuss these plans have been taking place between officials from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. The goal of such an effort, the report claims, would be to mirror the American help given to Afghan fighters by the CIA during the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 December 2021 | Permalink

European report claims Russia has retained Soviet-era assassination capabilities

Gävle Sweden

A REPORT FROM A European intelligence agency claims that the Russian state has retained the same capacity for worldwide extrajudicial executions that it had during the Soviet era. The report was disclosed by a Swedish broadcaster in association with the attempted murder of Tumso Abdurakhmanov, a blogger from the Russian province of Chechnya, who is a vocal critic of the Russian government and the Kremlin-backed governor of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Originally from the Chechen capital Grozny, Abdurakhmanov, 34, lives in Sweden, from where he regularly posts videos on YouTube criticizing Kadyrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin. His YouTube channel has over 250,000 followers. In 2020, a man who traveled to Sweden from Moscow, entered Abdurakhmanov’s apartment in Gävle, Sweden, and tried to kill him with a hammer. It appears that the man was let into Abdurakhmanov’s apartment by a woman with whom Abdurakhmanov had a relationship at the time, and is now believed to have been an accomplice of the would-be-assassin.

Abdurakhmanov survived the attack. The attacker, Ruslan Mamaev, is now serving a 12-year prison sentence, while the woman, Elmira Chapiaeva, is serving an 18-month sentence. Swedish authorities say they are looking for third person, who is believed to have been the would-be-assassins’ logistical link to the Chechen government, and remains at large. According to the Swedish Security Service, known as SÄPO, the operation to kill Abdurakhmanov was organized in Moscow in 2019.

In association with Abdurakhmanov’s attempted assassination, the Swedish broadcaster SVT published yesterday excerpts from an intelligence report, which offers a broad assessment of the Kremlin’s capabilities for extrajudicial killings around the world. According to the SVT, the report was produced by an unnamed “European intelligence agency”. It claims that many of the “instigators, planners, coordinators and operatives of [Russian-organized] extrajudicial killings are usually found in the special units [spetsnaz] of the National Guard of the Russian Federation”. This is primarily the case with spetsnaz units based in Chechnya, according to the report.

The conclusion of the report is that Russia “today has the same capacity as the Soviet Union once had to conduct assassination operations sanctioned by the state” around the world. The Kremlin has used this capability to carry out numerous assassinations and attempted assassinations of dissident expatriates, defectors, and other critics of the Russian government in Europe and beyond, the report concludes.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 02 December 2021 | Permalink

US intelligence reports suggest possible Russian military invasion in Ukraine

UkraineINTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS IN THE United States are becoming increasingly convinced that Russia is contemplating extensive military action in Ukraine, according to Western insiders. Russian troop concentrations near the Ukrainian border have been “large and unusual” for several weeks, according to observers.

The New York Times reports that American intelligence assessments do not view war in Ukraine as an inevitable outcome of Moscow’s military maneuvers in western Russia. In fact, many suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has not yet decided” how to proceed in Ukraine. Nevertheless, “all the pieces are in place” for a large-scale military invasion, according to experts who spoke to The Times.

The number of American intelligence observers who believe that Moscow’s military maneuvers may represent a bluff is gradually shrinking. Some believe that the Kremlin’s goal is to establish command over a larger and more unified landmass than the one it currently controls in southeastern Ukraine, and thus secure a contiguous land linking Russian soil with the territory it occupies in Ukraine.

Washington has been sharing intelligence on this fast-changing situation with Ukraine, while also briefing its North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners. Last week, the United States Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines visited Brussels for discussions with NATO ambassadors. The unusual visit to Russia by Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns, which took place in early November, may also be connected to the rising tensions in Ukraine, according to The Times.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 22 November 2021 | Permalink

CIA director concludes surprise two-day visit to Russia for high-level meetings

William BurnsTHE DIRECTOR OF THE United States Central Intelligence Agency has returned to Washington from a surprise visit to Russia, where he led a high-level team of American officials in meetings with their Russian counterparts. The two-day visit was announced almost simultaneously by both the American and Russian governments, following the arrival of the CIA director, William Burns, to Moscow on Tuesday.

Little information has emerged about the participants in the meetings. A statement from the American embassy in Moscow said simply that Burns had traveled there at the request of President Joe Biden, and that other United States officials had traveled with him. It is believed that Karen Donfried, the State Department’s assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, traveled with Burns. According to the American embassy, the meetings were held on Tuesday and Wednesday and concerned “a range of issues in the bilateral relationship between the United States and Russia.

A minute-long video, which was posted on social media by the Russian TASS news agency on Tuesday, showed a group of five American officials meeting with five Russian officials. The latter appeared to include Nikolai Patrushev, a close political ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who heads the Security Council of Russia —a body that is roughly equivalent to the United States National Security Council. Prior to his current role, Patrushev served as director of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).

It is worth noting that Burns speaks Russian and served twice as a diplomat in Russia, most recently as the American ambassador there. Some observers noted that Burns’ trip to Moscow is part of a broader pattern of increasingly frequent meetings between American and Russian officials in recent months. The last four months have seen at least four visits to Russia by senior officials in the Biden administration.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 November 2021 | Permalink

Turkey announces arrest of Russian and Israeli alleged spies following crackdown

MIT Turkey

THE GOVERNMENT OF TURKEY has announced the arrest of 21 individuals, among them foreign citizens, whom it accuses of “political and military espionage” on behalf of Israel, and of planning assassinations ordered by Russia. Turkish authorities released separately two statements on Thursday, announcing the arrests of alleged spies for Israel and Russia respectively. The two sets of arrests do not appear to be connected, despite the fact that they were announced on the same day.

Six alleged assassins operating under Russian command were arrested on October 8 in Antalya, a tourist resort located on Turkey’s southern coast. Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) said the group includes four Russians, a Ukrainian and an Uzbek. They allegedly planned to kill a number of Chechen separatists who live in Turkey. In preparation of the alleged assassinations, group members “were in the process of obtaining weapons”, according to Turkish government prosecutors.

A court in Istanbul has reportedly ruled that the members of the alleged assassination team should remain behind bars, pending a trial for espionage. Meanwhile the a Russian government spokesman said on Thursday that the Kremlin was “not aware” of any Russian citizens having been arrested on espionage charges in Turkey, adding that the Russian embassy in Ankara had not been informed of any such arrests.

Meanwhile, in a separate announcement issued on Thursday, the MİT disclosed the arrests of 15 members of an alleged spy ring for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. Turkish media reports said the 15 individuals had been arrested in a series of raids that took place across four Turkish provinces on October 7, following a year-long counterintelligence operation. Turkish authorities claim that the spy ring monitored the activities of Palestinians living in Turkey and provided the information to the Mossad, in return “for tens of thousands of dollars and euros”. The Israeli government has not commented on these reports.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 October 2021 | Permalink

Mystery arrest of Russian mercenaries in Belarus ‘was US-Ukrainian sting operation’

Belarus KGB

THE BIZARRE CASE OF the arrest of three dozen Russian mercenaries in Belarus in 2020, allegedly for trying to destabilize the country, was in reality a joint Ukrainian-American sting operation that went awry, according to a new report. IntelNews readers will remember the puzzling July 2020 announcement by Belarusian authorities of the arrest of 33 Russians, who were said to be employees of Wagner Group, a Kremlin-backed private military firm.

The 33 Russians were charged with terrorism against the government of Belarussian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, who was then seeking a sixth term in office. Soon afterwards, the Belarussian State Security Committee (KGB) said the Russians had entered the country as part of a 200-strong group of mercenaries working for Wagner, in order to “destabilize the situation during the election campaign” of Lukashenko. That, however, made little sense, given that Lukashenko is one of Moscow’s strongest international allies. To add to the mystery, the Russians were quietly released from custody just a few days later.

What was behind that mysterious case? According to the American news network CNN, the bizarre incident was part of an international sting operation set up by the Ukrainian intelligence services with the support of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Citing three former high-ranking Ukrainian military intelligence officials, CNN claims that the sting operation aimed to lure, and eventually arrest, Russian mercenaries who have participated in the Kremlin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine since 2014.

The news network claims that the Ukrainian intelligence services set up a fake Russian private military company and used it to advertise $5,000-a-month contracts to provide security for Venezuelan oil facilities. Hundreds of Russian would-be contractors sent in applications. When quizzed by the fake company about their bona-fides, the applicants freely provided evidence of their participation in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War.

The ultimate goal of the sting operation was to sign up the Russian contractors and offer to transport them to Turkey, from where they would supposedly fly to Caracas and begin working. In reality, however, the Russians would be transported to Ukraine, where they would face arrest and potential imprisonment for war crimes. However, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented their transportation via air. Instead, the sting organizers chose to transport them by bus to neighboring Belarus, from where they planned to transport them to Ukraine. However, the presence of 33 burly Russians in a hotel sanatorium outside of Minsk raised suspicions, and led to their eventual arrest by the Belarussian security forces.

The report by CNN claims that the CIA provided the Ukrainian intelligence services with “cash, technical assistance and advice”. But the news network also says that United States officials “deny having a direct role” in the sting operation.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 13 September 2021 | Permalink

Russia denies rumors that its chief security official met with CIA director in India

Russian embassy India

A RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN has denied reports Moscow’s Security Council Secretary met secretly this week with the director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency in the India. The United States, however, has not commented on the reports.

As intelNews and others reported yesterday, General Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, arrived in Delhi on September 7, “for high-level consultations on Afghanistan”, according India’s Ministry of External Affairs. General Patrushev, who is Russia’s highest-ranked security official, traveled to India at the invitation of his counterpart there, National Security Adviser Ajit K. Doval.

Interestingly, The Hindu, one of India’s two newspapers of record, reported on Tuesday that “an American delegation of intelligence and security officials” were visiting Delhi, and had already “held consultations” with officials. According to the newspaper, the American delegation was led by no other than CIA Director William Burns, who is said to be touring the region, and is also expected to visit Islamabad in the coming days.

Like General Patrushev, Burns met with National Security Adviser Doval about “issues arising from the Afghanistan evacuation effort and Taliban government formation”, said The Hindu. But unlike the Russian delegation’s visit, which was announced by the Indian government, the alleged American delegation’s visit remains speculative, and has not been officially confirmed by either Delhi or Washington.

It was not long before Indian media began to report that the American and Russian teams had met in secret, allegedly in order to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, however, a spokesman for the Russian Security Council flatly refuted the rumors of a meeting between Burns and Patrushev. The Russian-government owned TASS news agency quoted Russian Security Council spokesman Yevgeny Anoshin as saying that “Patrushev did not plan to, and did not meet, with the CIA head in Delhi”.

The United States government has yet to comment on these reports.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 September 2021 | Permalink

%d bloggers like this: