Donetsk Rebels and Russian Intelligence

As the world tries to answer the question of who exactly fired the missile that shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, killing 298 innocent people, Moscow is doing its best to lie, obfuscate, shift blame, and evade responsibility. The Kremlin’s best-case scenario now is that local rebels in Ukraine’s Donetsk region who are under the operational control of Russian military intelligence (GRU), took it upon themselves to shoot down a passenger aircraft, using a Russian-supplied Buk (SA-11) anti-aircraft system, having mistaken it for an unarmed Ukrainian An-26 transport plane. The reality may be worse, and it will take time to establish the facts, particularly with Kremlin proxies obstructing the investigation, destroying evidence, hiding bodies, and acting as if the world is not watching this closely. The extent of Russian push-back suggests that Moscow has a great deal to hide.

Nevertheless, even if the shootdown was entirely the work of Donetsk locals, self-styled Cossacks with an itchy trigger finger and an excess of vodka, it bears noting that the pseudo-state there is in fact under the tight control of the Kremlin, in particular of its powerful intelligence agencies, what the Russians call the “special services.” The premier of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) is Aleksandr Boroday, a Russian citizen who, Pravda reported back in 2002, is a member of the special services, specifically the powerful Federal Security Service (FSB).* Boroday was appointed an FSB major-general at the tender age of thirty-five. In the FSB, Boroday worked in the sensitive “political field” and has been tied to Russian nationalist causes. Right now he is busy keeping investigators away from the MH17 crash site.

The DNR’s “defense minister” is the shadowy Igor Girkin, AKA Strelkov, another Russian citizen who has been the subject of much media commentary, given his belligerent actions and obvious power in the Donetsk area. Although he is reported to have an FSB background, he is a GRU asset now, according to U.S. intelligence, and serves as the local coordinator of Kremlin-controlled militias. Strelkov was gloating online about the Boeing 777 shootdown, thinking his forces had destroyed a Ukrainian An-26, then quickly deleted his comments. The DNR individual caught by Ukrainian intelligence on tape discussing the shootdown with GRU superiors is Igor Bezler, another longtime GRU operative with a murky past. It is important to note that the intercept confirmed that Bezler is fully within the GRU chain of command, as is the whole DNR military.

To illustrate just how tightly controlled by the Kremlin the DNR actually is, a little over a week ago it relieved its deputy premier for security, a Ukrainian, and replaced him with Vladimir Antufeyev, another Russian from the special services. Antufeyev previously served as the head of security in the Russian-controlled territory of Transdnistria. Russian media have reported that Antufeyev was brought to the DNR to “restore order” and tamp down in-fighting among some of the rebel bands. It is known that Boroday, Strelkov, and Antufeyev all worked together on behalf of the Russian special services during the 1990s conflict in Transdnistria.

Regardless of who exactly fired the missile that killed 298 innocent people, and who issued the order to do so, the Donetsk pseudo-state is a wholly-owned Kremlin subsidiary, with its top-three “power ministries” all in the hands of Russian citizens who are longtime creatures of Moscow’s special services. The only law in the DNR is Putin’s, as exercised through GRU channels. As such, it is difficult to imagine anyone undertaking any important decision there without Kremlin approval and the go-ahead of Russian intelligence.

*It has recently been claimed that this article was a “joke” — some joke — but Boroday’s affiliation with the special services since the 1990s is admitted by the Russian media.

47 thoughts on “Donetsk Rebels and Russian Intelligence

  1. From several sources it appears that Russia is implicated in some form – directly or indirectly.

    Where do we go from here?

    I can’t imagine Putin backing off. If most of the world is pushing against Putin, then it would seem he will push back just as hard if not harder.

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  3. Reblogged this on Public Secrets and commented:
    Something to keep in mind: the key leaders of the so-called “Donetsk rebels,” who shot down that Malaysian airliner, are all Russian intelligence operatives. This massacre may well have been an accident, but the fingerprints all over it are Moscow’s.

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  5. slightly off topic,but how much would one of these buk missile systems cost?

    ps – as always a great read!

  6. Where do we go from here?

    Russia secures Donetsk formally, nominally to allow access to the crash site, because that is the only way order can be secured.

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  10. There are reports that could make you guys look as wrong as you were when you vehemently blamed Syria/Assad for using sarin gas. The time stamps on the recordings that were supposedly from the Eastern Ukrainian pro Russian rebels, claiming credit for firing the missile, has turned out to have been produced before the event actually occurred.

    And supposedly from within the IC there is this. We shall see.

    “Regarding the shoot-down of the Malaysian jetliner on Thursday, I’m told that some CIA analysts cite U.S. satellite reconnaissance photos suggesting that the anti-aircraft missile that brought down Flight 17 was fired by Ukrainian troops from a government battery”

  11. Doesn’t it ever make you wonder what keeps the world so stubbornly oblivious to these connections but ever so watchful to crazy conspiracy theories such as put forth by David Icke, Russia Today and the like?

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  16. The situation is much more nuanced than that. Generalizations such as there being a single rebel group, single command-and-control structure and single backing from Russia is what makes spotting the overnight post-airliner fly-in experts from the people who actually understand this conflict and region.

    No mention of why Siversk fell? (It was because Girkin’s Russian based financial support was pulled and he was unable to pay his troops, who abandoned him), no mention of the government overthrow last week in Donetsk? Or that Girkin and Boroday resent each other, and the other rebel leaders hate them both to the extent that Girkin can’t leave his building and Boroday can’t leave the center of his own city.

    Most other rebel leaders believe these people to be fools, and one presciently said only a few weeks ago “they will bring us more trouble than the Ukrainians”.

    Alas, neither the vostok brigade or Girkin’s troops (since he has none left) shot down the airliner – and there is definitely no single Russian-backed and organized rebel movement with a centralized command-and-control structure.

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