As war rages in eastern Ukraine, with a possible Russian invasion looming, Kyiv has gone public today with shocking stories about the extent of Russian espionage and lethal covert action in their country.
As reported by 5 Kanal TV, Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, head of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), today stated that the 17 July shootdown of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 near Donetsk by Russian-backed separatists represented a terrible case of a Kremlin provocation gone horribly wrong. According to Nalyvaychenko, the SBU has evidence that what happened was the outcome of a diabolical Moscow plot to create a pretext for war, meaning Russian invasion, by shooting down an Aeroflot airline (specifically AFL2074, see details here) and killing its (mostly Russian) passengers, then placing blame on Ukrainian forces.
However, the SBU boss explained, Kremlin-backed militants were supposed to shoot down the Russian plane at Pervomaysk to the west of Donetsk, but the separatists, some of them foreign mercenaries with poor knowledge of the area, delivered the Russian Buk (SA-11) missile system to a different town with the same name. In error, the poorly trained militamen launched a missile at the Malaysian plane instead of the Russian one. This terrorist act was planned by war criminals as a pretext for Russia’s direct military intervention. In Nalyvaychenko’s words: “It means that a casus belli for the Russian invasion was created,” resulting in an act of terror “carried out by terrorists from our territory.” You can find the SBU’s English-language press release on this case here.
UPDATE/COMMENT: I’ve been getting a lot of questions about this remarkable claim by Kyiv, specifically: Where’s the hard evidence? I find this story to be plausible, given known Russian intelligence tradecraft, what they call konspiratsiya, but the evidence we’ve seen to date isn’t exactly rock solid (I won’t say “a slam dunk,” thank you very much). The SBU has set a high bar for itself with its aggressive, and highly successful, public outreach in recent months, including its own YouTube channel where it has posted a lot of nearly raw intelligence, mainly SIGINT (see the next story). That Kyiv has not done so here tells me one of three things is going on:
1. The SBU has access to high-level Kremlin SIGINT, meaning they have cracked top-grade Russian codes, and releasing that SIGINT would compromise a very valuable source that Kyiv very much needs right now.
2. The SBU has a high-placed HUMINT asset in the Kremlin camp and compromising that source by releasing too much information here would be stupid as war with Russia looms.
3. This is an analytically-derived conclusion, based on a lot of evidence from many sources, none of them conclusive alone but which, taken together, lead to a firm conclusion based on multi-INT analysis.
Back to our story … Today, the SBU has also released new signals intelligence (SIGINT) intercepts, reported by the Kyiv daily Zerkalo Nedeli, which demonstrate that Russian intelligence is seeking to clean up ints mess in the Donbass by assassinating the leaders of its own revolt in Donetsk and Luhansk (the link includes the intercept). Today, Ukraine’s National Defense and Security Council (SNBO) asserted, based on the available SIGINT, that the following officials in the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) and the “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LNR) are on Moscow’s death list:
To be assassinated by the Federal Security Service (FSB):
“Lyeshyy” (LNR, Ukrainian citizen Oleksiy Pavlov, resident in the town of Prymorsk in Zaporizhzhya Oblast);
“Batya” (LNR, operating in the town of Perevalsk, Luhansk oblast, probably Mykola Kozitsyn, head of one of the “Cossack units” in the LNR);
“Kimeriyets” (DNR, operating in the town of Maryinka, Donetsk oblast, probably in Oplot’s 8th Company).
To be assassinated by the General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU):
“Rym” (LNR, commander of a combat unit, operating in the area of Chervonopartyzansk-Sverdlovsk);
“Vitaliy” or “Oruzheynyk” (LNR, operating in the town of Perevalsk, has information on weapons and combat hardware supplies from Russia);
“Mongol” (DNR, was headquartered in the building of the Administration for Combating Organized Crime in the town of Makiyivka);
“Serhiy” (DNR, probably Serhiy Zdrylyuk nicknamed “Abwehr”).
Developing….watch this space.