Secret service bosses are a notoriously tight-lipped bunch, particularly in Eastern Europe, where the Soviet legacy of complete state secrecy lingers. In the former Soviet Union, where the KGB ruled for most of the last century, spy chiefs give few interviews, and when they do they say very little of interest. Such is the nature of the espionage business there.
It was therefore something of a shock this weekend when Vasyl Hrytsak, Ukraine’s secret service chief, gave an interview jam-packed with bombshells about the nasty SpyWar being waged between Kyiv and Moscow. That clandestine struggle is an appendage to the low-boil conflict being waged in Eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces and “rebels” who are in fact the Russian military.
Casualties are generally modest – a couple soldiers here, another handful there – yet they are constant. Shelling, sniping, and patrolling take a steady toll of Ukrainian defenders who are holding the line in the country’s east, keeping the Russian invader at bay, and the conflict shows no signs of abating anytime soon. Roughly one-third of the 10,100 dead in the Russo-Ukrainian War have fallen since the so-called Minsk II cease-fire was hashed out in February 2015.
The espionage portion of this conflict is seldom mentioned in the media, so Hrytsak’s comments were highly unusual. It should be noted that Hrytsak isn’t a political hack, rather a career intelligence officer who’s worked for the Security Service of Ukraine or SBU since the early 1990s and has been its head since mid-2015.
In a TV interview, Hrytsak minced no words, calling out his Russian counterpart, Aleksandr Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service, the powerful FSB. Having previously explained three weeks ago that the SBU knew that the Kremlin had dispatched spy-saboteurs to undertake terrorist attacks inside Ukraine, Hrytsak now made a direct appeal to Bortnikov:
I appeal to you as an officer. There are rules even in war which should not be broken by secret service agents. You have transgressed all these rules.
Read the rest at The Observer …