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 , 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.
Fact is that Putin and Patriarch Kirill badly need EMOTIONAL support for invasion in order justify hundreds of russian soldiers that would die by invading Eastern Ukraine.
That Putin is capable of this, there is no doubt.
Many thanks for this! It doesn’t surprise me at all. Russian rulers beginning from the Tars always sacrificed their people for the greater good of the Russian nation. Like the NKVD would follow Russian troops during WW2 and shoot any Russian who would fall back or desert. I wonder: how does Edward Snowden feel now?
Great question there ….
Why didn’t they take advantage of the crisis regardless of who was on the plane? It seems to be an adequate pretext either way, that of the situation being out of control. Not enough domestic propaganda fuel, perhaps.
So, what now is Russia’s Plan B?
I don’t think Moscow has one.
Should we necessarily believe the SBU after all? With regards to the assassination list, couldn’t this simply be a tactic to either demoralize the insurgents, or better yet, to persuade some of them, the change sides.
As for the Aeroflot conspiracy, it does sound a trifle far-fetched, particularly as the radio intercepts of the insurgents, Strelkov’s social media postings etc suggest that that they thought it was an An-26.
SBU’s track record on public pronouncements in recent months WRT Russian activities has been pretty good: not irrelevant here.
I agree, and, knowing Russia’s fondness for provokatsiya, I don’t think this is beyond the realms of plausibility.
My inkling, though, is that it leans more towards point 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.”
I have to say also, I have had the impression in the last 3-4 weeks that Ukraine is becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of fighting propaganda with propaganda… there is a creeping doubt entering my mind with respect to some of the SBU’s unsupported claims recently.
Honestly this whole leaked plan to shoot down their own plane as well as kill its own leadership sounds about as credible as “fascists” hiring snipers to shoot their own protesters in the Maidan. After all that WAS a credible GRU leak based on private pronouncements of high level EU leadership… and we know GRUs leaks were quite accurate over the last couple of months “F**k EU” & all .(sarcasm here btw…)
Some world renowned experts on negotiations (like William Ury) argue that one should always offer the other side a golden bridge in order to withdraw. Let’s say John is right and Moscow indeed has no plan B, then this is perhaps a good moment to make a deal with Putin and offer him a “Golden bridge”. On the other hand: Does Putin want a “golden bridge” at all?
I don’t like when they censor the swear words in these intercepts. This is not the same as inserting an f-word here and there in English. In Russian and especially when spoken by Russian militaries the different swear words have different meaning and without them the subtleties of the message are not fully understandable.
As for the main point of the article. Far fetched? Perhaps. But considering that from shooting down a Malaysian plane Russia has nothing to gain…. (as we know that now) On the other hand, from shooting down a Russian plane full of fellow citizens? That’s a completely different matter….
Dear Mr Schindler,
while working in Kyiv as a representative of an international NGO, manager of an observation mission for long months etc. I am in the middle of this all… know these people, talk to them, sometimes collaborate occasionally.
I would have to disagree. My friends and myself have travelled to the East to the ATO zone. We have seen Russian mercenaries and domestic gangs of separatists shooting to the sky with whatever they had at hand available.
Lastly actions of separatists are for sale, Russian sophisticated army equipment is also for sale. Why is everybody forgetting Yanukovych and his little fortune he has stole and went away with it? He can afford founding a little war in collaboration with only choosen parties, silent support from Russian special units and that’s it.
And Ukraine lies a lot. It lowers the number of volunteer soldiers dying in the ATO zone by 5 times at least, it twists te facts as it wishes in a lot of scopes.
I do believe that Strielkov wanted to have some fun again with shooting down another military plan, but poor bastard shot the wrong one.
Such provocation would have to be done by skilled forces and be done with surgical precision with no space for an error. Done by professionals simply.
You may well be right. SBU has yet to supply hard evidence. We shall see ….
Yes, true. but SBU is always present during press conferences with speeches, mostly. Hardly anything really very solid, apart from overheard intercepted pieces of conversations. Anyways, despite chaos, poor coordination and lots of other problems, I support them, simply. I will monitor the issue and if any hard evidence appears I will let everyone know here. Kind Regards from Kyiv.
Please do let us know — be well!
Interesting Yanukovich link today, 11 August:
(although ‘the plot thickens’ might be a too strong conclusion)
Reblogged this on Public Secrets and commented:
If this is true, then… WOW. According to Ukrainian intelligence, not only did Russia try to frame Ukraine by shooting down one of their own airliners, but it then drew up a list of rebels marked for assassination, presumably to cover Moscow’s tracks in the mistaken downing of the Malaysian flight. Granted there’s a possibility this is a frame up, but it’s not as if the Russians haven’t been known to be utterly brutal in the past, either. Like I said, WOW.
Self proclaimed “Prime Minister” A. Borodai of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic simply stepped down today and handed over his “office” to Alexander Sachartschenko. Interesting developments … .
Either Borodai has decided it’s time to scamper for safety, or perhaps the Russians have finally cottoned on to the fact that this so-called popular uprising would appear more popular if a local was nominally in charge.
Considering the facts that a) US had state-of-art satellites directly above crash site b) NATO was conducting a massive war games/intel. exercise just 100 miles away (Sea Breeze 2014), it should be obvious that the US knows EXACTLY who was responsible for shooting down the airliner. Why have they not released ANY of this evidence ? And where is the Flight Data from Ukraine ?
Intelligence IRL isn’t quite like that.
“Where’s the hard evidence? I find this story to be implausible, given known Ukrainian and oligarch 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).
It is plausible but a few areas of doubt.
The main area would be the posted and quickly taken down initial claims of responsibility at the time by the separatists and other accounts directly connected to Strelkov, presumably posted whilst they still believed they had taken down a military plane.
The radar presentation by Russia after the fact suggests Russia would have known immediately which plane had been taken down, and save for the alleged SU-25, they knew there were no military planes in the area.
Absence of signal to Strelkov within a certain time frame could have been the signal that plan-B was needed and an error had been made. If the Aeroflot had been hit, Russia would have notified Strelkov immediately and no social media postings made: Presumably to inform him that Ukraine had just taken out a Russian passenger jet for the benefit of those listening.
Such an idea does ask the real question: Was Strelkov actually in on this, or has he indeed been ‘played’ by his own side ? That it took SBU a while to publish this material suggests he was perhaps kept out of the loop.
A high value piece to sacrifice, but a good carrot and stick way for the intelligence services of Russia to maintain authority over the military in the event of a mission fail.
Will be interesting to see where this develops. SBU have been very candid to date and there are very few credible reasons to disbelieve them on this matter to date.
Either outcome (Aeroflot or Malaysian) does not impede progress to the final goal which seems to be an invasion of Ukraine under the maskirovka of peacekeeping.
Indeed, indeed …so many questions; only the Russian desired end-state is clear. Crystal, even.
I now also wonder if this was the very reason why Borodai went back to Moscow, and resigned.
Because he knew too much, much more than Strelkow/Girkin.
A too high risk if caught/captures, unlike Strelkow/Girkin.
As for the latter, today another cry for help from ‘the Eastern country’:
The fact that Strelkow/Girkin is still alive, there, in his current position, and *if* the Aeroflot-story is true, then he indeed didn’t know enough….not enough to either be retracted or killed by Russia.
What is left however is the vast amount of Russia-incriminating details he could spill from his past war-crimes, in both south-west Russia and former Yugoslavia….
Wouldn’t that be enough by itself not to let him sit there, either being caught/captured by Kiev, or killed?
Another scenario, that Putemkin might like better: him comitting ‘suicide’, or better, some staged heroic last battle.
(but that still leaves Borodai, then becoming more a traitor of the good cause, NovoRossia)
B’orodai is a cowardly thug. He will be back to running his patch in M’oscow and disappear: Not worth dealing with.
Strelkov disrupted the ‘State’ in LNR / DNR – his brief / speciality – so he will be ‘rewarded’. He is just another pawn though.
Strelkov: May be better for him to seek forgiveness from P’utin if he does not die heroically. He has only been outspoken because he cares for his country, and that care publicly tempered would be valuable propaganda for P’utin.
Many will want S’trelkov (G’irkin) gone: Certainly not the UK or EU’s battle and best left to those who are currently sharpening their axes out east and who need to take vengeance.
Vote UKIP 😀
I am slightly sceptical. Pervomais’k as a firing point to shoot down AFL2074 does seem to be out of range of AFL2074’s usual daily flightpath. Also, it would be a high risk area to try to attempt to take expensive military hardware with a skilled Russian crew on a covert mission – it is isolated and it wouldn’t take much for it to be captured, whereas Pervomais’kyi is much more secure, close to the Russian border and was at that time fairly well secured by Russian forces. (On the other hand, firing the Buk from Pervomais’k would have made it much easier to claim the shot came from Ukrainian forces.). I can’t see AFL2074’s flightpath for 17 July (or 16 July, or 19 July, for that matter – other days are available) – the data doesn’t seem to be available. If that data can be found (anyone?) and if it showed AFL2074 deviated at least 20km to the East of its usual track, then this story would be more credible.
Another train of thought:
Would the planned town also be closer to any *possible* Ukrainian location of *their* BUK-units?
Previous or current? (the whereabouts of their BUK’s is a bit muddy, other than the fact that they of course didn’t need them in the first place, having no rebel planes to shoot at (closer to the Russian border however there were Russian planes to shoot at….but would they have dared to do that, even *if* they came in range (both detection/time & shooting))
As another motive to blame the Ukrainians?
Btw, what route did the BUK unit take on it’s return, towards the Russian border?
Would the planned town have exposed it to more witnesses on that escape route than from the wrong town?
Not sure if I understand all the implications of this analysis, but I somehow like the split between the ‘western’ view of facts/possibilities, vs ‘Russian/Sovjet’; a report from Eugene Leng, on ‘Minding Russia’ (not a very active site, sadly, last article from 3 August):
Leng’s Alternative View of A Two-Part Buk Unit — in Russia and Ukraine, Commanded by RF
Eugene Leng, a PhD in economics and finance who was formerly at the Harriman Institute and now in Kiev, has an important Facebook post about the downing of the Malaysian airliner.
The reason I took the time to translate it is because I realized nobody is thinking in the terms he is — at least from what I’ve seen — of a joint Buk unit with the trackers and commanders in Russia and the shooters in Ukraine.
Also not sure if all this is congruent with the picture I saw somewhere, about the radar range of both locations, Pervomaiske vs Pervomaiskoe, one being within range of Russia, the other not.
(I previously thought their names were exactly the same, but there is one letter difference)
Also mind: the above article is from 23 July….
Gordon Chang: “The Europeans won’t follow.”. Thank God they won’t follow your ideas of what do do in Europe! That would be a disaster.
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