“The civilized world should create a single front in counteraction to Russian hybrid aggression”-Vasyl Hrytsak
“Russia implements a "creeping aggression” scenario in Ukraine” Vasyl Hrytsak the SBU Head noted, speaking at the security conference, which held in the framework of the Ukrainian Week in London.
According to him, in addition to armed confrontation in Donbas hybrid war covers other spheres of life of Ukrainian society: political, economic, information, religious.
On the eve of upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine, the Kremlin provokes contradictions between the patriotic-minded part of the Ukrainian politics. "At the same time, Russia is trying to consolidate the pro-Russian electorate around a single candidate to bring to Ukrainian power of pro-Russian political force, changes in the state system and termination of international support for our country”- noted the SBU Head.
Among the tools of Kremlin intelligence and subversive activities, the SBU Head also pointed out the holding of information operations, direct actions of influence, political assassinations, terrorist attacks, cyberterrorism, the private military campaigns activity of around the world.
“Ukraine is testing ground for Russian tools and hybrid aggression, which then applies to destabilize the situation in the USA and EU countries”.
The whole civilized world should create a single front in counteraction to Russian hybrid aggression. "We need legal mechanisms that would equally effectively block the spread of Russian lies in the UK, Germany and Ukraine. Opposition to the hybrid war is not only an effective defense, but also powerful counterattack actions. The worst thing for the Kremlin is not only publication of its crimes against the world community, but also reporting the truth about the present state of affairs to ordinary Russian citizens.
SBU Press Centre
Notes for the statement of the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine General of Army Vasyl Hrytsak at the Security Conference of Ukrainian Week in London
AN EMRGING WAVE OF RUSSIAN ACTIVE MEASURES – cyberattacks, private armies, assassinations and terrorism
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen!
I am very glad to welcome everybody in this hall and I wish to express gratitude to the organizers of today’s event for the opportunity to tell the truth about the Russian aggression against Ukraine that in addition to the fighting in Donbas spreads across all domains – political, economic, information and religious.
All Russian state authorities in unison feed into Russian aggression – intelligence agencies, army, ministries, mass media, research and development institutes, analytical centers, etc.
Ukraine is a training range, where Russia tests out tools and tactics of hybrid aggression that it further utilizes in the US and the EU countries to destabilize the situation there.
What is the current strategy of Russia in Ukraine?
Russia implements a ‘crawling aggression’ scenario in Ukraine. It instigates antagonism between the public-spirited Ukrainian politicians. At the same time Russia tries to consolidate the pro-Russian voters around one presidential candidate in order to sweep into power pro-Russian political forces, change a form of government (federalization is a means to prevent Ukraine from entering the EU and NATO) as well as to cut off international support provided to Ukraine.
In order to achieve this goal Russia utilizes a vast tool-set of intelligence and sabotage activities:
Information operations are among the key tools of the hybrid warfare:
Russian information influence via Russia-controlled media in Ukraine, social media and blogosphere (especially, “farm of fake news and trolls” of a Russian businessman Ye. Prigozhyn who is close to Putin).
Various conferences, roundtables, forums are arranged in order to provide for extensive media coverage of anti-Ukrainian or anti-European content in a manner that is beneficial for Russia.
Perverted information, fake expert opinions of pro-Russia state and public figures and political scientists are disseminated.
Wide-scale use of ‘bots’ on the Internet to create an illusion of public support to fake publications.
Regular proliferation of very often fake derogatory information regarding Ukrainian politicians.
Intentional dissemination of biased or distorted information about issues in relations between Ukraine and its neighboring countries.
The media exploits a range of issues that are sensitive for some portions of Ukraine’s society and are related to the so called ‘fraternal’ relations with Russia, the national liberation movements during the World War II, and ethnic or religious factors.
Russian special services constantly resort to direct influence campaigns.
Russia actively uses its own political agents among the Ukrainian state authorities for the purpose to sabotaging the implementation of Ukraine’s international commitments.
Russian assets in NGOs incite national or religious-driven provocations (until 2014 Russia funded over 600 organizations that were actively promoting actively the ‘Russian world’ concept).
Provocations against diplomatic missions and cultural sights of the third countries in Ukraine are systematically inspirited.
Russian intelligence officer under the diplomatic cover consistently promote negative perception of the developments in Ukraine during contacts with foreign diplomats accredited in different countries.
Russia conducts blatant intelligence activities targeting Ukraine by way of penetrating state authorities, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, law enforcement agencies, military-industrial companies as well as compromising government information networks.
SIGINT collection is carried out from the Russian territory, as well as from Belarus, the so called Moldovan Transdniestrian Republic, annexed Crimea and occupied Donbas.
Russian special agencies attempt to recruit over 90% of Ukrainian citizens that privately travel to Russia. There are many cases when Russian intelligence makes recruitment pitches targeting Ukrainians in the third countries.
Assassinations and terrorist attacks
Today the whole world is tracking the cynicism of Russian intelligence in the Skripal case.
But in Ukraine Russia consistently applies the similar methods of terror from the very first days of the undeclared aggression, such as the blowing up of the railway in Odessa (2014), rail bridges in Mariupol (2014) and in Kharkiv (2015), explosion during a peaceful demonstration in Kharkiv (2015), grenade launcher shelling of government buildings in Odessa, Zaporizhia, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv (2014-2017), shelling of Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Lutsk (2017) and many others.
Over 2016-2018, the SBU prevented 27 terrorist attacks that were organized directly by Russian special services or their proxies – the so called DNR-LNR. 154 Russian Federation citizens were indicted; indictment acts regarding 60 individuals were submitted to the court, with 22 of them already convicted.
The Joint Investigation Team proved the responsibility of the Russian military for shooting down a Malaysia airlines flight MH-17 in July 2014 (298 people died). Today we have corroborative evidences of Russian special services’ involvement in artillery shelling of a residential neighborhood Skhidnyi in Mariupol in January 2015 (30 people dead and 130 injured) and a bus with civilians in Volnovakha in February 2015 (12 people dead and 19 injured, trial is ongoing).
Russian terror targets Ukrainian special services’ officers (colonels Shapoval and Kharaberiush – the assassin Yuliia Prosolova was convicted and sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment), Ukrainian politicians (Ihor Mosiichuk, Anton Gerashchenko – in both cases court hearings are under way), and also Russian opposition members.
In May 2018 the SBU successfully prevented an outrageous provocation – contract murders of more than 40 individuals including Russian opposition journalists and former Russian special service officers who escaped to Ukraine (Arkadii Babchenko, Evhenii Kyseliov, Maksym Hanapolskyi, Ilia Bogdanov and others).
Russian impudence was so striking that some did not even believe the SBU straight away. But today we have plenty of evidence, to include the testimony of the organizer B.Herman who admitted his guilt and was sentenced to 4.5 years in jail. The person who ordered the murder was established as well, he turned out to be a Russian citizen Viacheslav Pivovarnyk, an expert of Putin’s National and International Security Fund.
Russian special services contract organized criminal groups to assassinate people. Only this year, three foreign leaders of organized criminal groups were detained by the SBU and expelled; over 40 other representatives of international organized criminal groups were denied entry to Ukraine.
The annexation of Crimean was also carried out with the direct involvement of local criminal organizations whose leader Sergii Aksenov (“Goblin”) was Kremlin shortly after appointed as a Head of the annexed peninsula.
Another example is a murder of a former Russian State Duma deputy Denys Voronenkov in Kyiv in May 2017 that was ordered by Russian FSB-controlled crime boss Volodymyr Tiurin (the case was submitted to the court, 2 individuals were arrested, 3 others are wanted). In order to degrade their involvement in organization of a terrorist attack, Russian authorities portray Voronenkov as a swindler in the media. For the second time in the history of Russian justice, the Russian Government resorts to convicting a deceased person who – when alive – was Putin’s personal enemy: on 10 September 2018 a case against Voronenkov, who is accused of committing fraud in 2010-2011 was submitted to the court by the Russian Investigative Committee; the first case – a lawyer Serhii Magnitskyi, killed in 2009 in a Russian prison and convicted in 2013 for tax evasion.
But the height of Russian intelligence cynicism was documented by the SBU in summer 2017, when they attempted to stage a series of terrorist attacks in Russia that involved Ukrainian ATO veterans. The targets included the Domodedovo airport, Kurchatovskyi Institute Nuclear Centre, big chemical enterprise Toliatti-AZOT and the Kursk Nuclear Power Station. The provocation was carried out before ZAPAD-2017 military exercises and could potentially be used as a pretext to launch a large-scale Russian military invasion into Ukraine. Right after we collected this intelligence, the SBU held a big press-conference. I publically appealed to the FSB Director Bortnikov with a request to stop provocations and terrorist attacks in Ukraine.
In July the participants of provocation D. Mastikasheva and O. Karatai were indicted under Part 1 of Article 111 (state treason) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, the court hearings are ongoing.
In January 2018 the FSB has actually admitted its involvement in the provocation, when it had to arrest one of the organizers Serhii Sokolov; and initiated the dismissal of another organizer Frants Klintsevych – the Russian State Duma First Deputy Head of Defense and Security Committee. In April Sokolov sent an open letter from Russian prison in which he admitted his personal and Mastikasheva`s involvement.
An equal threat is posed by cyber terrorism conducted by Russian special services all over the world. Here are just a few examples:
- On 25 May 2014, networks of Central Election Commission of Ukraine were infected with malware which spoofed a graphic chart that demonstrated the presidential elections results on the electronic display of the Commission. Fake data was promptly spread by the Russian media;
- On 23 December 2015, BlackEnergy cyber-attack caused a blackout in almost 225 thousand homes in various regions of Ukraine, which could have caused an anthropogenic disaster;
- On 6 December 2016, the operations of the State Treasury Service were paralyzed and networks of the Ministry of Finance were infected;
- On 14 December 2016, a server of Unified Automated Control System over Ukrainian Railway company`s traffic was infected;
- The most dangerous cyber-attack “Petya.A/NotPetya” was conducted on 27June 2017 which was a cynical demonstration of existing destructive Russian cyber capabilities. More than a thousand of victims were affected in Ukraine and another 64 countries – government institutions, energy and transport enterprises, banks, mobile service providers, and private businesses. The results of investigation conducted by experts from Ukraine, the US, the UK, Australia and Denmark showed that Russian special services were involved in that cyber-attack. International experts concluded that the attack mechanism was identical to those seen previously during the attacks, identified a unique signature of a malicious code.
The SBU has also found that prior launching an attack cyber actors checked a virus on a popular platform of an antivirus laboratory (Virustotal.com) using IP-address registered in Saint-Petersburg. Quite fascinating is the fact that all of the start of cyberattacks coincided in time with the beginning of the working day in the Russian authorities – to include the special services as well.
Russian special services actively leverage hacker groups to conduct cyber attacks. In return, indulgences are granted to ‘FSB`s cyber friends’ for hacking bank accounts in the EU and US.
‘Putin’s private army’
The so-called PMC Wagner is a real Russian know-how, which in reality does not have anything in common with famous American (Academi) or British (Erinis Inernational) PMC.
Created and funded by the Russian special services PMC Wagner is equipped with modern tanks, multiple launch rocket systems, 12mm self-propelled howitzers, MANPADS, etc..
They are trained at the base of the 10th Special Purpose Brigade of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Federation Ministry of Defence, leadership positions (up to a platoon commander) are held by former Russian officers. Structure fully corresponds to the stuffing of Russian regular military units.
For the first time Wagner mercenaries were detected in May 2014 when they numbered several dozen. It was they who were taking over Luhansk Airport; were involved in downing of Il-76 with Ukrainian paratroopers on board (49 people killed) in June 2014 . As fighting in Donbas escalated, their number increased to 1.5 thousand fighters (February 2015, Debaltsevo).
In August 2015 1,350 Wagner mercenaries headed for Syria (all logistics was provided by the Russian Ministry of Defence), where they act as a ‘striking force’ for Bashar Assad targeting the Syrian opposition elements in the first place. At times, their number exceeded 3,000. In total, more than 5 thousand mercenaries served in Wagner PMC.
It has been a year since the SBU has started informing the world on Wagner crimes; we have publicized audio conversations of terrorists with their mentors – generals of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff; exposed the composition and personal data of more than 2.500 mercenaries, including the citizens of Serbia, Moldova, Belarus; we consistently prove huge Wagner casualties (from 2014 to 2018 - more than 600 mercenaries killed).
The first briefing that exposed Wagner terrorist activity took place on 7 October 2017 (‘coincided’ with Putin’s birthday). A feedback from Russian authorities was immediate – the following day, on Sunday, the Russian president issued a decree legitimizing clandestine service of foreigners within Russian military units.
26 July 2018, the SBU released a list of 40 Wagner mercenaries that were killed in Syria following the Coalition airstrike on 7 February 2018. The SBU data was corroborated by the results of journalist investigations. On 3 September, a Russian presidential decree was issued which implies that information on Wagner members constitute a state secret (employees involved in conducting intelligence missions of FIS, Ministry of Defence and FSB and do not belong to a regular personnel).
The SBU ‘grilled’ Russian special services by successful identification of the Russians ‘that are not here’ on the Internet: in September 2018 a bill banning Russian militaries and law-enforcers from using social networks was introduced into the Russian State Duma.
7 October was yesterday, by the way (new SBU data on Wagner).
Terrorism of ‘Putin’s private armies’ has spread far beyond Ukraine and Syria. These elements must be internationally recognized as terrorist organizations, which will seriously hamper their further employment by the Russian Federation.
- Russian special services use assassinations, terrorist attacks, cyber terrorism as a means of hybrid aggression to achieve a strategic goal – ‘the world needs to obey and recognize Russia as a super power which has an exclusive right to reshape the world order on its own geopolitical discretion’.
- Use of terror in all forms is approved by Russian higher political leadership. Putin will further cover up crimes committed by his special services with lies at the highest political level.
- It is deadly dangerous for him to admit even a single terrorist act. Never will he follow the course of Muammar Gaddafi, who even in 15 years’ time but admitted involvement of Libyan special services in the bombing of Boeing-747 which crashed over Scottish Lockerbie (in 1988) and extradited 2 Libyan officers.
Putin cannot afford to xtradite even one as straight away will he then lose the trust of other officers of Russian special services, who are very much afraid of the responsibility for the crimes committed in Ukraine, Syria, Georgia, Great Britain, and the USA .
- The worst Kremlin’s enemy is the truth about its crimes, and the worst is the truth which ‘infiltrates’ Russia. Therefore, today the civil society is captivated by all-embracing lies of the officials and propaganda machine, however the Russian civil society itself is the major threat to Russian totalitarian system.
With these conclusions in mind, I envision the following common key tasks:
The civilized world must form a united front in order to fight back the Russian hybrid aggression. I am very happy with the level of cooperation between the SBU and our American and British counterparts (for instance, declaring Russian intelligence officers under diplomatic cover persona non-grata: US – 60, UK – 23, Ukraine - 13), but Ukraine has gained unique experience that will be useful for other countries.
Fake information is often way more than bombs. Russian Government appeals to ‘freedom of speech’ when spreading bare-faced lies in the US and European information domain using the controlled outlets like Russia Today; whereas it suppresses tiniest manifestations of ‘freedom of speech’ in Russia itself. We must provide prompt legal assessment of every case of Russian informational lies. We need to come up with legal mechanisms that will equally effectively block the proliferation of Russian lies be it in the UK, Germany or Ukraine.
Counteraction to hybrid warfare means not just effective defense but powerful counterattacks as well. Only in this case there is a potential to win. We need to launch a joint coordinated effort in order to daily inform the international community, including Russian civil society, of the crimes committed by Russian intelligence in other countries; lies of Russian top leadership about the world news; real reasons for imposing sanctions; deprivation of Russian citizens of democratic values and freedoms of a free person by their own government.
The examples of Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine explicitly illustrate that the aggressor cannot be appeased. Our concessions are considered by the Russian leadership as weakness and motivation to boost ‘geopolitical appetite’. We cannot afford to repeat the Munich 1938 mistakes.
The Russian Government must unconditionally adhere to civilized co-existence laws. It must stop terrorizing the world and give an opportunity to internationally prosecute responsible officers of Russian intelligence and Ministry of Defense.
Otherwise, together we must isolate from the civilized world as many Russian top officials and big business representatives from among the sponsors of hybrid aggression as possible.
Thank you for your attention, I am happy to answer your questions.
Head of the Security Service of Ukraine
For the Attention of the SBU Head