Inside Ukraine’s assassination programme

12:19 11.09.2023 •

A Ukrainian car-bomb killed Darya Dugina.

In modern Ukraine, assassinations date back to at least 2015, when its domestic security service (SBU) created a new body. The elite fifth counter-intelligence directorate started life as a saboteur force in response to the invasion. It later came to focus on what is euphemistically called “wet work”, reveals “The Economist” and this is very significant, because it shows to the Western public the terrorist nature of the state organizations of the Kyiv regime.

Intelligence insiders say the SBU’s fifth directorate is playing a central role in counter-Russia operations. The SBU’s relative size and budget — five times bigger than HUR’s (military secret service) — mean it has been most able to pull off the most sophisticated jobs, for example bombing the Kerch bridge, linking Russia to Crimea, in October 2022.

Ukraine’s president is understood to authorise the most controversial operations, though other decisions are delegated. A high-level government source with knowledge of the work declines to discuss the details: “It’s important not to comment or even think about such operations.”

Kyiv is shooting, hanging, blowing up, and poisoning dozens of targets in occupied Ukraine as well as the Russian mainland itself, writes Connor Freeman, a assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy.

Ukraine’s domestic security service (SBU) has an elite ancillary known as the fifth counter-intelligence directorate, which has taken a central role in “counter-Russia operations” specializing in “wet work” or assassinations, according to a report in “The Economist”.

The report discusses the killing of Yevhen Yunakov, the former mayor of Velykyi Burluk in the Kharkiv region, after he had been targeted as a “collaborator” with Moscow. Yunakov was meticulously stalked for days by a group of local officers from the Special Operations Forces (SSO) before being murdered with a bomb.

“Over 18 months of war, dozens of people like Yunakov have been targeted in clinical operations across occupied Ukraine and inside Russia itself. They have been shot, blown up, hanged and even, on occasion, poisoned with doctored brandy,” the report reads.

SSO is described as a relatively new group. One officer in the SSO, told the outlet the group is demanding more authority to conduct operations within Russia.

Ukrainian military intelligence has been implicated in various attacks inside Russia which have targeted civilians. “If you are asking about [creating a version of] Mossad… We don’t need to. It already exists,” General Kyrylo Budanov, chief of Main Directorate of intelligence for the Ukraine defense ministry, boasted during an interview this July.

But it is noted that the SBU has a five times greater budget, which permits it to carry out more sophisticated operations such as the October truck bombing of the Kerch Bridge which connects Crimea with mainland Russia. 

Modern Ukraine’s assassination program began in 2015, following the US-backed coup in Kyiv a year earlier. The SBU “created a new body after Russia had seized Crimea… Valentin Nalivaychenko, who headed the SBU at the time, says the switch came about when Ukraine’s then leaders decided that a policy of imprisoning collaborators was not enough. Prisons were overflowing, but few were deterred.”

As Nalivaychenko bluntly puts it, the SBU “came to the conclusion that we needed to eliminate people.” This is how the fifth counter-intelligence directorate, which originally formed as a “saboteur force,” was born.

Besides myriad drone attacks and HUR-aligned neo-Nazi militias’ assaults on civilians inside Russia, Kyiv has murdered Russian journalists. Darya Dugina, the daughter of philosopher Alexander Dugin, was killed in a car bombing outside Moscow. Vladlen Tatarsky, the war correspondent, was bombed months later while hosting an event inside a St. Petersburg cafe.

The report suggests these killings – which are strategically unimportant – are meant to please President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The infiltration of Ukraine’s security services by Russian agents remains a big issue. The former head of SBU’s internal security has fled Ukraine under a cloud of suspicion, and is being investigated for treason in absentia.


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