As­sas­si­na­tions & Cy­ber­war­fare

Car bombs claim more tar­gets, in­clud­ing a top mil­i­tary leader


On the same day that Ukraine faced the big­gest cyberattack in the na­tion’s his­tory, two of the coun­try’s se­nior in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers were killed on June 27 in sep­a­rate car bomb­ings.

The of­fi­cers, both vet­er­ans of Rus­sia’s war on Ukraine in the Don­bas, were as­sas­si­nated less than 12 hours apart — one in Kyiv, and the other in a vil­lage near the city of Kostyan­tynivka in the coun­try’s east.

The first killing oc­curred in Kyiv at 8:14 a.m., when a black MercedesBenz ex­ploded at a cross­roads near Solomyan­ska Street in the south­east­ern district of the city. The car’s driver, Maksym Shapo­val, was killed in­stantly, while two passersby suf­fered mi­nor in­juries. The deadly blast was caused by a re­motely trig­gered car bomb, Kyiv Po­lice Chief An­driy Kryschenko said at the scene.

The in­ci­dent was a ter­ror­ist at­tack, po­lice spokesman Artem Shevchenko

said. Ac­cord­ing to In­te­rior Min­istry ad­viser Zo­ryan Shkiryak, the car bomb had a yield equiv­a­lent to around one kilo­gram of TNT.

Spe­cial forces

The vic­tim, Shapo­val, was an ac­tive duty colonel in the Chief Di­rec­torate of In­tel­li­gence of Ukraine's Min­istry of De­fense. Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agents were quickly fin­gered as sus­pects by Ukrainian of­fi­cials.

Shapo­val, 39, had taken part in nu­mer­ous com­bat op­er­a­tions in the Don­bas. He com­manded the first spe­cial forces unit to de­fend the Donetsk Air­port in the ini­tial stage of the bat­tle there against Rus­sian­backed forces in 2014, Ukraine’s chief mil­i­tary pros­e­cu­tor, Ana­toly Ma­tios, said on June 27 af­ter a meet­ing at the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“He was the first Ukrainian ‘cy­borg,’” Ma­tios said, us­ing the pop­u­lar nick­name given to the de­fend­ers of the air­port, which Rus­sian-back forces over­ran in Jan­uary 2015 and which now lies in ru­ins.

Shapo­val was one of Ukraine’s best com­bat of­fi­cers and an in­tel­li­gence ser­vice­man with “unique ex­pe­ri­ence,” Ma­tios said.

Ex­act de­tails of his ser­vice were clas­si­fied, he added.

But sources in Ukraine’s se­cu­rity ser­vices, who asked to re­main anony­mous be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly, told the Kyiv Post that Shapo­val had com­manded the 10th Spe­cial Forces Squad, car­ry­ing out op­er­a­tions be­hind en­emy lines in the Don­bas war zone.

At the time of his death, he headed the Spe­cial Re­serve Forces Depart­ment at the Chief Mil­i­tary In­tel­li­gence Di­rec­torate in Kyiv. He was mar­ried with two chil­dren.

The as­sas­si­na­tion was car­ried out by top-rank spe­cial­ists, Ma­tios also said, with Rus­sian agents as chief sus­pects.

Killing con­spir­acy

Just over 11 hours later, as the coun­try was still in the grip of a mas­sive cyberattack that hit banks, en­ergy com­pa­nies, the coun­try’s main air­port, the rail­way com­pany, re­tail com­pa­nies and postal ser­vices, a sec­ond deadly car bomb­ing oc­curred.

Ad­di­tion­ally, a car with three Se­cu­rity Ser­vice of Ukraine of­fi­cers and a lo­cal civil­ian in­side ex­ploded at 7 p.m. lo­cal time while parked by the side of a road in the vil­lage of Illinivka near Kostyan­tynivka, a front­line Ukrainian-con­trolled city some 600 kilo­me­ters southeast of Kyiv.

One of the of­fi­cers, later iden­ti­fied as SBU Colonel Yuriy Vozniy, was killed. The other three peo­ple were taken to hos­pi­tal with se­ri­ous in­juries, Deputy Mil­i­tary Pros­e­cu­tor Vi­taliy Vdovichenko said on June 29.

He said that the surviving of­fi­cers were not able to im­me­di­ately pro­vide in­for­ma­tion.

The SBU said 23 of the agen­cies of­fi­cers have been killed on duty, but did not spec­ify over which pe­riod of time.

As with the morn­ing at­tack in Kyiv, mil­i­tary pros­e­cu­tors in the war zone said the deadly blast near Kostyan­tynivka was a ter­ror­ist at­tack.

Krem­lin blamed

The June 27 blasts are just the lat­est in a grow­ing num­ber of at­tacks in re­cent months on se­nior Ukrainian ser­vice­men be­hind the front lines, in govern­ment-con­trolled ter­ri­tory.

On March 31, another SBU counter-es­pi­onage colonel, Olek­sandr Kharaberush, was killed by a car bomb as he was driv­ing in a busy street in the city of Mar­i­upol in Donetsk Oblast.

Ac­cord­ing to Ukrainian au­thor­i­ties, Rus­sia is thought to have been be­hind a failed June 1 at­tack on Adam Os­maev, a Chechen fighter who fought in the Don­bas war, and also the March 23 as­sas­si­na­tion on a street in cen­tral Kyiv of Vadim Voro­nenkov, a for­mer Rus­sian law­maker who had de­fected to Kyiv.

The lat­est wave of car-bomb killings in Ukraine started with the mur­der of jour­nal­ist Pavlo Sheremet in July 2016 in Kyiv — a crime as yet un­solved by law en­forcers.

How­ever, Ukraine’s top se­cu­rity of­fi­cials say they have no doubt that the Krem­lin is be­hind the in­creas­ingly fre­quent ter­ror at­tacks through­out the coun­try.


Mean­while, for­mer Se­cu­rity Ser­vice of Ukraine Chief Va­len­tyn Na­ly­vaichenko said the at­tacks showed more re­sources should be put into coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence.

“They must com­plete an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into at least one of these mur­ders,” ex-Se­cu­rity Ser­vice of Ukraine Chief Va­len­tyn Na­ly­vaichenko said at a news brief­ing on June 29. “They must find out who made the ex­plo­sive de­vices, where the de­vices came from and who the or­ga­niz­ers are.”

Na­ly­vaichenko said that the pat­terns of re­cent car ex­plo­sions tar­get­ing Ukrainian se­cu­rity of­fi­cials were sim­i­lar. He also said that less than 10 per­cent of the SBU’s em­ploy­ees were now in­volved in coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence, and that was in­suf­fi­cient. More­over, in 2015 a bill mak­ing coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence and anti-ter­ror­ism the SBU’s top pri­or­i­ties was sub­mit­ted to the pres­i­dent but it has not been adopted yet, Na­ly­vaichenko said.

At the same news brief­ing, Hen­nady Druzenko, the head of PDMSH, a vol­un­teer group helping the mil­i­tary, said he thought the secu- rity ser­vices might be over­stretched.

“I sus­pect that, when in­tel­li­gence and law en­force­ment agen­cies are pro­tect­ing the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­min­is­tra­tion and cracking down on Ukrainian busi­nesses and vol­un­teer fight­ers, they’re lack­ing re­sources to ful­fill their main duty: defending the na­tion from Rus­sian ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the cen­ter of our coun­try,” Druzenko said.

Dou­ble strike

Over the past few months, Rus­sia has been sys­tem­at­i­cally es­ca­lat­ing its sub­ver­sive ac­tiv­i­ties in Ukraine as a part of its hy­brid war against Ukraine, Na­tional Se­cu­rity and De­fense Coun­cil chair­man Olek­sandr Turchynov said on June 27.

“The weight of ev­i­dence sug­gests that all these mur­ders were planned and or­ga­nized with the di­rect in­volve­ment of the Rus­sian spe­cial ser­vices,” Turchynov said dur­ing a coun­cil meet­ing fol­low­ing Shapo­val’s killing.

“This ter­ror at­tack is aimed at in­tim­i­dat­ing and desta­bi­liz­ing the coun­try. It’s no co­in­ci­dence that the (car bomb­ing) took place amid a large-scale cyberattack, which had Rus­sian ori­gins as well.”

In­te­rior Min­istry spokesman Artem Shevchenko also claimed in a post on his Face­book page on June 27 that it was no co­in­ci­dence that there were two high-pro­file as­sas­si­na­tions and a mas­sive cyberattack in the coun­try on the same day.

The killing of Shapo­val on June 27 was im­me­di­ately fol­lowed by an “un­prece­dent­edly large-scale cyberattack,” Shevchenko wrote, in the same way as the mur­der of the Rus­sian de­fec­tor Voro­nenkov on March 23 came on the same day as an al­leged drone at­tack on a gi­ant am­mu­ni­tion de­pot in Balak­liya, which caused a mas­sive fire and dev­as­tat­ing ex­plo­sions.

“It’s a dou­ble strike,” Shevchenko said.

Kyiv Post reporter Oleg Sukhov con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Ukrainian law en­force­ment of­fi­cers ex­am­ine a car af­ter a blast in Kyiv on June 27 that killed mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence chief Maksym Shapo­val. (AFP)

Maksym Shapo­val

Ukrainian po­lice tow a de­stroyed car away from the site of a car bomb at­tack in Kyiv on June 27. A se­nior Ukrainian mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer, Maksym Shapo­val, was killed in the early-morn­ing blast. (Ukrafoto)

Yuriy Vozniy

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