Vadym Sk­ibit­skyi: “We have an an­swer to the Rus­sian lead­er­ship's state­ment that their units “are not there” in the Don­bas”

“We have an an­swer to the Rus­sian lead­er­ship's state­ment that their units “are not there” in the Don­bas”

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - In­ter­viewed by Yuriy La­payev

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the MoD Main In­tel­li­gence Direc­torate on top threats for Ukraine, in­ter­na­tional in­tel­li­gence co­op­er­a­tion

The Ukrainian Week spoke to rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Main In­tel­li­gence Direc­torate at the Min­istry of De­fence about his depart­ment's work, Rus­sian mil­i­tary in Ukraine and the threats it is fac­ing.

Which main ar­eas of work can you out­line to­day for the Main In­tel­li­gence Direc­torate?

It is clear which fo­cus area is key for us to­day. The con­stant ac­qui­si­tion of in­tel­li­gence on Rus­sian ag­gres­sion in the Don­bas and Crimea. The num­ber of di­vi­sions, their weaponry, con­trol sys­tems and tasks are of in­ter­est. We gather ev­i­dence of di­rect in­volve­ment of Rus­sian mil­i­tary per­son­nel in the con­flict. This con­cerns both the lat­est mod­els of weapons and mil­i­tary equip­ment that Moscow is test­ing in Ukraine, as if it were a train­ing area, and the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of per­sons in­volved in re­cruit­ing mil­i­tants, sup­ply­ing weapons and am­mu­ni­tion, train­ing or com­mand­ing the ter­ror­ist forces of the "DPR/ LPR". For ex­am­ple, we iden­ti­fied Rus­sian Army Colonel Bushuyev, who com­manded the so-called 7th Sep­a­rate Mo­torised In­fantry Bri­gade of the ter­ror­ist forces. Prior to his mis­sion to Ukraine, he was chief of staff and deputy com­man­der of the 83rd Sep­a­rate Air As­sault Bri­gade, sta­tioned in the city of Us­suriysk, Pri­morsky Re­gion, Rus­sia. We have man­aged to find many such peo­ple and data about them is pub­licly avail­able on our web­site. This is our an­swer to the Rus­sian lead­er­ship's well­known state­ment that their units “are not there” in the Don­bas.

This in­for­ma­tion com­ple­ments the ev­i­dence base for Ukraine's case against Rus­sia for the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice. Now is the first time a state has been ac­cused of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ists (Ukraine has filed a law­suit against Rus­sia for mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion, fi­nanc­ing of ter­ror­ists, the shoot­ing down of MH17 in 2014 dis­crim­i­na­tion against Crimean Tatars and Ukraini­ans in the an­nexed Crimea – Ed.). Thanks to our data in par­tic­u­lar, the Ukrainian lead­er­ship has been able to con­vey a real picture in the east­ern part of our coun­try to for­eign part­ners. I can say from my own ex­pe­ri­ence that in 2015 I was per­son­ally ap­proached at NATO Head­quar­ters, as well as in var­i­ous EU struc­tures, and asked if it was true that there were Rus­sian sol­diers in the Don­bas. Euro­pean politi­cians could not get used to the fact that the Rus­sian lead­er­ship was ly­ing so openly. We pre­sented our data and con­vinced them that this is not a civil war or a lo­cal con­flict, but covert ag­gres­sion on the part of the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion. One of the re­sults of such ex­plana­tory work is the con­sis­tent ex­ten­sion of eco­nomic sanc­tions against the Krem­lin. At the same time, we do not only work on iden­ti­fy­ing the armed forces of the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion – more im­por­tantly, we make fore­casts for Ukraine's lead­er­ship re­gard­ing the ag­gres­sor's next moves.

How re­al­is­tic is it, in your opin­ion, to pre­dict the be­hav­iour of Vladimir Putin and the Rus­sian mil­i­tary?

In­deed, the Krem­lin is rather un­pre­dictable. But as for the mil­i­tary, we un­der­stand that no large-scale op­er­a­tion can take place with­out prior plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion. This is what we track. We see that to­day Rus­sia has not been able to achieve its strate­gic goal, namely the re­turn of Ukraine un­der its full con­trol. But so far the Krem­lin has not dropped th­ese plans, so it is ex­tremely im­por­tant for us not to al­low a re­peat of the events of 2014.

What do you mon­i­tor be­sides the ATO and Rus­sian ac­tions?

We do not ne­glect other ar­eas ei­ther. There are many of them, all de­fined by the rel­e­vant leg­is­la­tion. Some key ones are sup­port­ing na­tional in­ter­ests in the mil­i­tary, po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal spheres. In­ter­na­tion­ally, the Main In­tel­li­gence Direc­torate sup­ports the fight against in­ter­na­tional or­gan­ised crime and ter­ror­ism. We also join peace­keep­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

How do you rate the level of in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion? Does the MoD Main In­tel­li­gence Direc­torate re­ceive as­sis­tance from for­eign part­ners?

De­vel­op­ment of co­op­er­a­tion with the spe­cial ser­vices of part­ner coun­tries is one of our main ar­eas of fo­cus. As part of spe­cial pro­grams, our part­ners pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant as­sis­tance to the direc­torate. Above all, con­sul­ta­tions re­gard­ing our re­forms as we move to­wards NATO stan­dards – it is planned that by 2020 there will be full com­pat­i­bil­ity with Al­liance forces and the readi­ness to carry out tasks to­gether. The rel­e­vant re­quire­ments are con­tained in the Strate­gic De­fence Bul­letin and the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Pro­gram for 2016-2020.

This is a very im­por­tant point, be­cause for the first time in the his­tory of the Main In­tel­li­gence Direc­torate we plan to con­duct in­for­ma­tion and an­a­lyt­i­cal work along­side our for­eign col­leagues in NATO struc­tures. Pro­cess­ing our data and that of the Al­liance to­gether, eval­u­at­ing it and pre­par­ing rec­om­men­da­tions for the Ukrainian lead­er­ship and part­ner coun­tries. This, in turn, re­quires new skills, new ap­proaches, dif­fer­ent think­ing and, of course, good knowl­edge of for­eign lan­guages. A pro­gram has been de­vel­oped that in­cludes ad­di­tional train­ing for our of­fi­cers, study­ing the pro­ce­dures and reg­u­la­tions of the Al­liance. The main thing is that we are con­duct­ing joint train­ing ses­sions. In the­ory, this is in­te­gra­tion with NATO even with­out oblig­a­tory mem­ber­ship.

An­other type of as­sis­tance is the pro­vi­sion of cer­tain tech­ni­cal equip­ment by our part­ners. Hos­til­i­ties against such a pow­er­ful en­emy in the mil­i­tary sense as Rus­sia re­quire the de­vel­op­ment of the en­tire Ukrainian mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence sys­tem. Our units should have the best and most ad­vanced pieces of equip­ment. There­fore, we are ac­tively work­ing on our equip­ment at all lev­els, rang­ing from night-vi­sion de­vices for men in our units to more se­ri­ous in­tel­li­gence tools that de­tect the move­ment of en­emy equip­ment or their prepa­ra­tions for ac­tive hos­til­i­ties.

In ad­di­tion, there is sig­nif­i­cant ex­change of in­for­ma­tion. Pre­vi­ously, be­fore the Rus­sian armed ag­gres­sion against Ukraine, we also had di­a­logue with our for­eign part­ners, but on a very limited list of is­sues -- data on pos­si­ble threats to in­ter­na­tional peace­keep­ing con­tin­gents and the ac­tiv­i­ties of ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions above all. Now we have a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in our work with part­ners. In ad­di­tion, this shar­ing of in­tel­li­gence and ex­pe­ri­ence is now ben­e­fi­cial for both sides. It is im­por­tant for us to get knowl­edge from for­eign col­leagues, be­cause they have in­valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence – it will suf­fice to men­tion Iraq and Afghanistan. But our agents can teach the Amer­i­cans them­selves a lot – they have not op­posed an en­emy on the same level as the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion for a long time.

How is co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the Main In­tel­li­gence Direc­torate and other law en­force­ment agen­cies or­gan­ised?

Since the be­gin­ning of Rus­sian ag­gres­sion against our state, the whole sys­tem of in­ter­ac­tion be­tween Ukrainian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies has changed dra­mat­i­cally. To­day we have a uni­fied in­for­ma­tional field and ex­change in­tel­li­gence with other agen­cies. As part of the Joint Pres­i­den­tial Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence, we pre­pare as­sess­ments to­gether on the most ur­gent is­sues con­cern­ing na­tional se­cu­rity. A united in­tel­li­gence in­for­ma­tion sys­tem is now be­ing cre­ated, which will en­able us to bet­ter co­or­di­nate our ef­forts.

Sev­eral years be­fore Rus­sian ag­gres­sion against our coun­try, the Main In­tel­li­gence Direc­torate is­sued a warn­ing about that threat. How­ever, as it turned out, the for­mer state lead­er­ship was not in­ter­ested in re­spond­ing ad­e­quately to th­ese warn­ings. How do you as­sess your cur­rent in­ter­ac­tion with the new gov­ern­ment?

We can­not com­ment on the ac­tions of pre­vi­ous au­thor­i­ties. Only the law en­force­ment agen­cies and courts can eval­u­ate their ac­tiv­ity.

In turn, given the specifics of our work, we would not be so bold as to dis­close the de­tails of our in­ter­ac­tion with the cur­rent lead­er­ship. How­ever, I can say that we have sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased the num­ber of in­for­ma­tional doc­u­ments that are now pro­vided to in­ter­ested au­thor­i­ties. Just for com­par­i­son: in 2016, one and a half times more anal­y­sis was sent out than in the pre­vi­ous year. So we can see the state lead­er­ship's in­ter­est in our data. One of the main top­ics in our doc­u­ments is re­veal­ing the en­emy's fur­ther in­ten­tions to con­tinue its hy­brid ag­gres­sion against Ukraine.

Some­thing new we have started re­cently is the prepa­ra­tion of daily brief­ings on the most im­por­tant is­sues re­gard­ing the mil­i­tary, po­lit­i­cal and strate­gic sit­u­a­tion around our coun­try. Such brief­ings keep the mil­i­tary and politi­cians abreast of de­vel­op­ments and help them to make de­ci­sions.

What are the main threats to Ukraine?

To­day, Rus­sia re­mains one of the main sources of threats for our coun­try. The de­ploy­ment of new and the ex­pan­sion of ex­ist­ing Rus­sian Armed Forces units in close prox­im­ity to the Ukrainian state bor­der is a danger. We con­tinue to record the for­ma­tion of new mil­i­tary units and for­ma­tions, as well as equip­ment and per­son­nel move­ments. An in­ter­est­ing de­tail is that in some units, of­fi­cers who have ex­pe­ri­ence in con­duct­ing com­bat op­er­a­tions against Ukrainian forces in the Don­bas are be­ing ap­pointed as com­man­ders (in the Rus­sian Army – Ed.). The oc­cu­pied Crimea is be­ing mil­i­tarised. In ad­di­tion to con­ven­tional weapons, the penin­sula has the po­ten­tial for the de­ploy­ment of tac­ti­cal nu­clear weapons. The pres­ence of Rus­sian troops in the Transnis­trian re­gion of Moldova also causes some con­cern. This con­tin­gent could, if nec­es­sary, be used to desta­bilise the sit­u­a­tion in south­ern re­gions of Ukraine. There­fore, our task is to dis­cover any changes in the com­bat readi­ness of Rus­sian units in good time and de­ter­mine their pur­pose. Re­cently, risks re­gard­ing cy­ber-at­tacks con­ducted against Ukraine have be­come more rel­e­vant. From a mil­i­tary point of view, hack­ers could be in­ter­ested in dis­rupt­ing the com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­works of Armed Forces head­quar­ters and com­man­ders, in ad­di­tion to in­ter­fer­ing with arms con­trol sys­tems.

In ad­di­tion, global prob­lems re­main rel­e­vant and are even be­com­ing more acute. They in­clude in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism, the pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass de­struc­tion and the emer­gence of re­gional con­flicts in dif­fer­ent parts of the planet.

TO­DAY, RUS­SIA RE­MAINS ONE OF THE MAIN SOURCES OF THREATS FOR OUR COUN­TRY. THE DE­PLOY­MENT OF NEW AND THE EX­PAN­SION OF EX­IST­ING RUS­SIAN ARMED FORCES UNITS IN CLOSE PROX­IM­ITY TO THE UKRAINIAN STATE BOR­DER IS A DANGER

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