Russian command-control structure in Donbas outlined in Ukraine report
The Ukrainian authorities have provided a detailed report about the vast scale of Russia’s aggression in order to make a strong case for more substantial military aid, a Ukrainian member of parliament told the Kyiv Post.
Andriy Levus, a lawmaker and former ex-deputy chief of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), outlined the scope and extent of the Kremlin’s command and control structure of Russian-separatist forces.
He also talked about his trip to the United States last month, when he submitted ex-SBU chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko’s report on Russian aggression to U.S. authorities and presented another report on the Kremlin’s influence on the Ukrainian economy.
Part of the report on Russian aggression – a 30-page presentation – was leaked last week to news agency Bloomberg. Levus said the entire report could not be published to protect sources of intelligence and agents who obtained it.
The full report is about three times larger than the part that was leaked, Levus said, adding that it was based on open sources, data gathered by agents within the Russian-separatist forces, and intelligence data.
The unpublished part of the report includes a more detailed survey of Russian troops, photos, serial numbers and identification data for Russian equipment, as well as information on Russia’s plans. It also includes information on the Russian regular army’s A girl looks at a Russian-made Grad multiple-rocket launcher at an exhibition of evidence of Russian aggression on Mykhailivska Square in Kyiv on Feb. 22. (Volodymyr Petrov) role during the Massacre of Ilovaisk last year and the Russian takeover of Debaltseve in January-February this year, specifying which Russian units took part and who gove orders.
Levus, who is a member of the People’s Front faction and heads parliament’s subcommittee for national security, said that he had talked to U.S. members of Congress, including senators. The goal of the Ukrainian delegation was to prove that the war in Donbas was “Russian aggression, not an internal conflict,” he said.
“We often hear the words ‘Ukrainian crisis’ and ‘internal conflict,’” Levus said. “Political decisions are often made based on these concepts.”
He said he had gained the impres- sion that many decision makers in the U.S. did not know the actual scale of Russian aggression, and that their perceptions were influenced by the European press, which he said downplays the Kremlin’s role in the conflict.
Some of the information presented by the SBU will be eventually used in criminal cases and international lawsuits against Russia and its proxies over the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of Donbas, Levus said. The cases and lawsuits concern the destruction of economic infrastructure, the theft of Ukrainian businesses, terrorism, war crimes and crimes against civilians.
Commenting on the six Russian commanders allegedly in charge of Kremlin-separatist forces that are mentioned in the report, Levus said some of them were active generals. Others are formally retired but de facto still report to Russia’s defense minister, since they have not been stripped of their military rank and are on standby for duty, he said.
There is also a Russian general supervising separatist troops who is not mentioned in the presentation published by Bloomberg – Alexander Lentsov, Levus said. Lentsov is a member of the Joint Center for Control and Coordination ( JCCC), a group of Russian and Ukrainian officers that monitors the implementation of the Feb. 12 Minsk ceasefire deal.
Levus accused Lentsov of using the information on Ukrainian positions he obtained during meetings with Ukrainian generals to help Russian-separatist forces during the battle of Debaltseve in January and February. Lentsov was not available for comment.
“Oleksandr Razmaznin, a Ukrainian general and member of the JCCC, says that the JCCC binds the Ukrainian army hand and foot and transfers intelligence data to militants,” Levus said.
Outlining the “structure of Russian occupation,” Levus said the about 9,000 Russian regular troops in Donbas were separated into battalion-sized tactical units attached to several sectors.
These units consist entirely of Russian servicemen. During military action, they may change their uniforms and disguise themselves as separatists, Levus said.
Apart from Russian regular army troops, “each separatist brigade has a Russian instructor as its chief of staff, or a deputy commander who de facto makes all tactical decisions during military action,” he said.
In each separatist brigade, there is also a unit of Russian regular troops enforcing discipline and obedience to the Russian General Staff’s orders, Levus said. Such units are used to train separatists and purge their ranks of disloyal elements.
Levus compared such Russian units to the “barrier troops” used by the Soviet Union to shoot retreating soldiers during World War II, as well as to the Bolshevik commissars, who made sure troops toed the party line.
While separatist troops are used more often as “cannon fodder” on the frontline, Russian regular troops are mostly used for artillery support, the operation of armored vehicles and sabotage operations, Levus said.
The Russian army’s headquarters moves around the Donbas depending on the location of current hotspots, according to Levus. For instance, during the siege of Debaltseve, it was transferred to the north of Donetsk, he said.
Over the past two months, Russia has moved in a large amount of Russian intelligence equipment and more drones to Ukraine, which proves that it is gearing up for an expansion of the frontline, Levus said. He said he thought the next escalation might come this fall.