• Eyal Pinko

A Different Perspective on the Campaign in Ukraine - Covert Intelligence Operations

The campaign in Ukraine has dark sides that are not mentioned and discussed in the media.

Russian Intelligence Services - The Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Military Intelligence Service (GRU) operate groups of Russian mercenaries on Ukrainian soil, working together with agents working in the field.

The mercenaries are used by the Russians in carrying out surgical commando activities, including gathering tactical intelligence, marking targets for laser ammunition dropped for Russian fighter jets, putting mines and IEDs, and other targeted assassination operations. The mercenary squads, who come from different countries in the world, operate to sow chaos and panic on the one hand, and on the other hand to paralyze and shut down critical state infrastructure using sabotage.

In the weeks leading up to the invasion, mercenary squads flocked to Ukraine, as part of Russia's assessments of the invasion.

Upon entering the country, the operational squads used foreign passports and intelligence infrastructure, such as straw companies, to enable a "legitimate" arrival in the country. The mercenary services are rented through private military companies from Russia, such as the Wagner company.

The United States has repeatedly warned that mercenaries may be involved in hostilities within Ukraine, including in the training and equipment of pro-Russian separatists since 2014. Of course, Russia has denied any presence of mercenaries on its behalf in Ukraine.

The strategic concept behind the use of mercenaries is the fighting in the "gray zone" doctrine. It is based on the intention to undermine the rules of government, personal security, and public order through commando and crime operations, which are not attributed to Russia. As part of this concept, Russian businessmen are responsible for drugs and arms smuggling, human traffic, money laundering, counterfeiting, and more, in Russia's destination countries, such as the Scandinavian countries, the Balkans, and more.

In the past, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that private companies, such as Wagner, do not represent the Russian state and are not paid by it. At the same time, Putin said, that they have a right to act provided they do not violate Russian law.

The EU imposed sanctions on the Wagner group last year, accusing it of violence, looting of natural resources, and undermining stability in countries around the world.

Entering the second week of the campaign in Ukraine, the mercenary squads operating together with the intelligence agencies, has a significant combat role in the Russian doctrine.

Mercenary groups are operating not only in Ukraine but also throughout the Middle East, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, advancing "under the radar" the Russian goals.

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