Former Makhachkala Mayor Said Amirov Found Guilty

Former Makhachkala Mayor Jailed For Planning Terrorist Act
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty | July 09, 2014

The former mayor of the Daghestani capital, Makhachkala, has been sentenced to 10 years in a maximum-security jail.

Russia’s North Caucasus Regional Military Court found Said Amirov guilty of planning a terrorist act and illegal weapons possession on July 9 and sentenced him the same day.

Amirov was arrested in June 2013 and charged with involvement in plotting a missile attack against a plane carrying Sagid Murtazaliev, the head of the Russian Pension Fund’s branch in Daghestan, and of organizing the 2011 murder of Investigative Committee official Arsen Gadzhibekov.

Amirov’s co-defendant, the former deputy mayor of the city of Kaspiisk, Yusup Dzhaparov, received 8 1/2 years in jail on the same charges.

Both had pleaded not guilty.

Amirov, 60, became Makhachkala’s first elected mayor in 1998. An assassination attempt in 1993 left him wheelchair-bound.


Russian Ex-Mayor Guilty in Plot to Murder Rival With Anti-Aircraft Missile
The Moscow Times | Jul. 09 2014

Said Amirov, who faces 13 years in prison, was the mayor of Makhachkala, in southern Russia.

The former mayor of the capital city of Russia’s restive Dagestan region was convicted on Wednesday of plotting to assassinate a rival official by shooting down the man’s plane with an anti-aircraft missile.

Said Amirov, who faces 13 years in prison, was the mayor of Makhachkala, in southern Russia, for 15 years before he was arrested over the assassination plot last year. He had been re-elected four times during his time at the post, and more than 15 documented attempts were made on his life.

In the fall of last year, prosecutors charged Amirov with plotting to shoot down the plane of the Dagestan Pension Fund’s influential chairman, Sagid Murtazaliyev, and illegally acquiring a Strela-2M handheld rocket launcher to perform what prosecutors considered a "terrorist attack," state news agency ITAR-Tass reports.

Amirov’s nephew, Yuruf Dzhaparov, the former deputy mayor of the southern city of Kaspiisk, was also found guilty of conspiring with his uncle. Prosecutors have requested that Dzhaparov be imprisoned for 11 years.

Amirov was also accused of organizing the 2011 assassination of one of his region’s top investigators, Arsen Gadzhibekov.



Court sentences Said Amirov and Yusup Djaparov to 10 and 8.5 years of imprisonment
Caucasian Knot | 09 July 2014

The North-Caucasian District Military Court has found both Said Amirov, dismissed Mayor of Makhachkala, and his nephew Yusup Djaparov, guilty of plotting a terror act, and sentenced them to 10 and 8.5 years of imprisonment, respectively. This was reported by the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent from the courtroom.

Said Amirov is to serve his sentence in a high-security penal colony. The sentence period starts from the date of his detention.

The Court found untenable the defence’s statements that the witnesses allegedly gave their testimonies under torture.

Let us remind you that the defendants did not admit their guilt in the crimes imputed to them.

The defence of Said Amirov has stated the sentence is unlawful and announced its intention to appeal against it.

According to the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent, supporters and family members of Said Amirov have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the verdict. "Shame!" shouted one of the persons, who attended the trial. Being dissatisfied with the verdict, the people have claimed that the verdict ignores the testimonies given by the defence witnesses and the achievements of Said Amirov.

Author: Oleg Pchelov; Source: CK correspondent


ICRF: Said Amirov may face new charges
Caucasian Knot | 09 July 2014

Staff members of the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) did not stop their activities to reveal and investigate the crimes involving Said Amirov, Mayor of Makhachkala, who was dismissed from office. In this connection, investigator may reveal new episodes of his criminal activities. This has been reported today by Vladimir Markin, Spokesperson of the ICRF.

The "Caucasian Knot" has reported that in December 2013, the ICRF announced the completion of the investigations against Said Amirov. He was charged with plotting a terror act to assassinate Sagid Murtazaliev, the head of the Russian Pension Fund for Dagestan, and organizing arms trafficking.

Furthermore, staff members of the ICRF believe that Said Amir was involved in the murder of investigator Arsen Gadjibekov. According to the investigators, the Arsen Gadjibekov’s murder was ordered by Said Amirov and organized by Magomed Abdulgalimov, Assistant Prosecutor of Kizlyar. The investigators believe the crime was committed by Magomed Kadiev, and Yusup Djaparov, Deputy Mayor of Kaspiysk, and Magomed Akhmedov, an investigator from the Kirov ROVD (District Interior Division) of Makhachkala, are involved in the criminal case as accomplices.

"The criminal case on the Arsen Gadjibekov’s murder is to be finished soon," the "LifeNews" quotes Vladimir Markin as saying today.


US State Dept Daily Press Briefing, July 7, 2014 [Ukraine]

Daily Press Briefing, July 7, 2014
Jen Psaki, Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 7, 2014


  • Expulsion of Russian-Backed Separatists / Ceasefire
  • Quad Discussions
  • Refugees


QUESTION: Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine, sure.

QUESTION: There were some significant developments over the weekend.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I believe the Ukrainian Government took back one town, and it looks like the separatists are steeling themselves for a defense of Donetsk, I think. What’s your understanding of the situation? Do you think that both sides are – that the government is still showing restraint and that the separatists are still not?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What’s the U.S. position?

MS. PSAKI: Well, a few updates. As you noted, over the weekend we all saw reports that the Ukrainian Government was able to expel Russian-supported separatists from the cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. The government immediately moved to begin restoring public services and to providing assistance to residents in need in those areas.

Fighting does continue in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, and the option of a cease-fire remains on the table. But it takes two to participate in a cease-fire, and President Poroshenko had that cease-fire for 10 days and didn’t see reciprocal participation or engagement from the other side. So there are still remaining steps that we have called on the Russian-backed separatists and the Russians to take. Those remain on the table.

QUESTION: You say that it’s two sides, but it would seem that all your discussion is three sides.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the Russian-backed separatists and the Russians are on the same side.

QUESTION: So they – so you equate the separatists with Russia?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m equating, but in terms of —

QUESTION: For the purposes of – for the purposes of this, you think that the – Russia saying yes to a cease-fire is the same thing as the separatists saying yes to a cease-fire?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve long felt that they have a strong influence with the actions of the Russian separatists, and there’s more they can do to influence.

QUESTION: Right. Right, but the thing is – is that they had said yes, had they not? I mean, the Russians had supported it; Putin had supported it. But you don’t think that that message – or that they did enough to rein in the separatists in fighting the Ukrainian Government, right?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Is that – so that would mean that it’s three sides to the ceasefire, because you need the separatists to go along with it, and you think that that won’t happen unless Moscow says “do it,” right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I still – my view is two sides. We can disagree on the shape of the —

QUESTION: I’m just – whether it’s a triangle or a line, I don’t know.

MS. PSAKI: Triangle or a line, yes.

QUESTION: But in your view, the Russians still have not done what they should or what you think they should do to —

MS. PSAKI: No. They can allow the OSCE monitors to do their jobs; they can call – they can stop the flow of weapons across the border; they can call on Russian-backed separatists to lay down their arms. There’s certainly more steps they can take.

QUESTION: Okay. And have there been any conversations between the Secretary or any senior officials on this issue since Thursday?

MS. PSAKI: With senior Russian officials, or senior —

QUESTION: Ukrainian officials, anyone – just on this subject that you’re aware of.

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary has not. Of course, our team on the ground remains in close contact about these issues, and there are ongoing discussions through the Quad meetings – or Quad discussions as well.

QUESTION: But that seems to have, unless I’m mistaken, broken down, right? That – they haven’t met since last Thursday or Wednesday.

MS. PSAKI: But they can – they could meet again, certainly, if there isn’t a —

QUESTION: The Russians have been calling for another meeting of that group no later than Saturday. You’re aware of that?

MS. PSAKI: No later than next Saturday?

QUESTION: No, this past Saturday – than the 5th.

MS. PSAKI: Than last Saturday? Well, they can still convene again.

QUESTION: Right. You would like to see another meeting of the Quad soon. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly support dialogue between all of the parties, yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the —

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just —

QUESTION: — to the statement —

MS. PSAKI: We’ll go to you next.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: President Putin’s statement about the Fourth of July and his willingness to work together, and they can resolve all the issues. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: Our view remains that actions speak louder than words, and there are specific steps that can be taken.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Last week, your colleague Marie Harf doubted the sources of a UN report that talks about a sharp increase in the number of people fleeing Ukraine into Russia. Well, I’m with RT; you don’t like RT. What about other news sources, U.S. news sources? And here’s The Wall Street Journal writing about the horrors that people face and why they flee to Russia. Are all these sources exaggerating the scale of the crisis there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s clearly a significant movement of people due to the violence caused by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, though the vast majority have not sought refugee status. That hasn’t changed. There are a few – and I think Matt asked last week what the difference is between here and Syria, and one of the differences is that there are a range of international organizations on the ground in Syria and NGOs who are calculating or validating the number of asylum seekers or refugees crossing the border.

And so this is single-source reporting strictly from the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Government, and that’s one of the reasons that we expressed doubt about the numbers or the range of numbers that were reported in this case.

QUESTION: But it seems that you are downplaying the – honestly, downplaying the scale of the crisis there. These are just – that’s the reason why I would show these pictures. These are shots of civilians blown to pieces in their homes and their backyards, in the village of – in the village in eastern Ukraine last week. And Kyiv ordered these killings, nobody else.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think —

QUESTION: What does the U.S. do to stop Kyiv from doing it —

MS. PSAKI: I think —

QUESTION: — from the village of Kondrashovka. It’s —

MS. PSAKI: Well, you finished – go ahead. I’m letting you finish your question.

QUESTION: Yes, I’m sorry. These are gruesome pictures, but it seems —

MS. PSAKI: I think to be clear, on the ground, the reports that we’ve seen and the vast majority of people who are reporting from the ground report that the Russian-backed separatists are the ones who are not only engaged in violence and efforts to take over buildings and attack people and innocent civilians. They have no place doing that in a country that’s a sovereign country like Ukraine, so that’s our issue.

QUESTION: These people died in air strikes ordered by Kyiv – not by Russia, not by the separatist.

MS. PSAKI: The Government of Ukraine is defending the country of Ukraine, and I think they have every right to do that, as does the international community.

QUESTION: Do the people – and these people have right to live, don’t they?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the people of Ukraine have the right to live in peace and security without Russian-backed separatists attacking their homes and going into buildings. And I think that’s where the root cause of this is and we shouldn’t forget that fact.

QUESTION: Jen, on the numbers. Are you now – when you say there’s been substantial movement across the border, whether or not these people are technically classified by the UN as refugees or not, are you still saying that you don’t think 110,000 is accurate? That’s the number that the UN gave last week. Do you still take issue with that number, or do you now accept that even though they’re not refugees, there are – and maybe not all classified as refugees – there are a hundred – that the numbers could be as high as 110,000?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the context of what I was trying to explain, Matt, is that there’s single-source reporting here just from the Federal Migration Services of Russia. It’s not independent international organizations and NGOs reporting, as it is in Syria and some other places, because they’re not on the ground. So we don’t have any validation of those numbers, though there’s certainly no question that there are a range – a large number of people who are crossing the border because of the violence they’re seeing on the ground.

QUESTION: So who is it that you’re saying is on the ground in Syria that are collecting these – are you talking about Turkey and —

MS. PSAKI: There are international organizations, NGOs.

QUESTION: But that would be the UN mainly, right?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who was the same person that’s saying 110,000.

MS. PSAKI: But they’re getting reporting from a single source in this case, whereas in other – in Syria, they’re getting reporting from a range of international organizations.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that the UNHCR is being credulous or they’re not looking at these numbers with enough skepticism?

MS. PSAKI: I think – I’m not trying to overstate it. That’s just the reason why we see the circumstances differently.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, when you say you acknowledge that there is substantial movement or substantial migration, whether it’s actual migration or whether it’s refugees or whatever, could that include – I mean, could that – could the number 110,000 – is that a feasible figure?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to guess at the specific numbers, Matt. I’m just expressing what our skepticism is about some of the numbers we’ve seen reported.

QUESTION: All right. And there are no NGOs, no international organizations that —

MS. PSAKI: Not that are reporting numbers on numbers of refugees on the ground to our – that we’re aware of.

QUESTION: In Russia —

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: — or in Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, exactly, in the – what’s happening on the ground on the border there.


QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Great. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:27 p.m.)

Putin’s Secret Weapon

Russia’s swashbuckling military intelligence unit is full of assassins, arms dealers, and bandits. And what they pulled off in Ukraine was just the beginning.
BY Mark Galeotti
Foreign Policy | JULY 7, 2014

There are two ways an espionage agency can prove its worth to the government it serves. Either it can be truly useful (think: locating a most-wanted terrorist), or it can engender fear, dislike, and vilification from its rivals (think: being named a major threat in congressional testimony). But when a spy agency does both, its worth is beyond question.

Since the Ukraine crisis began, the Kremlin has few doubts about the importance of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence apparatus. The agency has not only demonstrated how the Kremlin can employ it as an important foreign-policy tool, by ripping a country apart with just a handful of agents and a lot of guns. The GRU has also shown the rest of the world how Russia expects to fight its future wars: with a mix of stealth, deniability, subversion, and surgical violence. Even as GRU-backed rebel groups in eastern Ukraine lose ground in the face of Kiev’s advancing forces, the geopolitical landscape has changed. The GRU is back in the global spook game and with a new playbook that will be a challenge for the West for years to come.

Recent years had not been kind to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, the Glavnoe razvedyvatelnoe upravlenie (GRU). Once, it had been arguably Russia’s largest intelligence agency, with self-contained stations — known as "residencies" — in embassies around the world, extensive networks of undercover agents, and nine brigades of special forces known as Spetsnaz.

By the start of 2013, the GRU was on the ropes. Since 1992, the agency had been in charge of operations in the post-Soviet countries, Russia’s "near abroad." But Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have seen it as increasingly unfit for that purpose. When the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s domestic security agency, was allowed to run operations abroad openly in 2003, one insider told me that this was because "the GRU doesn’t seem to know how to do anything in our neighborhood except count tanks." (It may not even have done that very well. Putin regarded the GRU as partly responsible for Russia’s lackluster performance in the 2008 invasion of Georgia.) There was a prevailing view in Moscow that the GRU’s focus on gung-ho "kinetic operations" like paramilitary hit squads seemed less relevant in an age of cyberwar and oil politics.

Political missteps also contributed to the GRU’s diminished role. Valentin Korabelnikov, the agency’s chief from 1997 to 2009, seemed more comfortable accompanying Spetsnaz assassination teams in Chechnya than playing palace politics in Moscow. His criticisms of Putin’s military reforms put him on the Kremlin’s bad side too. Korabelnikov was sacked in 2009 and replaced with soon-to-be-retired Col. Gen. Alexander Shlyakhturov, who, within two years, was rarely seen in the GRU’s headquarters due to his bad health. In December 2011 the GRU welcomed its third head in nearly three years, Maj. Gen. Igor Sergun, a former attaché and intelligence officer with no combat experience and the lowest-ranking head of the service in decades. By the end of 2013, the Kremlin seemed to be entertaining the suggestion that the agency be demoted from a "main directorate" to a mere directorate, which would have been a massive blow to the service’s prestige and political access.

In many ways, a demotion for the GRU seemed inevitable. Since 2008, the GRU had suffered a savage round of cuts during a period when most of Russia’s security and intelligence agencies’ budgets enjoyed steady increases. Eighty of its hundred general-rank officers had been sacked, retired, or transferred. Most of the Spetsnaz were reassigned to the regular army. Residencies were downsized, sometimes even to a single officer working undercover as a military attaché.

What a difference a few months can make. What the Kremlin had once seen as the GRU’s limitations — a focus on the "near abroad," a concentration on violence over subtlety, a more swashbuckling style (including a willingness to conduct assassinations abroad) — have become assets.

The near-bloodless seizure of Crimea in March was based on plans drawn up by the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate that relied heavily on GRU intelligence. The GRU had comprehensively surveyed the region, was watching Ukrainian forces based there, and was listening to their communications. The GRU didn’t only provide cover for the "little green men" who moved so quickly to seize strategic points on the peninsula before revealing themselves to be Russian troops. Many of those operatives were current or former GRU Spetsnaz.

There is an increasing body of evidence that the so-called defense minister of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, Igor Strelkov, whose real name is Igor Girkin, is a serving or reserve GRU officer, who likely takes at the very least guidance, if not orders, from the agency’s headquarters. As a result, the European Union has identified him as GRU "staff" and has placed him on its sanctions list. Although the bulk of the insurgents in eastern Ukraine appear to be Ukrainians or Russian "war tourists" — encouraged, armed, and facilitated by Moscow — there also appear to be GRU operators on the ground helping to bring guns and people across the border.

It was only when the Vostok Battalion appeared in eastern Ukraine at the end of May that the GRU’s full re-emergence became clear. This separatist group bears the same name as a GRU-sponsored Chechen unit that was disbanded in 2008. This new brigade — composed largely of the same fighters from Chechnya — seemed to spring from nowhere, uniformly armed and mounted in armored personnel carriers. Its first act was to seize the administration building in Donetsk, turfing out the motley insurgents who had made it their headquarters. Having established its credentials as the biggest dog in the pack, Vostok began recruiting Ukrainian volunteers to make up for Chechens who quietly drifted home.

Alexander Khodakovsky, a defector from the Security Service of Ukraine, subsequently announced that he was the battalion’s commander. But this only happened a few days after the seizure of the Donetsk headquarters. The implication is that the battalion was originally commanded by GRU representatives. Vostok appears intended not so much to fight the regular Ukrainian forces — though it has — but rather to serve as a skilled and disciplined enforcer of Moscow’s authority over the militias if need be.

The Vostok Battalion makes Moscow’s strategy clear: The Kremlin has no desire for outright military conflict in its neighbors. Instead, the kind of "non-linear war" being waged in Ukraine, which blends outright force, misinformation, political and economic pressure, and covert operations, will likely be its means of choice in the future. These are the kinds of operations in which the GRU excels.

After all, while Moscow is not going to abandon its claims to being a global power, in the immediate future Russia’s foreign-policy focus will clearly be building and maintaining its hegemony in Eurasia. These are also the areas where the GRU is strongest. For example, in Kazakhstan, whose Russian-heavy northern regions are a potential future target for similar political pressure through local minorities, the GRU is the lead intelligence provider, as its civilian counterpart, the SVR, is technically barred from operating in Kazakhstan or any of the countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States by the 1992 Alma-Ata Declaration.

The combination of these factors means that the GRU now looks far more comfortable and confident than it did a year ago. Kiev outed and expelled a naval attaché from the Russian Embassy as a GRU officer, and Sergun, the GRU’s head, made it onto the list of officials under Western sanctions. But neither of these actions has done the agency any harm. If anything, they have increased the GRU’s prestige.

Talk of downgrading the GRU’s status is conspicuously absent in Moscow circles. The agency’s restored status means it is again a player in the perennial turf wars within the Russian intelligence community. More importantly, it means that GRU operations elsewhere in the world are likely to be expanded again and to regain some of their old aggression.

The GRU’s revival also demonstrates that the doctrine of "non-linear war" is not just an ad hoc response to the particularities of Ukraine. This is how Moscow plans to drive forward its interests in today’s world. The rest of the world has not realized this now, even though Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov spelled it out in an obscure Russian military journal last year. He wrote that the new way of war involves "the broad use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian, and other nonmilitary measures … supplemented by military means of a covert nature character," not least with the use of special forces.

This kind of conflict will be fought by spies, commandos, hackers, dupes, and mercenaries — exactly the kind of operatives at the GRU’s disposal. Even after the transfer of most Spetsnaz out of the GRU’s direct chain of command, the agency still commands elite special forces trained for assassination, sabotage, and misdirection, as Ukraine shows. The GRU has also demonstrated a willingness to work with a wide range of mavericks. In Chechnya, it raised not just the Vostok Battalion but other units of defectors from guerrillas and bandits. The convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout is generally accepted to have been a part-time GRU asset too. The GRU is less picky than most intelligence agencies about who is cooperates with, which also means that it is harder to be sure who is working for them.

NATO and the West still have no effective response to this development. NATO, a military alliance built to respond to direct and overt aggression, has already found itself at a loss on how to deal with virtual attacks, such as the 2007 cyberattack on Estonia. The revival of the GRU’s fortunes promises a future in which the Cold War threat of tanks spilling across the border is replaced by a new kind of war, combining subterfuge, careful cultivation of local allies, and covert Spetsnaz strikes to achieve the Kremlin’s political aims. NATO may be stronger in strictly military terms, but if Russia can open political divisions in the West, carry out deniable operations using third-party combatants, and target strategic individuals and facilities, it doesn’t really matter who has more tanks and better fighter jets. This is exactly what the GRU is tooling up to do.

Russia’s Invisible Hand Drives Ukraine Conflict

By James Nixey
The Moscow Times | Jul. 08 2014

In the world of cosmology, the latest scientific evidence has revealed that 85 percent of the universe is made up of dark matter. We can’t see it, but it is definitely there. The equations tell us it must be, for nothing else explains the visible effects of mass on the universe.

Something similar can — cannot? — be seen in eastern Ukraine. Russia’s direct involvement is barely visible to the naked eye, but it can be discerned through examination of the evidence. No other explanation is plausible.

Russia is the only force with de facto control over border areas in Donetsk and Luhansk at present and it is demonstrably true that Russian citizens are crossing that border to fight in Ukraine, indicating that at the bare minimum Russia is letting this happen or that its border guards are incompetent to an improbable degree.

The "pro-Russian forces" operating in eastern Ukraine are precisely that — units doing Moscow’s bidding with Moscow’s backing. Their interests and those of the Kremlin are more or less aligned, although is conceivable that some of their followers do not even know they are the Kremlin’s puppets.

In addition to military proxy forces, the Kremlin is also using rhetorical proxies for the things that even President Vladimir Putin cannot say. In Russia he can turn to Aleksandr Barkashov, Leonid Slutsky, Sergei Glazyev, Sergei Markov and even Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya either to raise the stakes, or, as the occasion demands, to give the impression that he is a relative moderate. In Ukraine he has separatist leaders in the shape of Alexander Borodai and Igor Strelkov whom he can support or admonish whenever it suits.

However, Putin speaks the truth when he says he does not fully control them all, in part because doing so would mean taking responsibility for them.  Putin has always regarded the uncouth with distaste, as he does now with Strelkov and Borodai. They are useful, but they can be embarrassing, and indeed incriminating.

The more direct forms of the Kremlin’s involvement are often covered up by a Russian intelligence service working overtime. What we know already is astonishing. Imagine what we do not know. What is certain is that Russia’s GRU, or military intelligence, has strong connections with and infiltrations into its Ukrainian counterpart, built up over many years. The Russians have never really trusted the Ukrainians — even in Soviet times — and the Black Sea Fleet’s presence on Ukrainian soil was a key source of espionage.

Hardware used by pro-Russian forces, including uniforms, vehicles and weapons, is often alleged to be of Russian origin, sometimes rather excitedly so by patriotic Ukrainians and leaders in Kiev. Quite possibly much of it is Russian, but there is little direct evidence. With about 5,000 separatists fighters currently in Ukraine’s eastern regions, ranging in origin from Chechnya to Crimea, it is impossible to disentangle what has been supplied and what purloined.

But as noted, the border is largely open and hard evidence of infiltration of Russian equipment is overwhelmingly obvious to everyone in NATO and the Western national intelligence services. Ragtag separatist "citizens" do not have access to anti-aircraft missiles and other precision weaponry, let alone the training to use them — especially as they are by and large too young to have received Soviet training. 

Like the business world, the separatists war is built on networks rather than command structures, and is therefore confusing to people who are used to Western military practice.  If the Ukrainian forces succeed in controlling the border, the main aim of operations now, they will be able to put a stop to it.

But Russian involvement in Ukraine is far more than tanks and soldiers. Modern warfare is a toolbox which includes conscription via social networks, propaganda via television, coercion via bribery and threats, pressure via the Russian Orthodox Church, blackmail via energy and disruption via cyber attack. Again, some of these are self-evidently from Russia. Others have to be discerned through examination of the circumstantial evidence. Who benefits? Who has the resources?

As in the case of the Crimea operation, mainstream media, and consequently Western governments, have been reluctant to assess the evidence of weapons, equipment, and individuals which undoubtedly come from Russia, perhaps through a misguided trust in Russian assurances that they are not; perhaps because they fear the intricacies are too technical for their readership’s short attention span. Thus, once again, it is left to informed experts to document the direct evidence.

Perhaps the final piece of evidence should be supplied by Vladimir Putin himself. It is he who believes Russia and Ukraine are one nation; it is he who said last week that it was Russia’s duty to defend ethnic Russians abroad. With that central belief system it would be astonishing if there were not Russian involvement in eastern Ukraine. It is not worth wasting time considering direct denials by Putin and other Russian officials, since the experience of Crimea shows that they are both worthless and temporary.

The case for a more robust policy against Russian meddling in Ukraine can thus easily be made by Western media and governments, but only if there is the will to do so. Based on publicly and privately available intelligence, it is now beyond any reasonable doubt that Russia, in one way or another, supports the separatists. And if we’re not making decisions based upon the evidence, what are they based on? In fact, what then is the point of having a foreign policy at all?

James Nixey is the head of Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia Program.

Russia’s Contribution as a Partner in the War on Terrorism

Authored by Henry Plater-Zyberk
SSI | July 08, 2014


Brief Synopsis

This monograph examines terrorism and counterterrorism from the Russian perspective so as to assess prospects for cooperation with Russia in fighting terror. It concludes that, regardless of the state of political relations between Russia and the United States at any given time, longer-term systemic and conceptual obstacles to meaningful cooperation may well prevent any significant Russian contribution to U.S. counterterrorism efforts. This monograph details Russian definitions of terrorism and then looks at the Russian security “pyramid,” which sets out the relevant authority structure. It examines the roles of coordinating bodies such as the Security Council and the National Anti-Terrorist Committee, before looking at the individual organs involved in counterterrorism operations, particularly the Federal Security Service and Ministry of the Interior. The monograph then explores the most important question for Russia in terms of terrorism, the North Caucasus, and finally explores the wider context of the relationship between Russia and the West, particularly the United States, looking at the lengthy list of tensions affecting that relationship even before Russia’s seizure of Crimea, which took place after the monograph was completed.

Download study: PDF