Espreso. Global

Does CIA have any bases in Ukraine and what was the purpose of its director's visit? Serhiy Zgurets's column

1 March, 2024 Friday

Destruction of Russian aircraft, frontline updates, counteroffensive and whether it is true that there are 12 bases of the US Central Intelligence Agency in Ukraine

Elimination of three Russian aircraft

Ukraine’s Air Force demonstrated a kind of combat hat-trick. On February 29, they managed to down three Russian Su-34 frontline bombers in a single day. The first aircraft was shot down in the morning, followed by two more later on. Notably, these downings occurred in different locations: near Avdiivka and Mariupol, while the initial Su-34 was reported to have been shot down in a broader eastern direction.

Thus, since February 17, Russia has already lost 10 Su-34 frontline bombers, 2 Su-35 fighters, and a downed A-50 long-range detection aircraft. That is a total of 13 downed aircraft.

The systematic destruction of Russian tactical aviation by the Ukrainian Air Force has escalated from methodical operations to a massacre. Just the other day, Ukrainian Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk suggested that Russia should reconsider its strategy of relentless air assaults due to the significant losses incurred, yet it appears it has not taken heed and persists in employing aviation with the resulting losses we observe today. While the exact cause of the diminishing Russian aviation capabilities remains uncertain, the primary theory involves the so-called “roving Patriot systems,” which are objectively considered the most probable cause given their capability to engage high-altitude air targets at ranges up to 160 km. This suggests there are specific zones where these systems could effectively be utilized to take down Russian aircraft.

Russia continues to heavily rely on aircraft bombs, as these aircraft are the primary carriers of the KAB guided aerial bombs, with usage statistics that are quite striking. Kovalenko from the Information Resistance group reported that February witnessed the most intensive use of KABs in comparison to earlier periods, with over 1,200 bombs, ranging from 200 to 1,500 kg, being deployed. This represents a tremendous volume, with the peak occurring between February 16 and 17, during which 151 bombings took place, 94 of which targeted Avdiivka. It's noteworthy to mention that on February 17, Ukrainian forces withdrew from Avdiivka and have since been holding a defensive line to the west of the town.

How many Su-34 aircraft does Russia still have? Let me remind you that before the active phase of the war there were 140 of these bombers, in two years they built 16 more and a certain number of them were destroyed. I haven't found the exact number yet, but we have to conclude that the Ukrainian Air Force will have to work hard to destroy even more of these enemy air targets in the form of Su-34s.

Statements of the Russian dictator

Ukraine's air defense capabilities are tasked with more than just neutralizing fighter jets, especially in light of recent developments where the primary perpetrator, Russian President Vladimir Putin, acknowledged the deployment of the sea-based Zircon hypersonic strike system against Ukraine. Putin revealed this information during his address to the Federal Assembly, confirming that this weapon system is already in use.

Why is this really important? Because it is actually a confirmation that Russia is involved in terrorist attacks on Ukraine using various types of weapons, and these words will also be another proof of Russia’s criminal actions. Against this backdrop, we need to understand that all of Putin's intimidation related to the mention of these weapons, which Russia will never actually bring to the technical level, are rather attempts to intimidate our partners, but they will likely have the opposite effect. Namely, to expand and deepen cooperation with Ukraine by strengthening our defense potential, our military power through the use of various effective mechanisms that have proven themselves in the course of hostilities. This is not only a direct clash with the enemy, not only artillery, not only ammunition, but also the interaction of our special services.

The Kremlin had a plan for Ukraine’s counteroffensive even before it began

I would like to start with a difficult one. During Volodymyr Zelenskyy's press conference on February 25, he said that last fall, when the counteroffensive was being prepared, these plans were quickly on the Kremlin's desk.

Lieutenant General Valeriy Kondratyuk, Head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine in 2020-2021, Head of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine in 2015-2016, believes that this statement is an understanding that the country still does not have a counterintelligence regime, i.e., strong or guaranteed protection of information.

“The issue is primarily about the military counterintelligence of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), which is responsible for ensuring the counterintelligence regime of the Ministry of Defense of the General Staff. As for the list of people who, according to the majority of our journalists, were involved in these plans, there were definitely five or seven people. If we approach this issue more professionally, it is clear that information could have been taken not only from the top officials, but also from their inner circle, assistants, and those people who were directly involved in the preparation of SBU documents and the planning of our counteroffensive. I would like to emphasize the importance of recalling once again that the main function of the Security Service of Ukraine is not to successfully compete with the Main Intelligence Directorate in launching drones, but to create a powerful and reliable counterintelligence regime in the state," explained the former head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine.

The New York Times article on spy wars

You've probably seen the New York Times article titled "The Spy War," which describes how the CIA secretly helped Ukraine in its war with Putin. This article is based on a conversation with a number of officials from both the United States and Ukraine. The material is very complex and difficult to understand, but extremely interesting.

Kondratyuk said that the article was published just before the meeting of the United States Congress.

"As for the content of the article. There are two Pulitzer Prize winners, i.e. people who are more than professional in their journalistic activities. And according to their testimony, they conducted more than 200 surveys. I understand that the materials were prepared for perhaps six months or more in order to conduct so many interviews, to analyze this material, and it is clear that it was already, let's say, ready, but in terms of time, why now, it is not even a secret. Because, according to senior US officials, this material was agreed upon at the level of the CIA's leadership and was also previously agreed upon with President Biden's office, and it was determined that it would be released on Sunday, on the eve of an important week when the next attempts will be made in the US Congress to obtain support for Ukraine and provide funding," explained the former Chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Kondratyuk also mentioned the cooperation between the US intelligence service and the Ukrainian intelligence. He said that today the interaction is more than established: "This is not only a matter of, you know, national interests, although it is certainly based on the interests of protecting our own national things, but also a high level of mutual trust and essentially a strategic perspective. If they say, for example, that in order to join NATO, you need to gain trust through intelligence services, joint operations, I want to say that we have long since passed these criteria and passed all the exams, for, say, a confirmatory level of partnership and compliance with today's criteria of the Western service or the intelligence services of democratic countries."

CIA in Ukraine

The article also claims that there are 12 secret CIA bases along the border with Russia in Ukraine. According to the former head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine, the article did not mention bases on the territory of Ukraine.

"Starting in 2015, the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, under my leadership, realized that we do not have sufficient forces and means to monitor Russia's possible, let's say, preparations, which have already taken place, the seizure of Crimea and the east of the state, their further preparation for a large-scale aggression. It was for this purpose that the intelligence centers of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine were established along the border and later, when the level of trust between our information - American and Ukrainian - was already high enough," Kondratyuk explained. "It was then that the officers who served there also had the opportunity to undergo additional training in different places under various programs of both our European partners and the United States, and to implement joint activities in the interests of our countries in Russia. In other words, it was never a question of establishing American CIA bases in Ukraine. It was always about intelligence centers, that is, the capabilities of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine."

CIA Director's visit to Kyiv

There were reports that William Burns secretly visited Ukraine last Thursday.

The former head of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine emphasized that the CIA director is called a secret diplomatic weapon of the United States of America. Burns is a professional diplomat who was the US ambassador to Russia and was behind the preparation of the Iran deal. This man favors diplomacy and personal contacts.

"Such visits are primarily related to his professional activities and he prefers such personal contacts. Similarly, on the eve of the war, when Russia invaded, his goal was to make sure, see, and feel the leadership of the Russian special services and Putin personally, to see the irreversibility of the decision to launch military aggression against Ukraine. The number of visits to Ukraine indicates strategic interests, and the professional things that are constantly in his field of vision and the fact that he prefers personal trips is of great importance for Ukraine, because it is evidence that all US statements are definitely supported at the level of these departments and through the US Department of Defense," Kondratyuk summarized.

US assistance to Ukraine

He believes that the worst-case scenario is that if the United States does not provide Ukraine with assistance, it will have to rely on the resources of its European partners for some time to come.

"The main thing for our partners today is to understand that it is not so much Russia's tactical success in capturing certain villages that is important, but the fact that today the losses among the military of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are increasing, increasing many times over. Why? Because it is precisely because of the lack of adequate artillery ammunition and long-range weapons. But from a strategic perspective, our partners should also look at history, because in 10 years, the young people who have grown up in the occupied territories will be joining the Russian army under contract, and if, God forbid, they believe that Ukraine may still lose this war, they should understand that in 10 years Russia will be replenished with human and industrial resources. And Ukraine will significantly strengthen its capabilities and "inspire" further aggression directly against NATO and Europe," Kondratyuk added.

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