National Security

Putin’s Spies Convinced Ukrainian Officials Russia Wouldn’t Invade, Docs Reveal

Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Russia’s internal security service convinced Ukrainian leaders that Putin did not plan to invade, a Washington Post investigation of internal Ukrainian and Russian intelligence sources showed.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) infiltrated all levels of the Ukrainian government with the intent to depose Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and install a pro-Kremlin leader in his place, according to a Washington Post review of sensitive materials obtained from Ukrainian and other intelligence agencies. Believing the task would be easy, the FSB misled both Ukrainian policymakers and Russian President Vladimir Putin, contributing to a brutal invasion neither side anticipated.

“We didn’t envision… some classic invasion in Second World War style with tanks, artillery and infantry,” a senior Ukrainian security official told the Post.

The FSB, which oversees espionage in the former USSR, believed concentrating Russia’s resources on an assault of the nation’s capital would be sufficient to topple the government and create an opening for installing pro-Russian leadership from among the many Ukrainian officials co-opted by the Russians over years of clandestine operations in Kyiv, the Post reported.

The FSB “expected somebody to open the gate,” a senior Ukrainian official told the Post. “They didn’t expect any resistance.”

The FSB’s Ukraine division ballooned in size from 30 officers to 160 in the months prior to the invasion, recruiting members of Ukraine’s security service to sabotage the country’s defenses.

The CIA tried unsuccessfully to persuade Ukraine’s leadership that Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s border was credible evidence Putin would invade, but received a tepid response, according to the Post. (RELATED: White House Pushes Back On Report That Biden Told Ukraine Their Capital Could Soon Be ‘Sacked’)

“Our information said that the Russians are not planning war,” a Ukrainian intelligence chief told the Post. Zelenskyy weighed Ukraine’s intelligence equally with the CIA’s.

Days later, the UK announced it had reliable intelligence Russia planned to replace Zelenskyy with a pro-Kremlin acolyte, naming several candidates from among Ukraine’s political leaders with known connections to Russian intelligence.

Despite internal polling that indicated strong anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine, the FSB continued to funnel misleading and falsified intelligence to the Kremlin claiming the Ukrainians would welcome Moscow’s rule, the Post reported.

Senior FSB officers stationed in Ukraine told their subordinates to leave during the initial phases of the war, promising that “When you return, it will all be different.”

Instead, Russia’s northern war effort and attempted siege of Kyiv was repelled. Russia pulled back and reconstituted its forces in the east, where a long and bloody battle of attrition has waged since at least June.

The full extent of Russia’s penetration of Ukraine’s governing and security apparatuses remains unclear. In February, a Ukrainian NGO published what it claimed to be identifying information for a list of FSB operatives involved in the war effort.

In July, Zelenskyy sacked Security Service of Ukraine director Ivan Bakanov, a childhood friend, and suspended several top security officials over charges of treason.

The Russian government, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and Security Service and the CIA did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

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