The CIA Built Up Ukraine’s Intelligence Services. Now It Wonders If Ukraine Has Gone Too Far

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Ukraine’s unrestrained approach toward sabotage and assassination since Russia’s invasion is testing its deeply embedded relationship with the CIA, officials from both countries said, according to The Washington Post.

Ukraine’s success is due mostly to the CIA building up Ukraine’s soviet-style intelligence directorates and forging deep ties with elite groups of Ukrainian operatives since Russia first invaded in 2014, the Post reported, citing more than two dozen current and former U.S., Western and Ukrainian intelligence and security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. The CIA and some officials in Kyiv are uncomfortable with the targeted killings of Russian citizens, officials and alleged collaborators on Russian and occupied territory.

“All targets hit by the SBU are completely legal,” Vasyl Malyuk, director of Ukraine’s main intelligence service, told the Post in a statement. Officials on both sides said the CIA and Ukraine have worked to maintain distance between the U.S. officials and Ukraine’s assassination gambits.

“We had a lot of restrictions about working with the Ukrainians operationally,” a former U.S. intelligence official told the Post. (RELATED: ‘I Don’t Have Any Regrets’: Former CIA Director Defends Letter Calling Hunter Biden Laptop Russian Disinformation)

In times when the CIA was aware of operations in advance, one Ukrainian official said, the CIA would respond: “We don’t want any part of that.” Forging a relationship with the Ukrainian intelligence agencies was seen as a way to build an ally and counter Russia.

The CIA gifted Ukraine with advanced surveillance technology, trained new recruits and expanded intelligence sharing to a level unthinkable before 2014, the officials said, according to the Post. The CIA maintains a large footprint in Ukraine, the officials told the outlet.

Since February 2022, Ukraine’s special services have carried out ambitious covert operations including assassinating a pro-war pundit in Russia, blowing up a key bridge and attacking a Russian submarine, the Post reported.

Some of Ukraine’s covert operations have clear military justifications, but officials in Washington and some in Kyiv questioned the utility of assassinating noncombatants, according to the Post.

One example is the car bombing that killed Daria Dugina, the daughter of Alexander Dugin who was seen as a powerful pro-war agitator — and who was the intended target of the operation — in Moscow, the officials said. Ukraine’s security services also killed a former Russian submarine commander during his jog through the Russian city of Krasnodar and a military blogger in at a cafe St. Petersburg.

“We have too many enemies who are more important to neutralize,” a senior Ukrainian security official told the Post. “People who launch missiles. People who committed atrocities in Bucha.”

A former CIA official said that even if Ukraine’s wartime tactics have clear advantages, they could prove difficult to restrain in a peacetime environment, according to the Post.

“If Ukraine’s intelligence operations become even bolder — targeting Russians in third countries, for example — you could imagine how that might cause rifts with partners,” the official said.

CIA officials maintain the agency’s role is to improve Ukraine’s intelligence capabilities, stressing that CIA advisers played no role in Ukraine’s “liquidation” operations, according to the Post.

“Any potential operational concerns have been conveyed clearly to the Ukrainian services,” a senior CIA official told the Post.

The CIA did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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