Saturday, April 5, 2014

Russia's FSB Agency Helped Plan Maidan Sniper Killings: Ukrainian Investigation

Thirty members of Russia's FSB security service, the successor to the KGB, helped Ukrainian authorities plan a police assault on mass protests in Kyiv that left 76 dead and hundreds injured Feb. 18-20, Ukrainian security officials said Thursday announcing preliminary results of their investigation into the killings.

Ukrainian authorities also announced the arrest of 12 former riot police officers identified as government snipers who shot protesters in February.

They said dozens of other police and security personnel involved in the killings have fled to Russian-occupied Crimea.

The FSB and Russia's defence ministry also shipped five tonnes of grenades and other explosives to Ukrainian security forces, which used them against protesters, officials said.

Officials said hired civilian goons were also involved in killings of protesters and a journalist.

Russia denied being involved in the shootings, but later acknowledged that an FSB officer, Sergei Beseda, was in Kyiv Feb. 20-21 to check security at the Russian embassy.

UPDATE: Ukrainian military analyst Dmitry Tymchuk said today on his Facebook page (translated here) that Beseda is a colonel-general who commands FSB intelligence operations against ex-Soviet republics. His role doesn't involve embassy security.

Tymchuk said sources informed him Beseda arrived in Kyiv Feb. 20 with a delegation of seven FSB officers.

In addition, Tymchuk names 20 other members of the FSB and other Russian intelligence agencies, half of them ranked lieutenant-colonel or above, who he says were already present in Kyiv at the time.

New Footage of Bloodbath

This Daily Beast story on the shootings includes previously unreported details and new images of security personnel apparently readying to attack protesters and, afterwards, packing up vans as they fled. 

BBC also has this new footage of the carnage.

Footage Best Documenting Shootings

But the footage I think best documents the bloodbath remains this pair of videos showing heavily armed police with sniper rifles going into action -- as well as a 41-minute protesters' POV showing numerous unarmed protesters and medics getting shot, some while withdrawing.

The shootings were reportedly part of a failed larger plan involving over 20,000 police to crush the mass protests against Ukraine's pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych before he fled power Feb. 22, Toronto's Globe and Mail reported in February.

The story cited these documents from Hennadiy Moskal, a Ukrainian parliament member and former deputy chair of Ukraine's SBU security service.

Ukraine Crisis: Alleged Provocateurs Detained With 300 Machine Guns (UPDATED)

Ukraine's SBU security service said Monday it
had detained Russian military intelligence
operative Roman Bannik (above)
Saturday. Bannik had directed anti-
Ukraine protests in the eastern city of
Luhansk, the SBU said.
Ukrainian authorities said today they had detained 15 people reportedly plotting an armed seizure of power in the eastern region of Luhansk, near the Russian border.

Authorities say they seized 300 machine guns, an anti-tank grenade launcher and Molotov cocktails.

The announcement comes on the heels of two separate reports Monday of pro-Russia provocateurs being detained in other parts of Ukraine, including a Russian far-right leader allegedly planning to storm the Ukrainian parliament in Kyiv.

Reports have multiplied of Russian soldiers and busloads of Russian citizens arriving in Ukraine to stage attacks and promote accession of various regions to Russia.

Amping up tensions, Russia's FSB security service, the successor to the KGB, said Thursday it had detained 25 Ukrainians on suspicion of spying on Russian military movements and planning sabotage.

(UPDATE: Russian state media reported April 9 that three of the arrested Ukrainians had been deported to Ukraine and banned from Russia for up to five years because they had planned to spy on the Russian military. The reports didn't mention the earlier sabotage allegations or the other Ukrainians reportedly detained.)

Pro-Russia Protesters Paid $500 Apiece: Report

UPDATE #2: Pro-Russia protesters were paid $500 apiece for participating in the seizure of a government building in Luhansk over the weekend, says Volodymyr Landik, a former Ukrainian parliamentarian from the Party of Regions, the party of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych.

He said the protesters include titushki, hired thugs whom Yanukovych had hired to attack opponents and journalists.

Landik said most people in the city don't support the protesters' demand that the region joins Russia.

A new survey of Ukrainians in mid-March found only 14 percent supported implementation of a federal system of government in Ukraine, one of Russia's demands to resolve the crisis in the region.

The support rose to 45 percent in Ukraine's east, but still fell short of majority territory.

In another survey in February, only 12.5 percent of Ukrainians said they wanted Ukraine to join Russia. In Luhansk, just 24 percent wanted accession to Russia.

UPDATE #3: Ukraine's SBU security service said Monday it had detained a Russian military intelligence operative, Roman Bannik, on Saturday.

Bannik had been directing anti-Ukraine protests in Luhansk, the SBU said.

UPDATE #4: The SBU said April 9 it had detained a Russian citizen, Maria Koleda, for allegedly shooting three people during street clashes in the southern region of Mykolaiv.

She reportedly participated in anti-Ukraine protests and had a pistol when she was detained.

Her social media posts suggest she associated with Russian neo-Nazis and ultanationalists.

UPDATE #5: This Daily Beast story says a U.S. intelligence report warned in late February that Russia would send special forces and intelligence personnel into Ukraine to foment unrest to undermine Ukraine's new government.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Ukraine Crisis: New Reports of Pro-Russia Provocateurs Undercut Moscow Pledge

Fact check: Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said after his meeting Sunday with U.S. secretary of state John Kerry that the two men had agreed to work with Ukraine on "the dismantling of irregular forces and provocateurs."

But just a day later, two new reports have emerged of pro-Russia provocateurs planning attacks in Ukraine.

The reports add to earlier accounts of Russia dispatching agitators and working with organized crime in Ukraine to destabilize the country.

Attacks Reportedly Planned

Ukraine's security service said today it had detained Russian extremist Oleg Bakhtiyarov, leader of the far-right Eurasian Youth Union of Russia, for allegedly planning an armed attack on Ukraine's parliament and government offices.

Bakhtiyarov reportedly recruited 200 people for the attack, promising them $500 apiece. He was apparently working with Russian TV channels to arrange for coverage of the raid, the Kyiv Post said.

In a separate report, Ukrainian security said it detained an intelligence officer from neighbouring Transnistria, a small region that Russian forces helped break away from Moldova in 1992.

The officer, identified as S. Kuzhmuk, was reportedly planning to smuggle arms into Ukraine to use to destabilize the country and disrupt upcoming Ukrainian elections in May.

New Images Undermine Russian Sniper Claims

In a related story, The Daily Beast reported Sunday that Russian intelligence worked closely with Ukrainian security forces involved in shootings of protesters in February before then-president Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia.

The Daily Beast piece includes exclusive photos of heavily armed elite Ukrainian soldiers on one of the bloodiest days.

The photos and earlier video footage of government snipers and other soldiers going into action undermine Russian claims that Ukrainian protesters were themselves behind the shootings of protesters.