Russian FSB began expanding Ukrainian unit years before invasion: report
- Russia’s main security and spy agency, the FSB, began expanding its Ukrainian unit in 2019, according to The Washington Post.
- The unit more than quintupled in size last summer, growing from 30 deals to around 160.
- This suggests that Putin may have started plotting aggression against Ukraine years ago.
The FSB, Russia’s main security and intelligence agency and successor to the KGB, began a major expansion of its Ukrainian unit as early as 2019, according to a Washington Post report. The revelation suggests Russian President Vladimir Putin may have begun plotting an invasion and “takeover” of Ukraine years ago, a security official in Kyiv who follows the FSB told The Post.
The FSB unit grew from 30 members to about 160 last summer, according to the report, which details Russian intelligence activities and failures leading up to the war. The FSB offered incentives to attract officers from other branches – including free housing in Moscow.
The unit – the ninth directorate of the Department of Operational Information – is headed by Sergey Beseda, who began his career in the KGB, the post said. The main objective of the unit is to ensure that Ukraine is subject to the interests of the Kremlin and Russia.
Files the Post obtained showed that prior to the unprovoked invasion of Russia in late February, FSB agents cultivated an extensive network of paid agents inside Ukraine, some of whom attempted to sabotage the country’s defenses, although others have proved useless to Russia’s ambitions.
Russia’s top experts have repeatedly pointed out that Putin has long cared about Ukraine and thinks it belongs to Russia.
Putin ruled Russia for two decades, coming to power in 2000. In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. That same year, the Kremlin began backing separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region in a war against Ukrainian forces that, in many ways, was a precursor to the full-scale invasion of Russia.
“As long as Putin is in the Kremlin, he will not give up on Ukraine,” said Angela Stent, who worked in the Bureau of Political Planning at the State Department from 1999 to 2001 and as a national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia on the National Intelligence Council from 2004 to 2006, Insider said in April.
“He is not going to give up on his goal of subjugating Ukraine” and “to have a pro-Russian government there,” she said.
“That’s his goal. He obviously hasn’t achieved it now and he probably won’t in the near future, but he won’t give up on that,” Stent added.
She said ensuring Ukraine’s subservience is something that has driven Putin for years and “something he is obsessed with”.
Putin, a former KGB officer, called Ukrainians and Russians “one people”. He also recently compared himself to Peter the Great as he defended Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, offering insight into his imperialist goals in the former Soviet republic. The Russian leader has offered a series of unsubstantiated justifications for the invasion, including blaming NATO – an alliance of which Ukraine is not a member – and baselessly claiming that the Nazis rule the country.