New report details the role of Russian intelligence in Ukraine


Briefly: A report by the Royal United Services Institute, the world’s oldest defence and security think tank, reveals new details around the role of Russian intelligence in the Russo-Ukraine war.

Think tank reports can be drier than a KFC biscuit. But this one, based on interviews with intelligence agencies, contains some pretty intriguing details:

  • In mid 2021, Russia’s moles in Ukraine started taking ‘holidays’ to Turkey, Cyprus and Egypt to receive orders from their Moscow handlers
  • Russia was so confident in the success of its planned invasion, it even rented apartments for its special forces in Kyiv
  • And as the invasion began, all Ukrainian general officers received a text or call from Russia urging them not to resist, to minimise bloodshed

But as the ol’ saying goes, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. As Russia started taking punches, its intel plans quickly unravelled.

Intrigue’s take: There are a few key takeaways here. First, this report shows how, absent a culture of transparency or accountability, autocracies like Russia will often just tell the boss what they want to hear.

Second, armed with bad data, autocrats like Putin are more likely to make bad decisions (such as invading a neighbour). And other countries are less able to deter those bad decisions, given they’re based on such unrealistic expectations.

But third, the report says a Russian spy chief did ask Putin to delay the invasion. And in the kind of understatement that only a think tank could muster, it says Putin’s decision to proceed anyway “may be understood as a strategic error of judgement”.

Also worth noting:

  • The report says Russian intel provided $3-4M per month in funding to a Ukrainian politician (Andriy Derkach) to establish a pro-Russia network in Ukraine.
  • The report’s conclusion claims Russian intelligence is now attempting to destabilise Ukraine’s neighbour, Moldova.
Latest Author Articles
Iran launches first-ever direct attack on Israel

After three decades of shadow war and 13 days of foreshadowing, Iran launched its first-ever direct attack on Israel early on Sunday morning.

21 April, 2024
The four most intriguing lines from the IMF’s World Economic Outlook

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) just dropped its latest World Economic Outlook. Didn’t have time to read all 202 pages? We got you.

18 April, 2024
Six quick signals from Kishida’s visit to the US

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has kicked off his US visit, hitching a ride with President Biden in ‘The Beast’ to crush some crab cakes over at BlackSalt last night, before continuing the week’s formal program today (Wednesday).

10 April, 2024
The world condemns Ecuador’s raid on Mexico’s embassy

An international tit-for-tat culminated on Friday night with Ecuadorian police dramatically storming Mexico’s embassy to arrest Ecuador’s former vice president.

8 April, 2024