An Assassination in Ukraine: The Unmasking of the Maskirovka has Removed the Need for Subtlety

Towards the end of 2016 a member of Russia’s parliament and his wife defected from Russia to Ukraine. Denis Voronenkov and his wife Maria Masakova sought asylum and he agreed to assist in the Ukrainian investigation into Victor Yanukovych,

KIEV—Only a few months ago Denis Voronenkov and Maria Maksakova were two of the brightest stars in Moscow’s political firmament, trying to improve the system from inside, but very much a part of it. They rode in luxurious cars, dined with the Kremlin’s elite at expensive restaurants, vacationed in Paris and Cannes. Both were members of the Russian parliament, the Duma. He was a colonel in the Russian military—a veteran of the military prosecutor’s office—as well. She, a classic Russian beauty, was a diva at the Mariinsky (Kirov) opera. The couple lived the good life in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But then the system chewed them up and spat them out.

Now they are whistleblowers—defectors hunted by Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, who have found asylum in Ukraine. And they say they are ready to open up in court about the inner workings of the Putin establishment.

“Americans should realize that Putin and his guys are convinced that he spins the planet with his feet,” like a soccer ball, Voronenkov told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview. “The FSB cyber forces are quite powerful globally. Now they do not just listen to you (they listened and recorded all my phone calls for eight years). They also attack other states.”

Col. Voronenkov said he and his wife had no choice but to flee Russia late last year to “defeat the designs of the FSB,” which had begun to investigate them on a number of alleged criminal charges related to a contentious real estate deal. A favorite strategy for silencing suspected troublemakers is to charge them with corruption in a system rife with it.

Voronenkov was assassinated early today in Kiev.

The Independent reports that:

A former Russian MP has been shot and killed in the centre of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, in what the Ukrainian president described as an “act of state terrorism” by Russia.

Denis Voronenkov, who testified to Ukrainian investigators and criticsed Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea, was shot dead by an unidentified gunman near the entrance of an upscale hotel.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the killing “clearly shows the handwriting of Russian special services shown repeatedly in various European capitals in the past.”

In a statement released by his spokesman, Svyatoslav Tsegolko, Mr Poroshenko described the victim as a key witness who gave testimony about “Russian aggression” to the Ukrainian authorities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, dismissed the claim of Russian involvement in the killing as “absurd” in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova went further, saying the “killer regime” in Kiev “will do its best to make sure that no one will ever know the truth about what happened.”

Another former MP and Kremlin critic living in Kiev said Mr. Voronenkov was killed while heading to meet with him.

Mr Voronenkov was “an investigator who was deadly dangerous for the [Russian] security agencies,” Mr Ponomaryov wrote on Facebook, according to a translation from The Moscow Times.

Not subtle at all.

We also know more about the Russian attorney thrown from his building:

And Russia’s covert Little Green Men and overt actions involving Crimea and the ongoing Russian low intensity war with Ukraine continues apace.



Nightmare Open Thread: Overgrown Toddlers with Weapons of Mass Destruction

A-B-C! One spoilt princeling with Chemical weapons, trumped by another with Atomic fantasies…

Thanks for breaking the world, Repubs!



A Long Night in Ukraine

 

While everything else has been going on it is important to remember that events elsewhere in the world have not paused. Ukraine has been under sustained attacked from Russian backed/Russia’s Little Green Men for several days.

The deadliest flare-up in fighting in eastern Ukraine in 1 1/2 months stretched into a third day as the European Union labeled the violence a “blatant” breach of the stalled 2015 peace accord aimed at resolving the almost three-year-old conflict.

The military said Tuesday that Russian-backed insurgents pounded the town of Avdiivka, 20 kilometers (13 miles) from the conflict zone’s biggest city, separatist-held Donetsk, using rockets and artillery. Rebels blamed the shelling on the army. President Petro Poroshenko broke off a visit Monday to Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced concern at the security situation.

And:

Ceasefire monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, tallied 2,260 “ceasefire violations” on Sunday.

And early Monday morning, combined Russian-separatist forces launched a predawn artillery attack and follow-on ground assault on the Ukrainian-held front-line town of Avdiivka.

Ukrainian officials claimed the attacks were an attempt by combined Russian forces to derail the ceasefire by effectively baiting Ukraine into retaliatory actions, which could be used as an excuse for further escalations, or for propaganda.

By Monday afternoon, Ukrainian forces announced they had repelled the attack on Avdiivka, but combat was ongoing.

“The enemy continues to fire at our positions with heavy artillery and mortars,” Ukrainian military spokesman Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told reporters in Kiev Monday.

The BBC reports that an evacuation is being planned:

Ukrainian officials are preparing for a possible evacuation of the eastern frontline town of Avdiivka amid renewed fighting with pro-Russian rebels.

If evacuation takes place, officials say up to 8,000 people could be removed each day from the government-held town, which has no water or electricity.

Shelling and the deaths of several more people were reported by both sides on Tuesday.

Each blames the other for the upsurge in violence.

It erupted despite an attempt to renew a ceasefire last month.

Ukrainian forces say the outbreak began when rebels launched an attack on Avdiivka, which borders land controlled by the separatists.

Seven soldiers and a number of rebels have been killed in recent days, and there have been civilian casualties on both sides but precise numbers are unclear.

The US’s official response is:

Cease-Fire Violations in Eastern Ukraine

Press Statement

Mark C. Toner
Acting Spokesperson
Washington, DC
January 31, 2017

The United States is deeply concerned with the recent spike in violence in eastern Ukraine around Avdiivka-Yasynuvata. Since January 28, the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission has reported a dramatic increase in fighting, including with heavy artillery and other weapons proscribed by the Minsk agreements. The fighting has caused dozens of Ukrainian military casualties and 10 civilian casualties. It has also left 17,000 civilians, including 2,500 children, without water, heat, or electricity. To avert a larger humanitarian crisis, we call for an immediate, sustained ceasefire and full and unfettered access for OSCE monitors. We also reaffirm U.S. support for full implementation of the Minsk agreements.

 

 



Information Fratricide

Information Fratricide is defined in FM 3-13: Inform and Influence Activities as:

the result of employing information-related capabilities operations 30 elements in a way that causes effects in the information environment that impede the conduct of 31 friendly operations or adversely affect friendly forces

The President made the following statement regarding Iraqi oil on Saturday:

This was during his remarks at the CIA. For those that can’t or don’t want to watch, the President said that not only should the US have kept the oil after invading Iraq in 2003, but that maybe we’ll get a second chance to do so. As you can imagine this has led to a wee bit of consternation in the US, with a number of people pointing out that this is a war crime. Buzzfeed actually sent a correspondent to talk to Iraqis fighting to remove ISIL from Iraq about it.

Abu Luay once battled US troops as a teenager in a series of ugly urban battles. Now the 27-year-old says he’s ready to sacrifice his family to fight the Americans again if the US follows through on President Donald Trump’s suggestion on Saturday to take his country’s oil.

“I participated in the attack against the Americans by attacking them with mortars and roadside bombs, and I’m ready to do it again,” said Abu Luay, an Iraqi security official who provided his nom de guerre and said he was not allowed to speak to the press. His is now fighting along the frontlines with armed Shiite groups in northwest Iraq. “We kept our ammunition and weapons from the time the Americans left for fighting ISIS. But once ISIS is gone we will save our weapons for the Americans.”

And:

“There’s no way Trump could take the oil unless he launched a new military front and it be a new world war,” said Kareem Kashekh, a photographer who works for the Popular Mobilization Units, a new branch of Iraq’s armed forces consisting of former militiamen and volunteers fighting against ISIS.

“He cannot do it. He cannot succeed,” said Dawoud Ali, a 30-year-old Baghdad resident and a member of Ansar al-Aghida, one of the Shiite militias fighting against ISIS. “Of course I would fight the Americans if they came for the oil.”

The President’s remarks at Langley, which mirror statements he made throughout the campaign and all the way back to 2011, are a prime example of Information Fratricide. Regardless of whether Americans are even paying attention, our allies, partners, competitors, and adversaries are. This type of thing has happened before during both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and when it does it puts our personnel at risk.

Gen David Petraeus said that the plans by the evangelical Dove World Outreach Centre to destroy the Muslim holy book on its grounds on Saturday should be dropped.

“Images of the burning of a Koran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan – and around the world – to inflame public opinion and incite violence,” said Gen Petraeus.

“It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community,” he said in a statement.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato Secretary General, also expressed concerns about the risk to troops’ security and said that “such actions are in strong contradiction with all the values that we stand for and fight for”.

In 2005, 15 people died and scores were wounded in riots in Afghanistan sparked by a story in Newsweek magazine alleging that American interrogators at Guantánamo Bay had flushed a copy of the Koran down the lavatory to get inmates to talk.

You all may remember back during Operation Enduring Freedom that a squad of Soldiers burned approximately 100 Qurans and pieces of other Islamic documents in Afghanistan in 2012. After an investigation it was determined that this was not done maliciously and six Soldiers received administrative punishments. The incident set off several days or riots, disturbances, and attacks on US Forces in Afghanistan. And it was reported that the Soldiers did this even after being warned not to do so by Afghan Soldiers they were working with. These Soldiers didn’t get up one day and think: “hmmm, how can I create a strategic communication problem and put people’s lives at risk?” Rather, they actually thought they were doing something useful by disposing of damaged Qurans and other Islamic documents. These actions, both those of the crazy pastor from North-Central Florida that are in no way official US actions and the unintentional insult given by a squad of Soldiers in Afghanistan in 2012 both put the lives of US Forces – military and civilian – at risk. Just think about how much more risk is created when the President of the United States commits Information Fratricide. How many of our personnel are now at risk because of suspicions created by the President’s musings last Saturday? Right now the Force Protection sections for each Service and for the Joint Force are working over time, as are their equivalents at Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, to mitigate the damage and keep US personnel safe from what is called Green (host country national) on Blue (US and Coalition Forces) violence.



And Now a Word from the Professionals

I give you the USMC Small War’s Manual. You want to fight a rebellion? Lead a revolution? Overthrow tyranny? Counter an insurgency? Get to reading!

I’m personally going to the gym…








Self Inflicted Wounds: Blind, Deaf, and Maybe Dumb

In the street of the blind, the one eyed man is the guiding light

Genesis Rabbah (300-500 CE)

Last week Yediot Ahronot reported, now confirmed by Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post, that Israel’s Intelligence Community has itself been warned to be careful sharing and transferring information and intelligence with the White House during the next Administration.  Now the Sunday Times of London and The Guardian are reporting that our British allies are very, very concerned:

A British intelligence source with extensive transatlantic experience said US spies had labelled Trump and his advisers’ links to the Kremlin problematic. “Until we have established whe­ther Trump and senior mem­­bers of his team can be trusted, we’re going to hold back,” the source told the Times. “Putting­ it bluntly, we can’t risk betraying sources and methods to the Russians.”

The concern is that any information and intelligence shared after the transition  will wind up with the Russians and the Russians would likely provide it to the Iranians (and the unspoken bit here for the Israelis is the Iranians would share it with the Syrians and Hezbullah). That this information quickly leaked from the Israelis is not an accident or a coincidence. It was intended to leak in order to provide the same message to our other allies and partners: that anything shared with the incoming Administration’s White House team may wind up with Russia. Through the Israeli leak the US’s other allies, partners, and clients have now been warned. This includes the other four members of the Five Eyes Intelligence alliance, the rest of our NATO allies, and other allies and partners. They have all been put on notice that the US Intelligence Community thinks that the incoming President, Vice President, their strategy, policy, and communication advisors, the incoming National Security Advisor and his deputies, and the rest of the incoming White House team cannot be trusted with classified information.

This means that the US will have its ability to see and hear seriously restricted starting next Friday. We won’t be blind, as we’ll still have our own capability, but our vision will be significantly dimmed and our hearing significantly dulled. This will make managing and mitigating the foreign, defense, and national security problem sets that we are currently facing, let alone the ability to anticipate future ones, much more difficult. And this includes the ongoing Russian active measures, influence, and cyber operations directed at us, at our allies, and at our partners.

We are off the looking glass and through the map.



The Maskirovka Slips IX: KOMPROMAT!!!! (Updated)

CNN has reported that a two page synopsis was appended to the classified briefing given to the President, the President-elect, and the Gang of Eight (The Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, and the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees) stating that a retired MI6 officer had reported to the FBI in Rome that the Russians had been trying to and had compromised the President-elect. CNN’s reporting confirms and advances David Corn’s, which I first highlighted in an earlier Maskirovka post.

Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.

The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible. The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources, but has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump.

There is video of Jake Tapper covering the story at the link.

Rick Wilson, a GOP communications and campaign strategist who ran former CIA officer Evan McMullin’s independent campaign for President, and who tried to get this information out during the primaries, believes the personal kompromat has to do with:

CNN’s reporting includes:

One reason the nation’s intelligence chiefs took the extraordinary step of including the synopsis in the briefing documents was to make the President-elect aware that such allegations involving him are circulating among intelligence agencies, senior members of Congress and other government officials in Washington, multiple sources tell CNN.
These senior intelligence officials also included the synopsis to demonstrate that Russia had compiled information potentially harmful to both political parties, but only released information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Democrats. This synopsis was not an official part of the report from the intelligence community case about Russian hacks, but some officials said it augmented the evidence that Moscow intended to harm Clinton’s candidacy and help Trump’s, several officials with knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.
The two-page synopsis also included allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government, according to two national security officials.
And:
CNN has confirmed that the synopsis was included in the documents that were presented to Mr. Trump but cannot confirm if it was discussed in his meeting with the intelligence chiefs.
The Trump transition team declined repeated requests for comment.
CNN has reviewed a 35-page compilation of the memos, from which the two-page synopsis was drawn. The memos originated as opposition research, first commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans, and later by Democrats. At this point, CNN is not reporting on details of the memos, as it has not independently corroborated the specific allegations. But, in preparing this story, CNN has spoken to multiple high ranking intelligence, administration, congressional and law enforcement officials, as well as foreign officials and others in the private sector with direct knowledge of the memos.
Some of the memos were circulating as far back as last summer. What has changed since then is that US intelligence agencies have now checked out the former British intelligence operative and his vast network throughout Europe and find him and his sources to be credible enough to include some of the information in the presentations to the President and President-elect a few days ago.
And:
The two-page summary was written without the detailed specifics and information about sources and methods included in the memos by the former British intelligence official. That said, the synopsis was considered so sensitive it was not included in the classified report about Russian hacking that was more widely distributed, but rather in an annex only shared at the most senior levels of the government: President Obama, the President-elect, and the eight Congressional leaders.
CNN has also learned that on December 9, Senator John McCain gave a full copy of the memos — dated from June through December, 2016 — to FBI Director James Comey. McCain became aware of the memos from a former British diplomat who had been posted in Moscow. But the FBI had already been given a set of the memos compiled up to August 2016, when the former MI6 agent presented them to an FBI official in Rome, according to national security officials.
The raw memos on which the synopsis is based were prepared by the former MI6 agent, who was posted in Russia in the 1990s and now runs a private intelligence gathering firm. His investigations related to Mr. Trump were initially funded by groups and donors supporting Republican opponents of Mr. Trump during the GOP primaries, multiple sources confirmed to CNN. Those sources also said that once Mr. Trump became the nominee, further investigation was funded by groups and donors supporting Hillary Clinton.
Spokespeople for the FBI and the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment. Officials who spoke to CNN declined to do so on the record given the classified nature of the material.
Some of the allegations were first reported publicly in Mother Jones one week before the election.
One high level administration official told CNN, “I have a sense the outgoing administration and intelligence community is setting down the pieces so this must be investigated seriously and run down. I think [the] concern was to be sure that whatever information was out there is put into the system so it is evaluated as it should be and acted upon as necessary.”
The story has some additional corroboration from British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson:

Vladimir Putin was behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee during the US presidential election campaign, Boris Johnson has said, accusing Putin’s Moscow of being “up to all sorts of tricks”.

It is the first time the UK has confirmed US intelligence reports linking the hacks to Russia, although UK intelligence agencies are understood to have been the first to alert their US counterparts to the evidence.

Speaking in the Commons, the UK’s foreign secretary told MPs it was “pretty clear” the hacking attack had come from Russia. He said he had told the incoming US administration “we do think the Russian state – the Putin Kremlin – is up to all sorts of very dirty tricks, but it would be folly further to demonise Russia or to push Russia into a corner.”

NPR’s Russia Correspondent is reporting:

At this point I am not sure what this means. I know what it should mean politically and criminally and in terms of counterintelligence. But given what we’ve seen so far, I’m not sure what it should mean. I suppose we should start with the traditional questions: what did the President-elect, his campaign leadership and senior staff, the Vice President-elect, and the senior GOP leadership in Congress and at the RNC know and when did they know it?

Update at 6:50 PM

Buzzfeed (h/t: lamh in comments) is reporting that it has the dossier and it has published it.

A dossier making explosive — but unverified — allegations that the Russian government has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” President-elect Donald Trump for years and gained compromising information about him has been circulating among elected officials, intelligence agents, and journalists for weeks.

The dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians. CNN reported Tuesday that a two-page synopsis of the report was given to President Barack Obama and Trump.

Now BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.

The link to the dossier can be found at Buzzfeed.