Extortion, threats, fear, traitors: How Russia recruits Ukrainian spies


KYIV — The Ukrainian soldier had actually been combating the Russians on the field of battle when they came for his moms and dads in busy eastern Ukraine. They were drawn from their home and hurt, according to Ukraine’s safety solution. Then, a Russian representative got in touch with the soldier with a last chance: Switch sides and spy for Russia, or his household would endure even more damage.

The soldier at some point accepted assist Russia, according to the Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU. Acting on guidelines from his Russian trainer, the SBU stated in a news release, the soldier intended to include a poison to the supply of water of the washing facility made use of by elderly policemans.

The firm stated it had actually obstructed the soldier’s story to toxin the Ukrainian army command in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia area after the Russians had actually endangered his household. He has actually been billed with treason and deals with life jail time.

The event clarifies a strategy Russia’s safety solutions are making use of to hire Ukrainians.

Moscow’s first strategy was to have its representatives penetrate the highest degree of Ukrainian culture in advance of its intrusion and afterwards take power from within. But a lot of those individuals were either removed by Ukrainian police or gotten away by themselves in the initial months after Russia’s intrusion.

Now, greater than 2 years right into the battle, there are less Ukrainians with pro-Russian compassions, specifically ready of impact, happy to assist Moscow.

Videos, papers and sms message exchanges supplied to The Washington Post by SBU authorities and Ukrainians called by people declaring to stand for Russia’s unique solutions disclosed that in a lot of cases the Russians made use of extortion to compel Ukrainians to benefit them — by intimidating member of the family that still live under Russian line of work or that have actually been apprehended.

The Post is not completely determining the SBU authorities or the various other people due to the fact that releasing their names might place them at risk, and would certainly additionally run the risk of the safety and security of member of the family in Russian bondage or living under Russian line of work.

While some Ukrainians have accessibility to leading authorities and important details, such as the soldier in Zaporizhzhia, several are simply day-to-day individuals without any training or experience in reconnaissance. Instructions from the Russian trainers have actually consisted of reporting on the motion of army devices or verifying that a rocket struck its target.

In a battle in which the fight lines have actually relocated little bit in the previous year, any kind of bit of details can supply a side.

The Ukrainian soldier — the SBU has actually not revealed his identification — connected with a person from the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, via the Telegram encrypted messaging application. In text that the SBU has actually revealed, the FSB representative asked the soldier to supply details on his army system — what its jobs were, that belonged to the command framework and images of their placements.

“We don’t ask the sort of information we don’t have to know,” the soldier responded in one message. “It can cause suspicion.”

“You don’t have to ask anything,” the FSB trainer responded. “Take photos of the materiel your unit has.”

Extortion isn’t a brand-new technique made use of by Russian safety solutions, however it has actually come to be extra prevalent as Russia has actually inhabited about 20 percent of Ukraine and taken hundreds of detainees. SBU authorities stated the Russians will certainly send out images and video clips to member of the family of detainees of battle, occasionally revealing the detainee with a weapon to their head.

One target of such threats was Yana, whose mommy was a Ukrainian boundary guard in the northeast Kharkiv area when Russia attacked. The mommy was promptly apprehended, however months later on, Yana got odd messages from her mommy’s phone. At initially, the individual on the various other end was respectful, Yana stated, assuring that her mommy would certainly not be hurt. But in exchange they desired details, and asked if Yana saw any kind of army devices in her Kharkiv area.

The tone altered after Yana rejected to respond to.

“The Russians are angry,” one message stated. “There’s one woman, many men,” one more stated.

Yana after that got a phone call from her mommy. She informed Yana that she required to reply to the messages.

“She said her life depended on it,” Yana stated.

Yana’s mommy was at some point launched and no more lives under Russian line of work after Ukraine regained a lot of the Kharkiv area in September 2022.

In various other instances, nevertheless, the Russians took Ukrainian detainees with them as they pulled away. One was a senior male. Months after he was captured, his child got a Telegram message from an unidentified number with an image of the old male. The sender removed the message secs later on. The Post is not determining the child due to the fact that his daddy continues to be a Russian detainee.

“He looked so thin, like he’d been in a concentration camp,” he stated. “The next message was, ‘If you want your father to live, you’ll work for us.’”

The child delayed, requesting for even more time to believe. But the SBU captured wind of what the Russians were trying and called the male prior to he might pass any kind of details, a counterintelligence authorities stated. Now, the SBU keeps an eye on the child’s interactions with the Russians and routes his replies so it appears like he is working together.

Had the SBU not interfered, the child stated, he would certainly have done what the Russians asked. He resides in fear currently, fretted that he is being viewed which the Russians will certainly figure out that he talked to Ukrainian police.

“It was all a shock,” he stated. “I didn’t know what to tell them so that they wouldn’t hurt him.”

Even if they are responding to ruthless extortion, Ukrainians that accept snoop for Russia encounter severe jail time.

An SBU counterintelligence policeman that has actually explored such instances stated he “feels sorry” for individuals whose member of the family are endangered, however stated they need to get in touch with the authorities as quickly as Russian unique solutions make get in touch with, “to make it impossible or minimize the damage from the barbaric actions” of the Russians.

In that instance, they will certainly be dealt with as targets, not traitors. “If a person does not act in this way, he or she should understand that his actions are subject to criminal liability,” the policeman stated.

Despite Russia’s strikes on serene Ukrainian cities, some Ukrainians do not require to be pushed to betray their nation. Dmytro Logvinov, 60, had actually long been a “Russophile,” his daddy stated, regardless of having actually been birthed and residing in Kharkiv. In 2009, he also came to be a Russian person.

When the intrusion began, Logvinov got in touch with a relative, a previous Russian army policeman in Belgorod, simply throughout the boundary, and used to assist the intruders. The relative at some point linked him to “Maksim,” that came to be Dmytro’s FSB trainer. At one factor, Dmytro sent out Maksim a selfie video clip discussing the remarkable climate in Kharkiv as a structure shed behind-the-scenes from a rocket strike — verification for the Russians that their target had actually been struck.

Another time, Dmytro, that functioned as a guard, stated immigrants were residing in a Kharkiv resort, making the website a target.

Dmytro was apprehended by the SBU soon afterwards. Outside a court house in Kharkiv where Dmytro got on test for treason, his daddy, Eduard Logvinov, called a number for Maksim, the trainer. He didn’t grab.

An SBU counterintelligence authorities had actually supplied the number. “Maksim’s” genuine name was Andrei Salitsev, according to the SBU, which additionally offered The Post a duplicate of the phony key with a various last name that the SBU stated he made use of. The FSB did not reply to an ask for remark.

Salitsev had actually guaranteed Dmytro that Russia would certainly shield him also if he was captured, Eduard Logvinov stated. But after Dmytro’s apprehension, the trainer quit addressing.

The SBU policeman offered Eduard a number for Salitsev’s mommy and urged him to call. Maybe she might pass a message to her child, the policeman stated. She got.

“His only way out now is if Russia tries to do a prisoner exchange for him,” Eduard informed the female. “He was working on behalf of Russia, and he was in contact with your son as his agent. Can you tell your son to help move this process along from the Russian side?”

“What is Andrei’s last name?” Eduard asked the female.

“I won’t tell you that,” she responded to. “He gets angry with me — he says I shouldn’t tell that to people.”

“Is it Salitsev?” Eduard asked.

“Well, yes,” she stated.

He’s in “a different country,” she stated, including she has actually hardly had call with him for the previous 6 months.

Less than a week after the phone call, Dmytro was punished to 15 years for treason.

“After those people are arrested, they basically forget about them,” stated the SBU policeman, that talked on the problem of privacy in maintaining with safety solution methods. “The Russians just move on to looking for someone else.”


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