Thursday, July 16, 2015

Moscow Security Agencies Since Soviet Times have Penetrated Ukrainian Groups Across Political Spectrum, Osmolovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 16 – The KGB in Soviet times and the FSB now using compromat and other means have thoroughly penetrated almost all Ukrainian political groups and government agencies, including those which were the most anti-Soviet and are now the most anti-Russian, according to Yakov Osmolovsky, the child of Ukrainians who returned to the USSR in 1956.

            Interviewed by Kseniya Kirillova of Novy Region-2, Osmolovsky describes his personal experiences in Cherkassk and those of his friends and acquaintances in dealing with this phenomenon and calls for new efforts to root out such people to protect Ukraine’s independence (

            Osmolovsky’s statements, which are consistent with the reports of others, deserve particular attention now because they highlight three realities many prefer to ignore. First, Vladimir Putin’s efforts to expand the FSB network in all post-Soviet states, including Ukraine in particular, has its origins in KGB practice and concerns going back decades.

            Second, Moscow security agencies since Operation Trust in the 1920s have always sought to penetrate, via false flag operations and other means, groups opposed to Moscow and to direct their activities in order to get them to carry out things that work to Moscow’s advantage by discrediting others while giving Moscow plausible deniability.

            And third, unlike many other intelligence services, the Russian ones always plan to benefit even when their machinations are exposed. After all, once it is shown that someone has been working for Moscow, that discredits not only the individual involved but his group. Thus, the Russian side may take the lead in exposing its recruitments at a time of its choosing.

            Osmolovsky, who had become a Ukrainian dissident at the end of Soviet times, says that “already in 1988-1989, they knew in the KGB that Ukraine would become independent.” As a result, he continues, the attitude of the Soviet security services “toward dissidents and nationalists sharply changed.”

            If earlier, the Soviet security service relied on repression, from that time forward, he says, “the tactic of the KGB changed: now, the special services attempted to introduce in the new democratic formations their own agents in a massive way,” he says.

            That allowed Moscow to orchestrate some of the conflicts among democratic and pro-independence groups in Ukraine, something the Russian security services have continued to do. The KGB had its people in UNA-UNSO, parts of which have now become the Right Sector, as well as in the Rukh and its successor parties.

            The situation became even worse in 1992, after the collapse of the USSR, when the first head of the Ukrainian Intelligence Service Nikolay Golushko fled to Moscow taking with him information about agents in these groups as well as compromising materials about some leaders and gave all this to the FSB, Osmolovsky says.

             One aspect of the situation made such “compromat” especially useful in the Ukrainian case, he suggests. To the extent that the FSB had information showing that this or that official had collaborated with the KGB or the FSB against dissidents, that could be deployed against those officials as Ukraine pursued its European choice.

            In the 1990s, he says, Moscow did not use its compromat on Ukrainian officials all that actively. “Yeltsin’s Russia had enough problems of its own,” and the agents it already controlled were able to do everything the Russian government wanted at that time. But “everything changed with the coming to power of Vladimir Putin.”

            The new Kremlin leader, given his expansive plans, was no longer willing to rely on those the KGB and then the FSB had recruited earlier. Instead, he required that the Russian security services find “new, younger and more prospective cadres” as recruits.  But Putin like his predecessors sought them in a wide variety of places.

            The Ukrainian secret services have done relatively well, and many people Russian services have tried to recruit have refused and reported the attempts to Kyiv.  But the battle continues, and winning it is not easy.  “If we remove [those who have been recruited] from the organs, we must be concerned about their employment” lest they engage in even worse things.


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