Threats and Coercion: How Russia Recruits Spies in Ukraine

Threats and Coercion: How Russia Recruits Spies in Ukraine
Threats and Coercion: How Russia Recruits Spies in Ukraine
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According to the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the soldier eventually agreed to help Russia. The SBU press release said that acting on instructions from his Russian superior, the soldier planned to inject a poisonous substance into the water supply system of a laundry complex used by senior officers.

The security service said it foiled a plot by a soldier to poison Ukraine’s military command in the southeastern region of Zaporizhia after Russians threatened his family. He was charged with treason and faces life imprisonment. The US newspaper “The Washington Post” tells about it.

The incident exposes the tactics used by Russian security services to recruit Ukrainians.

Initially, Moscow planned that its agents would infiltrate the upper echelons of Ukrainian society before the invasion, and then seize power from within. However, most of these people were removed by Ukrainian law enforcement authorities or fled on their own in the first months after the Russian invasion.

Now, more than two years after the war, there are fewer Ukrainians with pro-Russian sympathies, especially those in influential positions, willing to help Moscow, the newspaper reports.

Videos, documents and text messages provided to The Washington Post by SBU officials and Ukrainians contacted by what they say are agents of Russian special services reveal that in many cases the Russians used blackmail – by threatening family members who are still living under Russian occupation or who have been captured.

Although some Ukrainians have access to top officials and valuable information, such as a soldier in Zaporizhia, many of them are ordinary people with no espionage experience and no special training. Russian agents would give them instructions such as reporting on the movement of military equipment or confirming that a missile had hit a target.

In wars where the battle lines haven’t changed much in years, any information can give you an advantage.

The Ukrainian soldier – whose identity has not been released by the SBU – communicated with someone from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) via the encrypted messaging app Telegram. In the text messages released by the SBU, the FSB agent asked the soldier to provide information about his military unit – what its tasks are, who belongs to the command structure and photos of their positions.

“We don’t ask for information we don’t need to know,” the soldier replied in one message. “It could raise suspicions.”

“You don’t have to ask anything,” the FSB employee replied. “Take pictures of the material your unit has.”

Extortion is not a new method used by Russian security services, but it has become even more common with Russia occupying about 20 percent of the country. Ukrainian territories and taking thousands of prisoners. SBU officials said the Russians send photos and videos to family members of POWs, sometimes showing the prisoner with a gun to his head.

One of the victims of such threats was Jana, whose mother was working as a Ukrainian border guard in the northeastern Kharkiv region when Russia invaded the country. The mother was immediately captured, but a few months later, Jana received strange messages from her mother’s phone. At first, the person who corresponded was polite, promising that her mother would not be harmed. But in return they wanted information and asked if Jana had seen military equipment in the vicinity of Kharkiv.

When Jana refused to answer, the tone changed.

One message read: “Russians are angry.” “There is one woman, many men,” said another.

Then Jana got a call from her mother. She told Jana that she had to answer the messages.

“She said her life depended on it,” Jana said.

Jana’s mother was eventually released and is no longer living in occupied Russia, when in 2022 in September, Ukraine regained most of the Kharkiv region.


The article is in Lithuanian

Tags: Threats Coercion Russia Recruits Spies Ukraine

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