News / Europe

Russia's Shadowy Military Presence Threatens East Ukraine

As the rhetorical shots between Moscow and the West continue, there are an estimated 40,000 Russian troops stationed just across the border from Ukraine poised to invade that country if Russian President Vladimir Putin gives the order.

But there are indications that some Russian troops already are on the Ukrainian side of the border.  

John Schindler, a specialist on intelligence at the U.S. Naval War College, said these troops are engaged in what he calls “a special war.”

“This is a strategy for using power in somewhat of a covert or clandestine manner -- espionage, subversion, even terrorism -- in a way that is not fully transparent, in a way that using overt military is,” he said. “It is very much what the Russians are doing in eastern Ukraine right now.

"They did it in Crimea before," he said. "They did a great deal of this in Georgia in 2008 leading up to their major military intervention.”

Before Putin annexed Crimea last month, pro-Russian militia took over government buildings on the peninsula and asked for Moscow’s support. Russian military authorities denied any links to the masked gunmen.

Russian accounts in doubt

Keir Giles, head of the Conflict Studies Research Center in Oxford, England, an organization that tracks the Russian military, said there is no doubt Russian soldiers were on the peninsula at that time, despite attempts to make them anonymous.

“They took off all of the unit patches and so on from their uniforms," he said. "But they were not all particularly careful about that, so some still had - for example - name tags attached to their body armor.”

“Tracing those through Russian social media, you can work out exactly which unit they are from and find out that actually they departed for Crimea at the end of February,” said Giles.

Now that Crimea is in Russian hands, the focus has shifted to predominantly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

Russian officials are once again denying that Russian troops are in Ukraine.

Analyst Giles said there is no doubt, however, about their presence.

“The Russian forces in Ukraine are making a much greater effort to be less obvious than they were in Crimea," he said. "So they are trying quite hard to look disorganized and less well-trained - and also intermingling much more effectively with the local units that are supporting them, as opposed to Crimea, when there were distinct groups of Russian servicemen and the local mobs that were on their side.”

Russian force presence

Analyst Schindler said Russian forces have been in Ukraine for some time.

“For weeks there have been GRU - that is Russian military intelligence, special operators roaming around eastern Ukraine and also southern Ukraine. Some of them have been caught in the Odessa region as well,” said Schindler. “These are relatively small groups -- 10, 20, 30 individuals in each group -- running around, raising local supporters, distributing guns, money, etc.

"This is exactly what the GRU does," he said. "They are very good at it, and they have been laying the groundwork for this for some time.”

Schindler and Giles said there is evidence that special forces that were in Crimea are now in eastern Ukraine.

Schindler said Russian covert operations have increased under Putin, who is a former Soviet KGB agent.

“Putin has created a state where the intelligence services -- which are his, of course, original base of power -- have enormous influence on decision-making and strategy-making in a way no Western state has,” he said.

And if you don’t understand that, Schindler said, you don’t understand how Moscow and the Kremlin operate today.
 
Error rendering Soundcloud.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: AlfredoG from: Orlando FL
April 24, 2014 7:25 AM
Realy Russia and Putin Stink.


by: Anonymous
April 23, 2014 1:28 PM
one look at the headline tells you you might not get an unbiased account. keep your opinions out of the headlines. here, let me show you: Ukraine Feels Threatened by Russia's Military Presence Furthermore, let's not detract from the fact that Russia went to protect its interests and people from an illegitimate Ukrainian leadership. Ukraine has been unstable for a very long time. It's no wonder Russia finally had enough and went in like this. Who cares if they were already there. It's a moot point.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid