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

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora