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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid