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Ukraine: drone war in the Black Sea and a shadowy character at the forefront of the Russian invasion

The russian invasion in eastern Ukraine “it is not going” nor “at the speed and with the efficiency” that President Vladimir Putin wanted. It is in a state of military “stagnation”, which does not allow it to advance and in the Black Sea, its Navy has withdrawn to the protection of the port of Crimea, after the Ukrainian Neptune missiles sank the Moskva, its flagship.

“The disobedience of his troops” and “the self-destruction of their armored and tanks so as not to fight” are a common behavior of soldiers, in a tsarist army without non-commissioned officers. The Russians leave their dead soldiers in the Ukraine, out in the open or in the houses they have occupied. Horrifying images show them.

This is the British view of the Russian operation in Ukraine. But as if this scenario were not enough, on Wednesday morning it is suffering another offensive in a symbolic place, according to British intelligence sources.

The bodies of Russian soldiers abandoned on the battlefield. Photo: AFP

The battle of the drones

The battle for Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, is raging a drone battle against Russian defenses. Ukraine seeks to recover them.

The island was the scene of one of the historic exchanges between Ukrainian and Russian forces, at the start of the war in late February, when Ukrainian border guards told a Russian warship, possibly the Moskva, “Russian ship, go to hell”when he demanded that they surrender.

“Ukraine has successfully attacked Russian air defenses and Russian Bayraktar drone resupply ships, according to the latest update from the British MoD.

On Wednesday, the British Ministry of Defense said: “Russian refueling ships have minimal protection in the western Black Sea, following the Russian Navy’s withdrawal to Crimea after the loss of the Moskva,” the warship Ukraine says hit and sunk in April.

“Russia’s current efforts to build up its forces on Zmiinyi Island offer Ukraine more opportunities to engage Russian troops and wear down materiel. If Russia consolidates its position on Zmiinyi Island with strategic air defense cruise missiles and coastal Defense, could dominate the northwestern Black Sea“, said.

The dreaded Gru, in charge of the invasion

Before this scenario, President Vladimir Putin has sidelined Russian espionage bosses from the FSB and has replaced them with the GRU, part of its special forces, in the war against Ukraine. He has stopped them.

In March, after a series of blunders in the first days of the invasion towards kyiv, the head of the Fifth Service of the FSB, Sergei Beseda, he was sent to Lefortovo prison, where Stalin kept many of his disgraced aides. Last month it took place a purge of some 150 FSB agents.

Beseda, 68, the head of the FSB, recently returned to work at the Lubyanka, the agency’s imposing neo-baroque office, according to Borogan and Soldatov.

“But putting Beseda back in office does not mean that Putin trusts the FSB, or Beseda’s service in particular in Ukraine, as Alekseyev’s appointment makes clear,” says the report by Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov, experts. on Russian security, in a report for the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington think tank.

“Are the enthusiastic forces within the Russian espionage community who are now in charge of bring victory out of the swamp of the worst military and intelligence failure of their country since the Second World War”, they opined.

The Federal Security Service (FSB), the country’s main espionage agency, has been blamed for intelligence failures who ruined the failed invasion in kyiv. Responsibility for espionage activity in Ukraine has been shifted to the GRU, the rival military intelligence service, according to an analyst report.

The GRU, which is a branch of the military and maintains its own special forces unitshas been involved in covert special operations around the world, including attempted coups, assassinations and sabotage of critical infrastructure.

The British authorities named two of their agents, Anatoly Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin, as the main suspects of the attempted poisoning of Sergey Skripala deserter and former GRU officer, and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in 2018.

The GRU combines intelligence gathering with military operations. Their officers are often recruited from special forces brigades. His training includes 14 hours a week of foreign languagesalong with rigorous physical training.

In recent years, cyber warfare it has also fallen within the purview of the GRU.

In the invasion of Ukraine, Putin has put the heads of military intelligence, including a former special forces officer, accused of being behind the novichok poisonings of the Skripals.

In Syria and in charge of the novichok

Vladimir Alexeyevthe first deputy head of the GRU, who was named as one of the main organizers of the assassination attempt on Skripal, is now in charge of intelligence operations in Ukraine.

Unlike most FSB members, Alekseyev, 61, is a former special forces officer who has seen military action.

“The fellow officers they consider him brutal and sure of himselfto the point of recklessness,” said Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov.

After being appointed first deputy chief in 2011, he was responsible for coordinating military action in Syria and Donbas. He was placed on the US sanctions list due to his alleged involvement in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and was sanctioned by the EU due to the Salisbury attack.

Ukrainian intelligence placed Alekseyev, who was born in Soviet Ukraine, on your list war criminals and disclosed personal details, including the location of his home in Moscow.

Authorities said he had been responsible for collecting information used to launch missile attacks. against civilian targets in Ukraine and had overseen bogus referendums in occupied territory.

And the FSB?

Russian state media gave insight into the change in spy agency responsibilities. In a program titled Victory Generals, aired last week on the Tsargrad television channel, Alekseyev was identified as the intelligence commander of Ukraine’s “special military operation.”

Although less well known than the FSB, the GRU has been on the rise since Sergei Shoigu’s appointment as defense minister a decade ago. With the ambition to extend his mandate to Russian foreign policy, Shoigu has increased the number of operations of GRU abroad.

The rise of the GRU has precipitated a humiliating fall from grace for the FSB, which was in charge of intelligence gathering and political turmoil in Ukraine. in the years before the invasion. The agency has close ties to Putin, who served as his director the year before he was elected president and worked for his predecessor, the KGB, for many years.

in Ukraine

FSB agents are in Ukraine, especially in the East, and accompany the troops. In them fall the civilians, who are subjected to brutal tortureand the military.

The Ukrainian intelligence services have recorded conversations of soldiers telling their mothers about the torture committed against Ukrainians by FSB agents. Soldiers are tortured and executed Ukrainians detained despite the Geneva Convention.

Under Putin, the FSB has gradually expanded and oversees much of Russian life, with a mandate that encompasses propaganda, surveillance and border control.

Although the agency is officially a national security service, similar to Britain’s domestic secret service MI5, its Fifth Service division was created in the late 1990s, when Putin was director, with a mandate to carry out operations in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Boris to Finland and Sweden

Sweden and Finland would soon join NATO, the hitherto “red line” for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was calm in the face of Finnish neutrality during the Soviet empire. Finland believes that it may be invaded by Russiasuch as Moldova and the Baltics, and has adapted its military forces to those of NATO.

Its population prepares for an eventual invasion, with bunkers and food.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson boarded his flight to Sweden on Thursday, where he met with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. He signed a security agreement in which Britain can help sweden and then he will do it with Finland “in every war”.

This is a significant step because it brings the two Nordic states closer to the security provided by NATO, if they decide to take the step and join the Alliance. Both countries will make the decision in the days to come.

But Britain’s unilateral decision to offer this “mutual security” means that whatever happens, both countries can count on the assistance of a NATO member, should the need arise.

This is something that Ukraine did not have when Russia began adding troops to its border. If Russia tries the same thing on the border with Sweden or Finland, they can call in British forces. If that is the case, Russia may regard Britain as directly involved in the conflict and attack her.

Boris Johnson (right) and his Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson.  Photo: Frank Augstein/ AFP

Boris Johnson (right) and his Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson. Photo: Frank Augstein/ AFP

But since it is a member of NATO, Article V can apply, where an attack on one it’s an attack on everyone. A possibility that would dangerously escalate the conflict and worries the EU.

Johnson then traveled to neighboring Finland to meet with his head of state Sauli Niinisto.

Downing St has said it is “misinformation” to suggest the prime minister was seeking to pressure both countries to join the Western military alliance.

In March, Johnson held talks with Andersson and Niinisto as part of a meeting of the nations of the Joint Expeditionary Force, which includes Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Norway.

Paris, correspondent

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