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Does the threat of terrorist attacks exist in Ukraine?

Does the threat of terrorist attacks exist in Ukraine?
Article by: Vitalii Usenko and Dmytro Usenko
Edited by: Andrew Kinder

Gordon.UA has published expert opinions evaluating the terrorist threat to Ukraine. The Center of Military-Political Studies and Euromaidan Press provides a translation as well as commentary on these expert opinions.

Special subversive groups regularly arrive in Ukraine after receiving training in special camps in Russia. The Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) said that the subversive terrorist group “Kharkiv guerrillas” has been operating for the past five months in Kharkiv Oblast. Law enforcerment managed to reveal the involvement of members of the terrorist group in the organization of 12 separate acts of sabotage. 200 people have been detained on suspicion of terrorist activities in Ukraine. Is there a threat of terrorism in Ukrainian cities? “Gordon” asked the experts.

Andrei Illarionov

Andrei Illarionov, Russian economist and former adviser to President Vladimir Putin, one of the founders of the Russian Committee for Solidarity with Maidan, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, Washington, DC: “The threat of a spread of terrorist attacks to the whole territory of Ukraine exists…the greatest threat is to Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhya and Kherson.”

I believe that the threat of terrorist attacks spreading to the whole territory of Ukraine exists. I have said earlier that one should expect terrorist attacks on infrastructure facilities in Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhya, and Kherson. These are the most likely locations for sabotage and terrorist attacks.

Kyiv, of course, is also considered as a target for sabotage and terrorist acts, but I have a feeling that this is the next step, [to follow] a little bit later. The purpose of all this is the establishment of Russian control over Ukraine. The objectives of any act of terrorism are intimidation, creating nervousness, feeling of instability, management problems, maintaining dissatisfaction of citizens with the authorities, and the destabilization of the political, military and security situation.

Yuriy Kasanov

Yuriy Kasanov, blogger, member of the Army SOS Initiative: “The threat of terrorism exists. Any mobile group of idiots or Russian GRU servicemen can arrange terrorist attacks in any Ukrainian city.”

The threat of terrorism does not exist because there is a terrorist base in Ukraine. Inside the country there are people who like Putin, others who like Poroshenko, and a third group doesn’t like either, nor Obama. But those who are willing to organize terrorist acts are not many. However, it is important to remember that our [Ukrainian] anti-terrorist structures are functioning extremely poorly, so any mobile group of idiots or Russian GRU (military intelligence) servicemen can arrange terrorist attacks in any Ukrainian city.

The godfather of terrorism in the post-Soviet space is Putin, who did not have a heavy conscience when, at his order, houses in Moscow were blown up or villages and towns hiding Chechen separatists were wiped off the face of the earth. So, the Russian President will not spare Ukrainian civilians.

But even Putin understands that terrorist attacks in cities with high levels of patriotism (e.g., Kyiv, Lviv) will only strengthen the resistance. Therefore, the Kremlin is trying to destabilize the situation in Kharkiv, the seizure of which is probably a first priority. Putin needs to create a sort of  “New Russia” (Novorossiya) belt, that is why Kharkiv is among first targets, as strong pro-Russian sentiments in the city are still present. On the one hand, acts of terrorism intimidate residents who are pro-Ukrainian or may have only slight pro-Russia tendencies, while on the other hand it strengthens the hope of those who are waiting for Putin to come [even farther] into Ukraine.

Ukrainians should finally understand that the country is at war. Total war. Battles are going not only at the front, where the mines are flying and howitzers are shelling, but a war is going on all over Ukraine. You cannot hide from the war. And Putin has not yet used his air force. We must be vigilant, we should not be loyal to anti-Ukrainian forces. We have seen how non-patriotic elements, the marginalized elements, raised their heads. This allowed Putin to seize the Donbas with the help of Russian mercenaries. We must immediately fight back hard.

At the recent anniversary of Maidan in Kyiv, there were no provocations because patriotic people gathered in Kyiv. Maidan took place mainly thanks to intelligent, smart people who knew how to prevent provocations. We cannot exclude that the enemy wanted to do something. However, our security service apparently played a key role [in preventing provocations]. Unfortunately, the security services are very weak, but in the context of a single event they can work excellently.

Olexandr Skypalsky

Oleksandr Skypalsky, Lieutenant General, ex-Deputy Head of the Security Service of Ukraine, ex-Head of Chief Intelligence Service: “Judging from recent statements made by Russian President Vladimir Putin, we cannot rule out terrorist attacks in the cities of Ukraine, anywhere at any time.”

Ukraine has become a country with a high degree of terrorist threat because of Russia. Judging by recent statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and according to the logic of his behavior, we cannot rule out terrorist acts in any Ukrainian city or town at any time. Russia needs to keep Ukraine in a state of tension. The only salvation is a high level of professionalism, vigilance and readiness of the Ukrainian security services to counter [Russian backed terrorist attacks].

If other countries are threatened by international terrorist groups, mainly associated with Islamists, Ukraine is facing terrorists who are directed, developed and equipped by Russia. No need now to publicly highlight cities and objects most vulnerable to terrorist attacks; it could create unnecessary panic among the people.

Putin and the Russian special services leadership are well aware: It is enough to arrange several mass terrorist acts in Ukraine, and Ukraine will retaliate and do the same [in Russia]. To carry out a terrorist attack in Russia would not be that difficult for Ukrainians given the open borders in the east and historical closeness of our people.

The nature of the recent terrorist attacks in Kharkiv shows that Russia did not intend to carry out attacks in crowded places, thereby minimizing the possibility of innocent victims. Putin wants to keep the whole of Ukraine in tension but without mass casualties [at this stage]. The Kremlin understands: To stoke the fire of terrorism is not good idea, as the wind can change direction and the threat of terrorist attacks could appear in Russia itself.

Comment of Euromaidan Press: Yuriy Bereza, commander of the Dnipro battalion, mentioned in the Savik Shuster Studio program aired on October 31, 2014 that it is not that difficult to execute terrorist attacks in Russia. That means that if Russia arranges terrorist attacks in Ukrainian cities, Ukraine has opportunities to retaliate. However, Ukraine is not going to do so.

Similar points were made by Oleh Belokolos, Maidan of Foreign Affairs Foundation at the round table “Why has the Budapest memorandum not worked? Russian intervention – how to ensure information security of a state,” which was held on November 26, 2014 at the Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform in Kyiv. He pointed out the necessity for Ukraine to be ready to establish a non-nuclear deterrence to Russia, i.e., to be able to inflict critical damage to Russian infrastructure – dams, chemical manufacturing, nuclear power plants, etc. Ukraine should be able to considerably damage the aggessor’s industrial potential in retaliation. The round table was organized by Center for Military-Political Studies Information resistance, Centre for Social Research Ukrainian Meridian and Intellectual Forum “United Europe” in partnership with think tank Politics.

The proof that Ukraine has capabilities to retaliate Russian terrorist acts in Ukraine was that in late August 2014. The Ukrainian roofer, Hryhoriy Kyrylenko (aka Mustang Wanted), painted over a Soviet star with the Ukrainian national colors on the top of a Stalinist-era skyscraper in central Moscow. This initiative is private. On Facebook, Mustang Wanted says he did the painting and “raised the flag of independent Ukraine” in “a fit of sincere patriotic sentiment.” This fact demonstrates that if the task was to make subversive act it could have been done in the center of Moscow.

Judging from the reaction of Russian television channels, mass media and blogs, Russia understands that Ukraine has the capability to retaliate.

Anton Geraschenko

Anton Geraschenko, advisor to the Interior Minister: “The threat of terrorist acts on the territory of Ukraine exists. It depends on what orders are given by Putin and his deputies to the terrorists.”

The threat of terrorist acts on the territory of Ukraine exist. It depends on what orders are given by Putin and his deputies to the terrorists. If the order would be to stage an explosion in Kyiv, the terrorist will do it in Kyiv. If the order would be to stage an explosion in Lviv, the sabotage will start there. Unfortunately, the terrorists are not sending us reports on where they plan attacks. Currently we are seeing a destabilization of the situation in Kharkiv.

To look into it, we must understand the following: In order to excecute terrorist attacks, a group of agents is needed. In Kharkiv, we have revealed such a group, which planned to implement this scenario. We should similarly be looking for similar groups in Odesa and Lviv.

Two factors are required – the order to carry out terrorist attacks and the availability of a group of agents. I suppose that the order [to execute the terrorist attack] is more essential.

The purpose of this is to create an atmosphere of fear, terror, insecurity about the future, and charges of whether the authorities rae prepared to [adequately] meet this kind of threat.

Comment of the Center of Military-Political Studies: Around midnight from 24 to 25 November 2014, a powerful explosion occurred near the fence of the military unit No. A1361 in Kharkiv. According to preliminary information, no one was injured as a result of the explosion. Window glass in several neighboring houses were damaged. As was earlier reported by UNIAN, two explosions happened in Kharkiv during last week: one near the military hospital on November 20, 2014 and one in railway depot Bezliudovka on November 22, 2014.

As was reported by information agency 112.UA, on November 26. at 05.15 a.m. police in Kharkiv received information per telephone about mining store of ATB chain. Store is located at Privokzalna Square. Shop assistants and customers were evacuated. Search operations made by police. No explosives were found. At 7:30 a.m. store was operating normally. Investigation continues.

Georgy Kryuchkov

Georgy Kryuchkov, Ex-Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security and Defence, ex-MP from the faction of the Communist Party of Ukraine: “The threat of terrorism today is a very real and growing every day. I’m not sure that the Ukrainian authorities understand the scale of these threats and are doing everything to prevent them.”

The threat of terrorist acts in Ukraine is not only absolutely real, but is growing every day. The most vulnerable places in this sense are Kyiv, Odesa and Kharkiv regions. I am very concerned about how nuclear power plants and chemical and oil refineries are protected now. Any attack against these objects is fraught with very serious consequences, not only for Ukraine.

Although it is an undeclared war, the war has still resulted in a huge number of armed groups in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. They are undisciplined, do not obey anyone, some of them even leave the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] zone with weapons and come to Kyiv. As media have reported, the number of weapons in the Ukrainian capital has quadrupled compared with the beginning of the year. Regular skirmishes occur between militants. These people have own only one craft – to kill – and we can expect anything from them.

In addition to the fighters there is another danger. Many civilians have been killed in the course of hostilities in the Donbas. Imagine a man who lost his family, house and property in the war. He has nothing left – no sacred thing, no light, only revenge. There are many such people. We cannot rule out that such people may gather in groups and take revenge against the state, which has not been able to maintain order in the East.

I cannot rule out provocations from other countries that want to further clash Ukraine and Russia with each other. In general, the threat of terrorism is very real today. I’m not sure that the Ukrainian authorities understand the scale of these threats and are doing everything to prevent them. Prevention is only possible if the war is stopped and negotiations with those who are in charge in the Donbas are started. Nevertheless, the official will in Kyiv is not going to do it [Ed. – take up negotations], that’s the problem.

Vasyl VovkVasyl Vovk, Major-General, Chief of Investigation Department of Security Service of Ukraine: “I do not presently see a substantial threat of terrorist attacks, we have worked to be proactive. We are working to ensure a peaceful life for our citizens on the territory of Ukraine during the Christmas and New Year holidays.”

We need to be ready for anything to reduce the threat of terrorist attacks to zero. A lot of weapons were accumulated in Ukraine itself, and more seep through the border too. Weapons can be found in any place [in Ukraine]. Where a weapon is available, it can possibly be used. Therefore, we are working to control the situation and ensure a peaceful life for our citizens on the territory of Ukraine during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Why did the attacks occur in Kharkiv? Kharkiv is a metropolis that is at the forefront of the fight against the “Donetsk and Luhansk People Republics.” There are ambiguous moods and sentiments in Kharkiv, and we had to make considerable efforts so that events like in Donetsk and Luhansk are not repeated in Kharkiv. Especially because Kharkiv is a metropolis where you can easily hide and be hidden.

We [the Security Service of Ukraine] have detained individuals with a large arsenal of weapons in Kyiv too. We do our best to ensure that the terrorist threat in Kyiv is negated. I understand that it’s hard to believe, but I do not see substantial threats, especially since we have worked proactively.

Comment from Euromaidan Press:  The results of recent polls for the Ukrainian Parliament in some regions of eastern Ukraine raised (in our view, false) hopes in Russia about the Kremlin’s ability to pursue destabilization these areas. In the October 2014 elections, many people unexpectedly voted against Kyiv ruling parties and for the “Opposition Bloc,” the successor to ex-President Yanukovych’s Party of Regions:

  • Kharkiv region: Opposition Bloc won 14 out of 14 electoral districts
  • Dnipropetrovsk region: Opposition Bloc won in 11 out of 17 electoral districts
  • Donetsk region (in territories controlled by Ukrainian army): Opposition Bloc won in 8 out of 12 electoral districts
  • Luhansk region (in territories controlled by Ukrainian army): Opposition Bloc won in 5 out of 5 electoral districts
  • Odesa region: Opposition Bloc won in 5 out of 11 electoral districts (in the 6 remaining districts, the Poroshenko bloc won)

The people of Zaporizhzhia, a large industrial region in Eastern Ukraine, do not favor “radical” Oleh Lyashko, but are loyal to the ex-regionals: 2.14% voted for the Opposition Bloc, and 17.1% for the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko. In third place were the “People’s Front” (Arseniy Yatseniuk) with 11.14%. Also, voters supported the Communist Party, which gained 9.47% in the region.

Mykolayiv and Kherson Oblasts (Southern Ukraine near Crimea) showed overwhelming support for pro-European parties, both in party votes and in majority votes.

Russians hope to create a belt of instability in oblasts bordering Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and Crimea. Therefore the probability of terrorist attacks exists in these regions.

Translation and comments made by Dr. Vitalii Usenko, MD, MBA, expert of the Center of Military-Political Studies in the sphere of psychology of communications and by Dmytro Usenko, student at Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

Edited by: Andrew Kinder
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