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NYT: “12 secret spy bases” in Ukraine show depth of CIA support

The New York Times has revealed the CIA’s covert support for Ukraine, secretly training and equipping intelligence officers over 8 years and constructing 12 bases along the Russian border.
NYT: 12 secret spy bases in Ukraine show depth of CIA support
The symbol of the Central Intelligence Agency pictured over the USA Flag Photo: Depositphotos
NYT: “12 secret spy bases” in Ukraine show depth of CIA support

The New York Times has revealed the extent of the CIA’s covert support for Ukraine in a deep investigative report. Over the past 8 years, the agency has secretly trained and equipped Ukrainian intelligence officers, constructing a network of 12 bases along the Russian border.

This cooperation has proven tremendously valuable right from the start. 

“Before the war, Ukraine provided intercepts proving Russia’s role in the 2014 downing of MH17. They also helped pursue Russians who meddled in the 2016 US election,” the NYT stated.

Around 2016, the CIA began training an elite Ukrainian commando unit that captured Russian drones and gear to crack Moscow’s encryption. A key officer was Kyrylo Budanov, now head of Ukraine’s military intelligence.

The CIA also helped train Ukrainian spies to operate in Russia, Europe, and elsewhere with major Russian presence.

“Now these intelligence networks are increasingly at risk: If Republicans in Congress end military funding to Kyiv, the C.I.A. may have to scale back,” warns the NYT.

CIA Director William Burns made a secret 10th visit to Ukraine in February to reassure Ukrainian leaders.

The CIA-Ukraine partnership traces back to 2014 when Ukraine’s pro-Western government took power after then-President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia. Spy chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko proposed a three-way partnership with the CIA and MI6.

A cautious start

But the Obama administration moved slowly to avoid provoking Moscow. White House rules barred lethal aid to Ukraine.

“The result was a delicate balancing act. The C.I.A. was supposed to strengthen Ukraine’s intelligence agencies without provoking the Russians. The red lines were never precisely clear, which created a persistent tension in the partnership,” stated the NYT.

In Kyiv, spy chief Nalyvaichenko picked aide General Kondratiuk to head counterintelligence. They created a paramilitary unit that conducted operations and gathered intelligence the CIA/MI6 wouldn’t provide.

Operation Goldfish

In 2016, the CIA began sending encrypted radios and devices for intercepting communications. The CIA oversaw Operation Goldfish – training to teach Ukrainian officers to assume fake personas and steal Russian secrets.

The Operation Goldfish officers were soon deployed to 12 newly-built, forward operating bases constructed along the Russian border. From each base the Ukrainian officers ran networks of agents who gathered intelligence inside Russia. Graduates trained sleeper agents for guerrilla operations if occupied.

When Ukraine discovered Russia deploying attack helicopters in Crimea, Gen. Kondratiuk sent a team led by Lt. Col. Budanov to plant explosives, without CIA permission. Disguised as Russians, they crossed the gulf but were awaited by Russian commandos. After casualties on both sides, the team retreated.

The fallout cost Kondratiuk his job but Ukraine didn’t back down. One day after Kondratiuk’s removal, a mysterious explosion in Russian-occupied Donetsk ripped through an elevator carrying senior Russian separatist commander Motorola, killing him.

Trump factor

Trump’s 2016 election put Ukraine and the CIA on edge, but his Russia hawks Pompeo and Bolton visited Kyiv to underscore support, expanding training and bases. 

The successful partnership led the CIA to want to replicate it with other European agencies countering Russia.

In late 2022, the CIA and MI6 warned Ukraine that Russia was planning a full invasion to decapitate the government and install a Kremlin puppet. At CIA Director Burns’ urging, a small group of officers remained in the hotel in western Ukraine after the US evacuation.

No Endgame

After the invasion, CIA officers at the hotel were the only US presence, passing intel to Ukraine daily. Restrictions on lethal support were lifted. 

“The old handcuffs were off, and the Biden White House authorized spy agencies to provide intelligence support for lethal operations against Russian forces on Ukrainian soil,” states the NYT.

When Russia’s Kyiv assault stalled, the CIA returned and sent in more officers.

In July 2022, Ukraine’s spies reported Russian convoys crossing a key bridge. CIA/MI6 quickly verified via satellite, allowing Ukraine to destroy the convoys with rockets.

A CIA official said Director Burns’ recent Kyiv visit signals the US commitment to Ukraine will continue.

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