Copyright © 2024

The work of Euromaidan Press is supported by the International Renaissance Foundation

When referencing our materials, please include an active hyperlink to the Euromaidan Press material and a maximum 500-character extract of the story. To reprint anything longer, written permission must be acquired from [email protected].

Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Russia Euromaidan FSB interference

The revolution that refused to be crushed: how Ukraine’s Euromaidan defied Russia’s subterfuge

While the presence of FSB agents on the streets of Kyiv during the Euromaidan protests was a chilling reminder of Russia’s determination to maintain its grip on Ukraine, it was just one piece of a much larger puzzle – a campaign of interference that included everything from disinformation and sabotage to plans for an outright invasion.
The revolution that refused to be crushed: how Ukraine’s Euromaidan defied Russia’s subterfuge

Russia’s full-blown war against Ukraine is in its third year. While Ukraine struggles to constrain Russia’s creeping advances amid delayed Western weapons shipments, there are renewed mutterings in diplomatic circles about the need to kickstart peace talks. Ukrainian officials reject this idea, stating that Russia’s end goal is the capitulation of Ukraine, while critics assert that the West still does not understand the aggressor’s ultimate goal: dismantling the rules-based order.

Instructive for understanding Russia’s overarching goals is an article by Stas Kozliuk and Yevhen Buderatskyi in Ukrainska Pravda on Russia’s failed 2014 attempt to squash Ukraine’s leanings towards EU integration and occupy half of the country following the Euromaidan revolution.

Based on interviews with dozens of participants in the events and investigators and an analysis of how Russian special services operated in Ukraine during this period, the article offers insights into the covert methods with which Russia aims to rebuild its sphere of influence by eroding the sovereignty of post-Soviet countries. In the case of Ukraine’s Euromaidan, this included getting its agents to the top law enforcement positions and employing employees of the FSB’s 2nd department, responsible for carrying out high-ranking assassinations of politicians like Boris Nemtsov and the attempted poisoning of the late Aleksey Navalny.

Belarus, which aligned with Russia in the war against Ukraine and has replicated Russia’s repressive political system, serves as a warning about the fate that could have awaited Ukraine had the Euromaidan Revolution not succeeded: Ukrainian investigators are sure that Russia made conclusions from its failed Ukraine attempts and crushed the 2020 protests against electoral fraud without restraint.

Echoes of Russian tactics used to erode the sovereignty of Ukraine are also seen in the situation with Georgia, where protests against the introduction of a Russian-inspired law that would allow repressing civil society are ongoing. Much like in Ukraine in 2014, Russian influence is seen amid Georgian law enforcement bodies. Special attention should be paid to signs of FSB influence on the protests.

Euromaidan: a breaking point for Ukraine

Euromaidan revolution
The 2014 Euromaidan revolution attracted on some days up to a million protesters. Photo: AirPana

Following the demise of the USSR in 1991, Ukraine had gained independence, yet Russia continued to hold significant sway over the country’s life. Ukraine pursued a multi-vector policy that sought to balance its ties with the West and Russia, and maintained a non-aligned status. However, Russia’s inclinations to restore full control over Ukraine were revealed in 1994 after its botched first attempt to occupy Crimea.

Tensions began to rise in the early 2000s as Ukraine started to express its desire for closer integration with the European Union (EU). The 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which saw the election of a pro-Western president, further strained relations between the two countries.

The Euromaidan protests in November 2013 began when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych suspended preparations for the signing of an association agreement with the EU, opting instead for closer ties with Russia. Protesters gathered on Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti, demanding closer integration with Europe and an end to corruption in the Ukrainian government.

As they grew in size and intensity, they became a symbol of Ukraine’s struggle for self-determination and its desire to break free from Russian influence. The Ukrainian government’s violent crackdown on the protesters only served to galvanize the opposition, and the protests spread to other parts of the country.

Euromaidan fire
During the Euromaidan Revolution, tires were set ablaze to create a smokescreen between the protesters and the police. Photo: Alex Zakletsky

The Euromaidan protests ultimately led to the ousting of President Yanukovych in February 2014, who fled to Russia. Immediately after, Russia occupied Crimea and fostered a war in eastern Ukraine, which after an attempt at resolution with the Minsk agreements in 2015 remained in a relatively frozen state until Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022.

The Ukrainska Pravda reconstruction of Russian interference in Ukraine reveals Russia’s deep involvement in Ukraine’s crackdown on the protesters, enabled by the collaboration of Ukraine’s top officials with Russia’s FSB.

Collaboration between Ukrainian authorities and Russian special services

Russia’s hybrid aggression against Ukraine started long before 2013 and was enabled by the Ukrainian leadership’s collaboration with Russia, according to Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation, which is still probing the 2014 crackdown on Euromaidan.

Multiple then-heads of Ukrainian agencies were de facto serving the interests of Russia, according to Ukrainian prosecutors:

  • President Viktor Yanukovych: received instructions from Russian President Vladimir Putin, but did not need to instruct law enforcement: these were managed by the Russian FSB and MIA.
    Viktor Yanukovych and Vladimir Putin. Photo: TASS
  • Deputy Secretary of Ukraine’s National Defense and Security Council (RNBO) Vladimir Sivkovich: he implemented Russia’s plans during the early stages of Euromaidan.
    The violent dispersal of a student protest on 20 November 2013 triggered mass protests demanding justice

    Prosecutors accuse him of receiving instruction from his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev in October 2013 to order a violent crackdown on student protesters on 21 November 2013 – a step that Russia envisioned as creating a point of no return for Yanukovych that would close off his path to EU negotiations and make him dependent on Russia. Following the crackdown, Ukraine’s authorities fulfilled all the demands of the Russian leadership.

    After fleeing to Russia, Sivkovich continued working with Russia’s FSB, and together with Ukraine’s ex-RNBO Secretary Andrey Kluyev created a center through which they recruited SBU employees and Ukrainian politicians to work for Russia.

  • Kyiv police chiefs Vitaliy Koriak and Petro Fedchuk; Berkut riot police colonel Sergey Kusyuk: gave orders to violently disperse protesters, fled Ukraine after 2014; Kusyuk was spotted beating Russian protesters in Moscow in 2020.
    Sergey Kusyuk dispersing protests in Moscow in 2017. Photo: Maria Karpukhina / Dozhd
  • Security Service (SBU) chief Aleksandr Yakimenko: during Euromaidan, received orders from Russia’s FSB and MIA; fled Ukraine after 2014, was appointed by Russia as security chief in the territories of Ukraine’s occupied Kherson Oblast in 2022. Yakimenko and his subordinates, Vladimir Totskiy and Sergey Ganzha are suspected by Ukraine of state treason during Euromaidan;
  • Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko: during Euromaidan, received orders from Russia’s FSB and MIA as well as a shipment of light and tear grenades.
    Euromaidan protests
    20.01.2014 | Hrushevsky Street. A man covers his face from the caustic gas of a gas grenade. Photo by Maksym Liukov
  • Defense Minister Pavlo Liebiediev: had Russian citizenship, fled following Euromaidan. Prosecutors believe he gave orders to use Ukraine’s Army forces to repress protesters.

According to Oleksandr Turchynov, Ukraine’s former National Defense Security Council secretary and acting president after Yanukovych’s flight to Russia, the Interior Ministry, Security Service, military intelligence, and counterintelligence were working with their Russian “colleagues” and during their flight after 2014 took sensitive classified information like agent networks with then.

Russian FSB involvement in the Euromaidan protests

Apart from influence over Ukraine’s deputy RNBO chief Sivkovych, Russian agents were personally in the midst of the Euromaidan protests, according to its coordinators, ex-Parliamentary Speaker Andriy Parubiy and ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk.

Parubiy, who at the time was the commandant of the tent city and self-defense forces of Euromaidan, recalled observing single people or groups of people who provoked attacks from law enforcement on protesters. “We were convinced they were connected to Russia,” Parubiy told Ukrainska Pravda.

In turn, Arseniy Yatseniuk, one of the opposition leaders during the protests, is confident that the Russians were well aware of what was happening both on the Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square and inside the protesters’ headquarters, which was located in the Trade Union Building on that square.

“They knew when we were coming in and when we were going out. I don’t know exactly how many Russian agents were there. We even suspected that some people who were actively involved in the Euromaidan activities were also involved with the FSB,” he told Ukrainska Pravda.

Yatseniuk believes that one of the first attempts of law enforcement to disperse the protesters on the night of 11 December 2013 was done on orders of the FSB: “The US Secretary of State’s aide, Victoria Nuland, was to see that the West is neither feared nor listened to here.” 

But following this attempt at a violent dispersal, canceled due to US Vice President Joe Biden’s call to Yanukovych, as per Yatseniuk, Ukraine’s western partners backed the protesters even more. Victoria Nuland was even spotted handing out cookies amid the protesters.

FSB delegations flew into Kyiv from Russia thrice during the protests, each time after an escalation in the standoff between protesters and the police.

Euromaidan protests Kyiv
18.02.2014 | Instytutska Street. After Berkut attacked protesters on Instytutska Street, the crowd ran towards the Maidan barricades. Many women and elderly people were among the protesters. Berkut forces beat those who ran at the end of a column or fell. A “traffic jam” formed near the Maidan barricade through a narrow passage. Photo by Maks Levin

The FSB officers apparently acted as “crisis managers” who appeared in Ukraine whenever Yanukovych’s government failed to disperse or suppress protests, searching for a way to ultimately end the uprising.

According to high-ranking SBU sources speaking with Ukrainska Pravda, what the Russian FSB wanted with Ukraine’s 2014 Euromaidan protests was successfully implemented by Belarusian ruler Lukashenka in 2020: peaceful protests against election fraud were ultimately dispersed, and their activists are now largely behind bars. “Apparently, they learned from Yanukovych’s mistakes and didn’t hold back,” the source said.

20 representatives of Russia’s FSB who visited Kyiv during the Euromaidan protests are being investigated by Ukraine. They include six generals, most of whom are from the so-called 2nd service of the FSB.

  • Army General Viktor Zolotov – former head of Putin’s security service, at that time the deputy commander-in-chief of the internal troops (now the head of the National Guard);
  • Lieutenant General Aleksey Sedov – head of the 2nd service of the FSB (Service for the Protection of the Constitutional Order and the Fight against Terrorism);
  • Lieutenant General Aleksey Zhalo – deputy head of the 2nd service of the FSB RF, head of the department for the protection of the constitutional order;
  • Major General Sergey Yegorov – first deputy head of the department for the protection of the constitutional order of the 2nd service of the FSB;
  • Major General Vladimir Pavlik – first deputy head of the Department of Operational Information of the 5th Service of the FSB (operational information and international connections);
  • Major General Andrey Yatsenko – former employee of the 2nd service of the FSB.

This service, known as “Dvoyka,” is the direct descendant of the 5th Directorate of the KGB of the USSR, which in Soviet times repressed anybody dissenting from Communist rule – the intelligentsia, dissidents, and believers.

In Russian times, it was transformed into the Service for the Protection of the Constitutional Order and the Fight against Terrorism and was engaged in multiple crackdowns that propped up Putin’s authoritarian rule. This included:

  • the Bolotnaya Square case, a politically motivated case against the participants of one of Russia’s largest protests in 2012;
  • case of assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, killed in central Moscow in 2015;
  • poisoning of opposition leaders Aleksey Navalny, Vladimir Kara-Murza, and writer Dmitry Bykov.
Berkut officers target protesters with live ammunition and Molotov cocktails during the Euromaidan revolution in February 2014. Photo: snapshot from video

Propaganda to undermine trust in the Euromaidan protests and grenades

To discredit the Euromaidan protests, Russia’s FSB joined forces with Ukraine’s SBU to create a Youtube channel where SBU employees published 253 propaganda videos casting the protests and their leaders in a negative light and demonizing Ukraine’s EU choice. The SBU reported on the publication of these videos to the FSB.

Only two of these videos became truly popular, gathering 1.6 million views, out of the channel’s total 1.7 million: leaked calls between EU officials Helga Schmid, and Jan Tombinski, as well as US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt.

Picked up by international media, the leaked calls prompted the White House to apologize for Nuland’s rude remarks towards the EU.

Other videos discrediting the Euromaidan protest were used by Russian special services while organizing sham referendums in 2014 in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, framed as a “popular resistance” to the Euromaidan revolution. The “referendums” were used to create Russian puppet republics that served as a springboard for Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Apart from the YouTube channel, Russia shipped 13,000 riot control munitions to aid Ukrainian police in their violent crackdown on the protesters during a peaceful march on 18 February 2014. These included stun grenades, smoke grenades, and tear gas grenades.

Euromaidan crackdown Berkut
After the crackdown on peaceful protesters with the help of Russian riot control munitions. Photo: Oleksandr Ratushnyak. 18 February 2014

Putin’s alleged direct call to Yanukovych and the undeclared “anti-terrorist operation”

During the Euromaidan protests, the Ukrainian opposition held several meetings with President Viktor Yanukovych. One such meeting occurred on 18 February 2014, when opposition representative Oleksandr Turchynov attempted to broker a truce. Yanukovych agreed but later broke his promise: instead, the Euromaidan protesters received an ultimatum to disperse, or an “anti-terrorist operation” would begin.

The plan, which investigators suspect was developed with the consultation of Russia’s FSB, involved surrounding the center of Kyiv, creating filtration camps for protesters, and raiding the protesters’ headquarters to “neutralize” the opposition.

At Euromaidan, February 2014. Photo: Alex Zakletsky

During another meeting between Yanukovych and the opposition, this time with European politicians present, on 18 February 2014, Yanukovych received a phone call from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Arsenii Yatseniuk, who participated in the meeting, told Ukrainska Pravda that after the call, Yanukovych “became angrier and more aggressive” and demanded that the protesters’ camp be dispersed.

Russia’s failed “Novorossiya” plan

After it became clear that Yanukovych was losing control of the situation, Russia came up with a plan B: to invade south-eastern Ukraine.

For this, preparations for an all-Ukrainian convention of parliamentarians in Kharkiv were launched in mid-February 2014, one week before Euromaidan’s victory. Ukrainian prosecutors believe that Russia’s plan was to use this convention to transfer Ukraine’s capital to Kharkiv amid chaos in Kyiv, or even, possibly, to declare the secession of south-eastern Ukraine and invite Russia’s invasion.

Russia had prepared for exactly this scenario during its West-2013 military games held in September, according to Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence.

Mykola Azarov, then Prime Minister and member of Yanukovych’s pro-Russian Party of Regions, was to chair the convention in Kharkiv, preparing for which he flew in for an in-person meeting with Putin on 18 February.

However, the Russian plans went astray. State legitimacy was preserved, the police carried out the orders of the new authorities, and on 22 February, Ukraine’s parliament made Oleksandr Turchynov acting president, depriving Russia of the bloody hell in central Kyiv necessary for launching the Novorossiya plan.

Although the titushkas, thugs hired to disperse the protesters in tasks the police sought to avoid and to supplement the insufficient police forces, were handed out machine guns and ammunition on 20 February with the intention to “stir up trouble,” the order to unleash bloody chaos on the streets of Kyiv never came.

Vadym titushko thugs Euromaidan
Vadym Titushko gave name to the phenomenon when police use paid thugs to suppress the opposition

Bolstered by the support of a part of Yanukovych’s own Party of Regions, Ukraine’s parliament votes to withdraw all the police forces.

Azarov never spoke at the 21 February convention in Kharkiv, instead crossing the border into Russia, where he subsequently attempted to create a “government in exile.”

Neither did the fugitive President Yanukovych speak at the convention. Fleeing from Kyiv, he arrives in Kharkiv via helicopter but does not pronounce his calls for secession, finding no support either from Donetsk oligarch Rinat Akhmetov or Kharkiv mayor Hennadiy Kernes amid warnings of criminal prosecution from Kyiv.

According to the Russian plan, Kharkiv was to become the first city of the “Russian spring,” Russia’s plan to destabilize Ukraine in which its southeastern oblasts were to pronounce their independence and call upon Russia for help, legitimizing an invasion. In the following months, Russia employed its agent network to engineer protests throughout half of Ukraine, claiming that Ukrainian post-Euromaidan authorities were illegitimate.

However, the Novorossiya plan ultimately fizzled out, confronted with the resistance of local pro-Ukrainian activists.

Occupation of Crimea

Russia’s rapid and relatively bloodless operation to occupy Crimea was made possible by years of preparation, as early as 2010, during which Russia recruited and lured local political elites to its side, funded and supported pro-Russian organizations that were supposed to support Russia’s actions at the needed moment.

These organizations were amply funded by Russia, it follows from intercepted calls of Kremlin insiders Konstantin Zatulin and Sergey Glazyev, who were instrumental for implementing Russian plans for the occupation of the peninsula and handpicked

More about Russia’s coordination and funding of pro-Russian groups in Crimea: Glazyev tapes, continued: new details of Russian occupation of Crimea and attempts to dismember Ukraine

Starting from December 2013, groups of Crimean lawmakers made at least four trips to Moscow. They were headed by Vladimir Konstantinov, Crimea’s parliamentary speaker who eventually collaborated with Russia and headed the occupation parliament, Ukrainska Pravda writes.

According to Crimean Tatar leader Refat Chubarov, the lawmakers wanted guarantees that Russia will not “back down.”

Since mid-February, Russian officials started visiting Crimea, including Vladislav Surkov, believed to be the ideologist of Russia’s takeover of Crimea and Ukraine’s absorption by Russia overall.

After the unsuccessful venue to Kharkiv, Yanukovych made a brief stop in Crimea and was shuttled to Russia. On 24 February, FSB officers, many of whom flew to Kyiv during the Euromaidan protests, appeared on the peninsula ahead of a large pro- and anti-Russian protest in Crimea’s capital, Simferopol.

Pro-Ukrainian rally organized amid the unfolding Russian occupation by the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people on 26 February 2014 near the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in Simferopol (participants of a pro-Russian counter-rally can be seen on the left) Source

Possibly, they were preparing to engineer some sort of bloodshed during this protest, it follows from testimonies of leaders of the Crimean Tatars; however, this scenario was avoided.

Instead, on 27 February, Russia seized the local parliament. Afterward, Russian parliamentarians and officials appeared on the Ukrainian peninsula, whose Ukrainian military bases were being blockaded as the Russian military, bolstered by the nascent Wagner private military company.

On 1 March, Yanukovych penned a letter to Putin asking to use Russian armed forces on Ukrainian territory, and Russia’s Federation Council voted to allow Russia’s use of troops in Ukraine, and Ukrainian servicemen on the peninsula were given an ultimatum to lay down arms.

Russia’s long war against Ukraine, culminating in the full-blown invasion, had started, and continues to this day.

Editor’s note: article was expanded with additional information about FSB involvement.


You could close this page. Or you could join our community and help us produce more materials like this.  We keep our reporting open and accessible to everyone because we believe in the power of free information. This is why our small, cost-effective team depends on the support of readers like you to bring deliver timely news, quality analysis, and on-the-ground reports about Russia's war against Ukraine and Ukraine's struggle to build a democratic society. A little bit goes a long way: for as little as the cost of one cup of coffee a month, you can help build bridges between Ukraine and the rest of the world, plus become a co-creator and vote for topics we should cover next. Become a patron or see other ways to support. Become a Patron!

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here

You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter

Please leave your suggestions or corrections here

    Euromaidan Press

    We are an independent media outlet that relies solely on advertising revenue to sustain itself. We do not endorse or promote any products or services for financial gain. Therefore, we kindly ask for your support by disabling your ad blocker. Your assistance helps us continue providing quality content. Thank you!

    Popular Posts