A report published by The Washington Post on Monday revealed how the CIA has supported covert Ukrainian attacks inside Russia, including the killing of Darya Dugina, daughter of the prominent Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin.
The report said the killing of Dugina was carried out by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and that it was one of many operations inside Russian territory involving special units the CIA helped form in the wake of the 2014 coup in Kyiv that ousted former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
The report reads: “The missions have involved elite teams of Ukrainian operatives drawn from directorates that were formed, trained, and equipped in close partnership with the CIA, according to current and former Ukrainian and US officials. Since 2015, the CIA has spent tens of millions of dollars to transform Ukraine’s Soviet-formed services into potent allies against Moscow, officials said.”
The CIA support since 2015 has included advanced surveillance systems, training both inside Ukraine and inside the US, the building of new headquarters for Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, and intelligence sharing thought unimaginable pre-2014. Officials told the Post that the CIA still maintains a significant presence in Kyiv to this day.
The CIA helped the SBU form a new unit known as the “Fifth Directorate.” Recruits for the new unit were trained by the CIA outside of Kyiv with the purpose of forming groups “capable of operating behind front lines and working as covert groups.”
The CIA also gave major support to Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, known as the GUR. “We calculated that GUR was a smaller and more nimble organization where we could have more impact,” a former US intelligence official who worked in Ukraine told the Post. “GUR was our little baby. We gave them all new equipment and training.”
Officials insisted that the CIA was not involved in targeted killings carried out by Ukrainian intelligence and said the focus was on “bolstering those services’ abilities to gather intelligence on a dangerous adversary.” The report said the SBU and the GUR have been involved in dozens of assassinations against Russian officials in Russian-controlled Ukraine, alleged Ukrainian collaborators, and Russian officials and civilians deep inside Russia.
Darya Dugina was killed in a car bombing outside of Moscow in August 2022, but officials said her father was the real target. Despite the fact that they are civilians, Ukrainian officials justify Dugina’s killing because she was a supporter of Russia’s war in Ukraine, telling the Post she was no “innocent victim.” One security official called her the “daughter of the father of Russian propaganda.” The official said the car bombing and other operations inside Russia are “about narrative” and showing enemies of Ukraine that “punishment is imminent even for those who think they are untouchable.”
The report, which was based on conversations with more than two dozen current and former Ukrainian, US, and Western intelligence and security officials, said the CIA has objected to some of the Ukrainian operations but never withdrew support. Other assassinations inside Russia have included Stanislav Rzhitsky, a former Russian submarine commander who was killed while jogging in a park in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar, and Maksim Fomin, known as Vladlen Tatarsky, a military blogger killed in a bombing at a cafe in St. Petersburg.
The SBU was also behind the two attacks on the Kerch Bridge, which connects Russia to the Crimean Peninsula. The first attack in October 2022 was a truck bombing that killed five people. According to the Post, the driver of the truck, who was killed in the explosion, was unaware the SBU had planted a bomb in his vehicle. The second attack on the Kerch Bridge involved naval drones that, according to the Post, were “developed as part of a top-secret operation involving the CIA and other Western intelligence services.”
A former CIA official compared the CIA-backed Ukrainian intelligence services to Israel’s Mossad, which is known for being behind assassinations in Iran. “We are seeing the birth of a set of intelligence services that are like Mossad in the 1970s,” the official said, adding there are risks for NATO. “If Ukraine’s intelligence operations become even bolder — targeting Russians in third countries, for example — you could imagine how that might cause rifts with partners and come into serious tension with Ukraine’s broader strategic goals.”