CIA Built 12 Spy Bases in Ukraine Near the Russian Border Over Past Decade

A report from The New York Times sheds more light on the CIA's involvement in Ukraine since the 2014 coup

The CIA helped build 12 secret spy bases in Ukraine along the Russian border as part of the agency’s support for Ukrainian intelligence that started in 2014, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

The report described one of the CIA-built spy bases as an underground bunker used by Ukrainian soldiers to “track Russian spy satellites and eavesdrop on conversations between Russian commanders.”

The Times report sheds new light on the CIA’s involvement in Ukraine, which played a major role in provoking the Russian invasion. A European official told the paper that when Russian President Vladimir Putin was considering invading Ukraine toward the end of 2021, the head of one of Russia’s main spy services told him that the CIA and Britain’s MI6 were controlling Ukraine and turning it into a beachhead for operations against Moscow.

The report said the CIA’s relationship with Ukrainian intelligence could be traced back to February 24, 2014, right after former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in a US-backed coup. On that day, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the new head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), called the CIA and asked for help in rebuilding Ukraine’s intelligence capabilities.

The CIA agreed to help as it saw an opportunity to collect more intelligence on Russia. The US spy agency helped form the Fifth Directorate in the SBU, which consisted of young Ukrainians who were born after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The idea was to assuage CIA concerns about the Ukrainian spy agency being full of older, more Russian-sympathetic Ukrainians.

The Washington Post first reported on the CIA’s creation of the Fifth Directorate back in October 2023. The Post report said that the CIA had spent tens of millions of dollars “to transform Ukraine’s Soviet-formed services into potent allies against Moscow.”

The CIA has also supported Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, known as the GUR. The GUR provided an opportunity for the US since it was allowed to collect intelligence outside of Ukraine, meaning it could be used inside Russia. A former US intelligence official speaking to the Post described the GUR as “our little baby.”

The Times report said the CIA started training Ukrainian spies who have operated inside Russia, across Europe, in Cuba, and other places where the Russians have a large presence. The CIA also helped create an elite commando unit known as Unit 2245, which collected Russian drones and other technology so the US could reverse-engineer them. One member of Unit 2245 was Kyrylo Budanov, who now heads the GUR.

Ukrainian intelligence services began assassinating separatist leaders in the Donbas in 2016 and has been credited with several killings inside Russia, including the car bombing that killed Darya Dugina, daughter of the Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin. US officials insist the CIA isn’t involved in the assassinations, but the killings have not impacted the CIA’s support

The CIA’s and overall US intelligence support has significantly increased since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, 2022. Most US personnel were evacuated from Ukraine right before the invasion, but a group of CIA officers remained in a remote location in western Ukraine and provided intelligence support for the first weeks of fighting.

Ivan Bakanov, who was the head of the SBU when Russia invaded, told the Times that without the CIA, “there would have been no way for us to resist the Russians or to beat them.”

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.