The events of the past three years have clearly demonstrated the role that operative and credible intelligence plays in ensuring the national interests of our state. Military intelligence of Ukraine does not flaunt its achievements, whereas descendants will learn about the results of its activities decades later, only after relevant documents become available after their validity period runs out and the security classification is lifted.
Officially, Ukraine’s military intelligence was initiated on 7th September 1992, when the President signed a decree on the establishment of the Directorate of Military Strategic Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine. Since then, a comprehensive, effective and multi-level system of military intelligence has been developing.
However, Ukrainian intelligence goes back in history: from the times of Kyiv Rus and later – Zaporizhska Sich. In the days of Boghdan Khmelnytskyi Cossack intelligence was considered to be one of the most effective in Europe. Despite the lack of a separate intelligence unit Zaporizhtsi effectively obtained information about the strategic plans of the enemy.
Ukrainian military intelligence worked vigorously during the Second World War. The fact that Krakow - the oldest city in Poland - was not destroyed is the merit of Ukrainian intelligence officers. As known from history, Krakow was almost destroyed in 1945 because the Nazis were getting ready to blow it up. And this explosion could have been much more powerful than many present-day terrorist attacks.
The city was saved from destruction by the intelligence group “Holos” (Voice) headed by the well-known Ukrainian intelligence officer Yevhen Berezniak who obtained timely information on the enemy's plans. In 1967 the feature film “Major Whirlwind”, based on the eponymous novel by Julian Semenov, came out. The events portrayed in the book as well as the film were based on the archival documents of the GRU of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union and on the accounts of eyewitnesses.
Despite the undeniable importance of the role that the Ukrainian intelligence officer Yevhen Berezniak and his intelligence group played in saving Krakow the Kremlin, once again, resorted to its proven methods of distorting history and denying heroic feats of Ukrainians. In 2014, the book of the Russian author A. Bondarenko “The Genuine Story of ‘Major Whirlwind’” was published. In this new work of fiction the role of the hero is given to a Russian intelligence officer Oleksii Botian, who, according to the Russian version, played the key role in saving Krakow from destruction.
After the collapse of the USSR and the restoration of our state’s independence in August of 1991, the need to create our own system of military intelligence became extremely urgent, since such structures were previously subordinate to Moscow. The tedious work of professionals with invaluable background in intelligence activities, who protected the interests of independent Ukraine, promoted the creation of a modern and effective intelligence structure that ceaselessly works in the interests of national security.
Up to 2014, Ukraine’s military intelligence activity was limited to the fact that Ukraine, as a responsible player on the international arena, strictly adhered to the provisions of the CIS intelligence cooperation agreement, signed on 4 April 1993 in Alma-Ata. According to this document, the signatories undertook a commitment not to conduct intelligence activities in relation to each other. As in many other cases, contrary to the provisions of the international agreement, Russia had only increased its intelligence and subversive activities in Ukraine, in particular, on the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
Since 1993 Moscow has significantly stepped up the collection of data regarding units of the Ukrainian Army and Navy located not only in the Crimea, but also in the south of Ukraine – in Kherson, Odesa and Mykolaiv regions. The Kremlin demanded that its wards provided data about events in Ukraine as well as actively influenced the situation both directly in Sevastopol and throughout the Crimean peninsula.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the occupation of the Crimea and parts of the eastern regions of Ukraine led to a significant deformation in the system of global and regional security, the current system of international law and became a long-term destabilizing factor not only in Ukrainian but also in global political, economic and military spheres.
Amidst these difficult conditions, one of the main tasks of military intelligence became the extraction of information about the intentions of the aggressor and the creation of an evidence base regarding Russia’s actions against Ukraine. In pursuit of these tasks, military intelligence effectively increased and redistributed forces, which made it possible to significantly improve the quality and increase the quantity of information about the enemy, as well as to track Russian occupation forces in real time.
Today, the Ukrainian intelligence community monitors the actions of the Russian army, the build-up of its forces and means, tries to project the steps of militants, occupants and Russian servicemen.
The activities of the military intelligence are in line with their slogan “Sapiens dominabitur astris” (Wise will dominate the stars).
It would be difficult to overestimate the role of the intelligence community, because intelligence enables both: commanders on the front line to make decisions which have an impact on soldiers’ lives as well as Ukraine’s state leadership to adopt strategic decisions which influence the fate of our state. Over the past three years, the selfless and courageous work of military intelligence officers has led to more than a dozen volumes of data and documentary evidence that proves Russia’s aggression against our state. The Ukrainian side regularly provides information on Russian troops suspected of committing war crimes on the territory of Ukraine to EU member states and NATO. Therefore, it is also used to expand the sanctions list. Moreover, it will be used as evidence in the inevitable international criminal courts.
Ukrainian intelligence officers are closely monitoring the fate of Russian servicemen who fought in Donbas. In November 2016, military intelligence reported that Russia began another round of recruitments of militants for illegal armed formations in Donbas and to the war in Syria.
Equally important is the attention of military intelligence to other corners of Europe and the world in which the danger of escalation of “frozen” conflicts and the emergence of new regional conflicts near the borders of Ukraine are growing. First and foremost this concerns long-term unresolved conflicts in Transnistria, Kosovo and the Caucasus. Today regional, ethnic and religious conflicts, terrorism, illegal migration, human trafficking, drugs and weapon trade, technology of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction – have also gained relevance and are constantly in the focus of intelligence. Providing Ukrainian leadership with critical information about real and probable threats to Ukraine’s national security, projected development of the situation have become a solid basis for creating an effective system of rapid response to global crises.