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War in Ukraine, Part 5: Russian Strategic Military Expansion


Russian Kamov Ka-52 combat support helicopter firing rockets at anti-government forces targets in Syria. Russian state media commonly referred to the victims of Russian military action in Syria as 'terrorists' in an attempt to imply that Russia was fighting ISIS. In reality, after Russia arrived in Syria, Russian military activities were predominantly in support of the al-Assad regime, targeting the US supported liberation forces fighting against the Syrian government, including civilians. ISIS (Islamic State) was in fact a silent ally of the Syrian al-Assad regime, and therefore a 'hands-off' policy applied by order of Bashar al-Assad. The United States often challenged the Russian delegates to explain why Russian forces deliberately avoided targeting ISIS targets in Syria.



2015:


2015, September 30: Russian forces commence with military operations in Syria, and announces that it is targeting ISIL (Islamic State) in Syria with airstrikes. Upon US verification on the ground, the US determined that Russia was in fact targeting civilians opposing the Syrian Government, as well as Western-backed rebel groups.


Russia deployed its forces to Syria upon official government request by Syrian President Bashar al-Asad. Shortly after the arrival of the Russian military contingent in Syria, Russian officials were cited as saying that, apart from fighting ‘terrorist’ organizations such as the Islamic State, Russia’s goals include helping the Syrian government retake territory from various anti-government groups that are labelled by the United States and the American-led Intervention in Syria as “moderate opposition”, with a broader geopolitical objective being to roll back U.S. influence within the region. During a television interview Russian President Vladimir Putin defined Russia’s goals in Syria as “stabilizing the legitimate power in Syria and creating the conditions for political compromise.” Political compromise by who?


At this point we need to understand the dynamics between Russia and its declared objectives in Syria, specifically relating to the Islamic State (ISIL). When Russia deployed its forces to Syria it actually had genuine intentions to fight ISIL (aka Islamic State of Iraq and Levant / Daesh / Islamic States of Iraq and Syria), for up to that point Russian foreign policy classified ISIL as a major terrorist threat to Russia while it was still resisting Islamists (of predominant Chechen origin) within the Russian territories of North Caucasus, especially if the 5,000 Russian national Chechen Islamists (all veterans of the Second Chechen War with Russia) serving within the ranks of ISIL as combatants had to return to Russia [alive]. Therefore, up until the arrival of Russian forces in Syria, Russia in fact prioritized the destruction of ISIL. However, by the time Russia arrived in Syria, the Syrian government had already been engaged in the civil war for more than four years, although it was a beneficiary to military hardware from Russia during that period while sanctioned by the West. Also, for the Syrian government to survive that long, it had to make concessions to prolong the Sunni Ba’ath Party regime’s survivability. Those concessions came in two forms, namely:

  • Generation of alternative revenue streams not affected by UN sanctions; and

  • Coalition with warring factions fighting a common enemy (the United States of America and its allies, aka ‘the West’).

Funding the Syrian Government War Effort:


In December 2018, Greek authorities intercepted a cargo vessel, Noka, travelling from the Syrian port of Latakia to eastern Libya. Upon inspection of the ship’s cargo, 6 tons of Indian processed cannabis, and 3 million super-strength Captagon tablets were discovered. This drug consignment was destined for European markets via the refugee transit system from Libya (one of the reasons why Mediterranean EU nations enforce stricter control measures against refugees and the various refugee ‘aid vessels’ constantly attempting to assist refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea to EU destinations). Captagon is the brand name for the drug compound fenethylline hydrochloride originally produced in West Germany as a treatment for attention deficit disorder but banned during the 1980’s due to its addictive properties. Now, Captagon (also known as ‘Abu Hilalain’ in the Middle East), is more commonly considered a cheap alternative to more costly cocaine, and it is also the most common narcotic found amongst the high-earning Arabian Gulf states, especially neighboring Jordan which is used as a primary trafficking route. Prior to the Syrian civil war, Captagon destined for the European consumer market was predominantly produced in Bulgaria and Slovenia, but due to stricter enforcement measures in the EU, manufacturing was moved to Syria based on in-depth intelligence and chemical compound analysis of the seized cargo. After establishing that the latest variants of Captagon in Europe originate from Syria, further investigations exposed how the Syrian government had established a wholesale narcotics production and distribution network as a primary means of funding its war efforts to counter the Western sanctions imposed against the regime. In summary, the Syrian government produces wholesale Captagon under the supervision of the 4th Armored Division, Syrian Army, which is controlled by the Syrian President’s younger brother, Maher al-Assad. However, due to the consequences of restrictive international sanctions imposed on the Syrian government and its leadership, al-Assad had to partner with specialized international enablers to get his product to the target market (EU, GCC). The primary enablers of the Syrian narcotics trade are:


1. Hezbollah: At the start of the Syrian civil war, Hezbollah was one of the first Syrian government allies to provide military assistance in support of the struggling Syrian government. The problem, however, was that the Syrian government could not afford paying for the services provided by Hezbollah with cash, and therefore had to provide alternative reimbursement concessions to enable Hezbollah to fund its activities in Syria. These concessions came in the form of illicit trade activities relating to the trafficking of arms, narcotics, and people. Hezbollah, also being a subject of Western sanctions, had extensive experience in smuggling operations, basically controlling the whole territory along the Lebanon-Syria border. Al-Assad required the knowledge of Hezbollah which gained experience in the production and distribution of various types of narcotics in demand by both European- and neighboring Israeli consumer markets from its stronghold in the Beqaa Valley in the south of Lebanon. This is also the primary reason why the four main Captagon factories are located in the regime-controlled areas of Latakia, Homs, Daraa, and Aleppo which are located close to the Syria-Lebanese border. For Syria’s al-Assad all was fair in war, and Hezbollah was already established in serving the Syrian regime’s perceived enemies (the EU and Israel), why the weaponization of drug trade to target its prime perceived ‘enemies’ while earning money from it made total sense without any moral objections. Therefore, Hezbollah became one of the primary distributors of Syrian Captagon in return for military assistance to the Syrian government in maintaining control over Syrian government-controlled territory. Hezbollah also has a long tradition of association with the 4th Armored Division, Syrian Army, and its leader Maher al-Assad, via his right-hand man, General Ghassan Bilal, who acts as the middleman between al-Assad and Hezbollah. Hezbollah, on the other hand (as a non-state actor), acts as a regional agent for Iran within the Arab peninsula, receiving around US$ 700 million in funding from Tehran annually. In return Hezbollah’s actions relating to narcotics trade with Iran’s primary enemies are legitimized, which further ensures that the political crisis in Lebanon is maintained as a measure to erode state power (because within irregular warfare doctrine, political instability erodes state power which increases vulnerability to unopposed illicit activities). Basically, the role of Hezbollah is nothing more than a ‘guns-for-hire’ arrangement paid for by wholesale narcotics distribution rights.


2. Russian Organized Criminal Groups (Europe): The arrival of Russian military forces also brings along the arrival of Russian intelligence services (GRU), and Russian organized criminal groups. At present, Russian organized criminal groups dominate the covert wholesale narcotics trade in the European Union, with well-established infrastructure to enable retail distribution of Syria’s Captagon directly to European tourist consumers in areas already dominated by the Russian organized criminal groups posing as business oligarchs (Spain, Greece, Italy). The advantage which Russian organized criminal groups have over any other non-Russian affiliated organized criminal groups in Europe are as follows:

  • Dual Russian/EU citizenship: The majority (if not all) Russian organized crime members have both Russian- and host nation EU citizenship;

  • Russian Intelligence Services: Russian organized criminal groups operate in cooperation with Russian state intelligence services (GRU, FSB, etc). The relationship basically allows for the Russian state intelligence community to utilize the infrastructure and protection of the Russian organized criminal groups in exchange for intelligence relating to adversaries/competitors to Russian organized criminal group interests. The Russian organized criminal groups also provide ad hoc services to the Russian intelligence services that includes coercion, extortion, assassinations, and targeted theft (of information or industrial espionage).

  • Russian Diplomatic Support: Various senior members of the Russian Organized Criminal Groups with links to the current Russian government leadership are known to travel as members of the Russian diplomatic corps with appropriate diplomatic immunity. This allows senior Russian organized crime figures to travel between diplomatic missions without legal consequences. Russian organized crime functions as a tool for Russian expansionism through a mutually beneficial arrangement.

  • Influences within Interpol: Not to discredit all activities by Interpol, but the international law enforcement institution has been exposed for various instances of corruption in the past, which includes being compromised in terms of Russian influence and abuse of its respective membership with the organization. Common abuses of jurisdiction by the Russian collective includes targeting of foreign political adversaries using false arrest warrants, the leaking of sensitive information to suspects connected to Russian organized criminal group activities, and suppressing investigations relating to exposed Russian intelligence services operatives by other Interpol member states. It is mainly due to this reason why the EU established Europol as its main law enforcement cooperation to counter organized crime in Europe independent from Interpol.

  • Existing Infrastructure: Russian organized criminal groups maintain large investments in both the illicit- and regular economies within major European tourist destinations (Spain, Greece, etc), and therefore already have access to the desired target markets via its existing infrastructure. The current Russian military deployment in Syria also allows senior criminal group members direct access to the al-Assad regime.

Basically, if the Russians fail to control the distribution of Captagon in Europe, its major competitors will. This was clearly illustrated on November 15, 2022, when Bruno Carbone, one of the primary narcotics suppliers to the Naples’ Camorra Mafia, was arrested in Syria by the pro-Western anti-Syrian government militant group, Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, while travelling through liberated territory from Turkiye to meet directly with the Syrian government producers of Captagon. He was travelling on a fake Mexican passport at the time of arrest, but positively identified by the liberation forces with access to Western law enforcement data bases as being a wanted fugitive in Europe. He was deported to Italy, and immediately arrested by Italian authorities upon arrival in Rome. Carbone tried to sideline the Russian dominance of Syrian Captagon supplies in Europe, and in the process got arrested by underestimating the level of organization of the pro-Western liberated territories in Syria. Captagon is now the most sought-after narcotics in the Mediterranean region.


3. Islamic State (Daesh): On July 01, 2020, Italian authorities seized 14 tons (84 million tablets) of amphetamines labelled as Captagon smuggled from Syria to the southern Italian port of Salerno, and originally hypothesized as manufactured by ISIS/ISIL. However, what this incident later confirmed was the influx of Syrian manufactured Captagon into Europe, but it exposed Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) involvement in the Syrian narcotics smuggling operations to Europe. This was a convenient arrangement for both Syria and ISIS simply because the Islamic State network in Europe was extensive, and smuggling narcotics to Europe was considered a justifiable act as a means of warfare against its enemies in the West (which includes Europe). For ISIS it was another revenue stream in addition to unregulated oil- and grain sales to support its Islamic Caliphate ambitions in both Syria and Iraq, and to finance its various international alliances to remain relevant as a global terror group.


These three stakeholders illustrate how the Syrian government weaponized international narcotics trade to support its ongoing war effort, and it also illustrates how the al-Assad regime privatized major components of its war fighting capabilities to compensate for lack of capacity in terms of the government’s armed forces. To put this into perspective in financial terms, a single Captagon tablet is purchased in Syria for USD 1 directly from the production facilities controlled by the Syrian Army 4th Armored Division. These tablets are then retailed for USD 14 each in Europe, or US$ 20 each in Saudi Arabia. This is the value of maintaining the Syrian civil war to Russia and its allies, and why it is even within the current al-Assad controlled Syrian government to ensure that Syria remains politically unstable. Why would Russia, Hezbollah, Daesh (Islamic State), and even the Syrian government desire an end to the conflict in Syria while the leadership of all the current warring parties gain such high returns on investment. Following the 2008 Russo-Georgia War, Syria serves as another reminder of European (Western) failure to effectively address regional problems that are in fact eroding Western society’s centre of gravity to the benefit of a belligerent Russia, Iran, and all their respective non-state actor mechanisms.


The Syrian Government Partnership with Islamic State/ISIL:


The relationship between Syria and the Islamic State is one of the most common misunderstood alliances in the present Syrian conflict. Fact is, the Syrian government has been a supporter and enabler of the Islamic State movement since the days of its predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), when Syria was actively supporting Sunni jihadists to train and transit to Iraq to fight an insurgency against the United States and its allies. The Islamic State movement first started when senior Ba’athist intelligence officers and military leaders were unseated from their positions in the Iraq government following the United States led invasion of Iraq in 2003. These members immediately fled to neighboring Syria where they found refuge from a fellow Ba’athist, namely, Bashar al-Assad, the President of the Syrian regime. Shortly after the US occupation of Iraq, the al-Qaeda insurgency expanded in Iraq targeting the US alliance. This operation was done with the knowledge and assistance of the Syrian government and Syrian intelligence services. In 2008 the US Treasury Department exposed Badran Turki al-Hishan al-Mazidih, aka Abu Ghadiyah, and his Abu Ghadiyah Network as the main source of supply of al-Qaeda fighters to Iraq. US General David Petraeus also confirmed in a meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister that “Bashar al-Assad was well aware that his brother-in-law Asif Shawqat, Director of Syrian Military Intelligence, had detailed knowledge of the activities of AQI facilitator Abu Ghadiyah, who was using Syrian territory to bring foreign fighter and suicide bmbers into Iraq.”


However, in 2011 at the outset of the Syrian revolution, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad considered the Arab Spring as a “Western influenced” destabilization effort against his regime (instead of acknowledging the fact that the Syrian population in fact reached a tipping point in accepting the a-Assad heritage of government abuse. To survive the challenge against his authority, he established the CCMC (Central Crisis Management Cell). Based on the recommendations from all members of the CCMC, having observed the Arab Spring trends in other MENA countries, along with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the conclusion was not to counter hostility in Syria, but rather to intentionally destabilize Syria to the point where the West (NATO alliance) would hesitate to get involved directly. The original protests in Syria started off peacefully, but it was through the enablement of the al-Assad regime that Syria rapidly expanded into hostility. As a first step of enablement, the Syrian government released all jihadists and hardline Islamist terrorists by a series of government amnesties. Decree No. 61 issued in May 2011, for instance, released “all members belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and other detainees belonging to political movements”. Most of the prisoners released then joined what became known as the ‘Islamic State’. One of the prominent Islamic State leaders released from prison was Amr Abu Atheer al-Absi, a kidnapper and recruiter of European jihadists. Another character is Ali Musa al-Shawakh, aka Abu Luqman, who was arrested by the Syrian regime in 2010 for sedition based on his ties to al Qaeda Iraq but was released in 2011 in the context of the Syrian Civil War. Abu luqman was responsible for ordering the beheadings of two Islamic state hostages, and later rose to become the Islamic State Director of Security and Intelligence Service (Emni). A Syrian intelligence officer later revealed that the Syrian government did not just release the prisoners to go their own ways, but in fact facilitated them to organize into armed brigades. Also, a consequence of the Syrian government having housed all jihadist in the same prison (Sednaya prison), the regime effectively networked all the jihadists into a single group. In 2014, another Syrian military intelligence officer confirmed that the orders were issued by the Military Intelligence headquarters in Damascus (headed by Asif Shawqat, the President’s brother-in-law), and when some concerned intelligence officials raised the concerns of the prisoners organizing into armed groups, their superiors responded as if it was part of the plan.


Basically, the Syrian government CCMC plan was to destabilize Syria to the point where it would deter any Western (NATO) involvement by allowing and enabling the establishment of the Islamic State group to occupy as much Syrian territories as possible simply because the rapid expansion of Islamic State influence over Syrian territories in fact protected the al-Assad regime in Damascus, which under other circumstances would have been more vulnerable. At that point, maintaining total government control over all Syrian territory was not the primary objective. The primary objective was to establish a protectorate around Damascus to safeguard the al-Assad regime against losing power, and only when they achieved that, to expand military operations to gradually conquer back lost territories after reorganizing its military and government funding mechanisms (through the wholesale sale of narcotics). The Syrian government then took it further by enabling the Islamic State to expand into Iraq from its Syrian base to ensure that the United States would remain focused on fighting the Islamic State threat in Iraq away from Syrian territory. This plan originally worked well until the US supported liberation forces in Syria started making gains in Syria. Also, as the Islamic State movement rapidly grew stronger, along with the influx of experienced foreign fighters (such as the Russian Chechen veterans of the Second Chenchen War), the Islamic State started challenging the Syrian government in government-controlled territories. This forced the Syrian military to retaliate against Islamic State targets, but by 2013 when the Islamic State gained control over significant Syrian territory (including Raqqa), the Syrian government backed down on targeting the Islamic State. At this point, the Syrian government and the Islamic State reached an agreement to cooperate rather than fight each other (since they were in fact fighting the same enemies), which resulted in Damascus purchasing oil and grain from the Islamic State. By 2014, Syrian government forces and Islamic Sates forces started conducting joint military operations in support of another, to include Syrian Air Force sorties in support of Islamic State ground operations while fighting pro-Western liberation forces. By September 2014, the Islamic State controlled around 60% of Syria’s oil fields, and it was earning around US$ 3 million per day from oil revenues alone while pumping around 56,000 barrels per day (selling at US$ 53 / barrel compared to the international spot price of US$ 97 / barrel at the time, creating in return much wealth for oil traders in Damascus, Istanbul and Moscow). In addition to revenues earned from oil and agriculture, the Islamic State expanded into illicit activities to include extortion, kidnapping of foreigners, and international narcotics trade via its European network, to include trafficking in Syrian Captagon. However, Damascus was the Islamic State’s largest customer in terms of oil sales for the simple reason that the Islamic State was supplying the Syrian government with oil at a cheaper rate than it produced itself (free from royalties, high labor costs, etc). Payment was not always in cash, but offset by the supply of weapons, ammunition, and wholesale narcotics of equal value in return.


Russian Assistance:


By 2014, the United States launched Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria to counter the Islamic State within Syrian territory 5-days after the Islamic State launched its offensive in Mosul, Iraq. The multinational NATO mission also armed the Syrian Democratic Forces to oppose the Islamic State territorial gains in Syria. As the Islamic State started losing territory in both Syria and Iraq, the al-Assad regime feared a US led NATO overthrow of the Syrian government which prompted al-Assad to request Russian military assistance. When Russian forces initially arrived in Syria in September 2015, in addition to safeguarding the al-Assad regime in Damascus, its actual mandate was to counter the Islamic State and specifically to ensure that the large number of Russian Chechens of around 5,000 in strength serving as combatants with both ISIS/ISIL and the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), did not return to Russia alive fearing domestic terrorism and escalation in the Islamic caliphate ambitions within the North Caucasus region. However, upon arrival in Damascus, the Russians realized that the Islamic State was in fact an ally to the Damascus government, and therefore the Islamic State could not be pursued. However, one of the reasons why al-Assad enabled the establishment of the Islamic State in Syria was to distinguish all other militant groups as ‘anti-government’ forces which basically included all groups associated with the NATO supported Syrian Democratic Forces, which also included Chechen fighters who opposed both the Russian government, and its proxy 'Kadyvorite' Chechen Republic government under leadership of Putin-loyalist Ramzan Kadyrov. That was the reason why the Russian campaign targeted militant groups not affiliated with the Islamic State, but still referring to these groups as “terrorists” knowing well that the majority ignorant and poorly informed global audience would just assume that Russia was fighting “ISIS”. However, as the relations between the Islamic State and the Russian forces in Syria developed into a silent mutual beneficial cooperation (mainly enabled by the Russian GRU, Wagner Group and Syrian military intelligence since they were actually fighting the same perceived enemies), Moscow realized the potential that the Islamic State offered in enabling Russian expansionism at the strategic level with plausible deniability, which at the same time solved the problem of keeping the Russian Chechens busy (outside of Russia), supporting Russian strategic goals. That is also one of the reasons why Russia deployed more Chechen regular soldiers serving the Chechen Republic loyal to the Head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, to Syria instead of ethnic Russians. The Chechens loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov were deployed to Syria on similar terms allowed to Wagner Group PMC, namely, it was a commercial contract (guns-for-hire arrangement). However, the key to understanding the Russian link with the Islamic State is via Wagner Group, but most prominently the Russian Chechen network. In Syria, the Chechens were divided into three main groups, namely:

  • Islamic State: Russian national Chechen militants who were veterans of the Second Chechen War in Chechnya, Russia, who are anti-Russian and anti-Kadyrov, but supportive of the al-Assad Syrian regime in Damascus. The survivors of ISIS either returned back to the North Caucasus region of Russia, or serve within an international capacity supporting the present-day Islamic State global network of affiliates.

  • Russian Forces: Russian national Chechen regular military forces loyal to the pro-Putin Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, acting within the capacity as Russian armed forces. These Chechens are commonly referred to as 'Kadyvorites' who are the same group currently supporting the Russian armed forces in its war in Ukraine.

  • Syrian Democratic Forces: Russian national Chechen militants and Chechen diaspora who oppose the governments of Vladimir Putin (Russian Federation), Ramzan Kadyrov (Russian Republic of Chechnya), Bashar al-Assad (Syrian Regime in Damascus), and the Islamic State (Daesh). These Chechens were beneficiaries of Western (NATO) support in Syria in its fight against both the Syrian al-Assad regime, and the Islamic State. Many of these veterans are now serving with the Ukraine armed forces resisting the Russian invasion of Ukraine on behalf of the NATO supported Ukraine government of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, also commonly referred to as "terrorists" by Russia media..

However (where this becomes more complicated and confusing), is that all three these groups of Chechens support the same ideology (which includes Ramzan Kadyrov), namely, they all wish for a Chechen Republic which is sovereign independent from the Russian Federation, which is also the link keeping them all bonded ideologically, and also the reason why they are fighting each other simply because they disagree about who they consider as legitimate leadership of the Chechen people while Ramzan Kadyrov considers himself as the only rightful leader of all Chechens. These simultaneous shared and opposing ideologies are further complicated in Chechen society back home through family relations and tribal alliances within the Chechen dominated regions of Russia (North Caucasus, Dagestan, Chechnya), why some Chechen figures are sometimes perceived as friends, and sometimes perceived as enemies. Syria offered an opportunity to Ramzan Kadyrov to target his greatest opponents serving within the ranks of the Islamic State, which failed to realize due to the Syrian regime's hands-off policy in terms of the Islamic State as its 'ally'. In January 2017, two Members of Parliament from the Russian Republic of Chechnya attended an official visit to Maher al-Assad, the brother of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as representatives of the Chechen Government on behalf of the Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov. The reason for this visit? Maher al-Assad is the commander of the 4th Armored Division, Syrian Army, and responsible for controlling Syria's Captagon program.


The 'terrorists' from a Russian and Kadyrovite perspective refers to the Chechens serving with the NATO supported Syrian Democratic Forces, which then also became the basis for Russian disinformation operations implying that the 'Islamic State' was a creation of the US intelligence services, the reason why so many misinformed people globally still believe that the Islamic State is of Western creation. In reality, what needs to be understood clearly is that the Islamic State (Daesh) is not a Russian dominated asset, but rather a business arrangement supporting mutually beneficial strategic objectives. In the present, Islamic State and its so-called global affiliates are nothing more than Islamist guns-for-hire with the occasional Russian technical support to coordinate operations, target priorities, and desired mission objectives in line with the Russian desired end state. However, this doctrine was not a product of Russian genius, but rather an adaptation of the CIA doctrine applied against the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan when the United States supported the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet occupation forces.


As the Russian military operation progressed in Syria, Russian organized criminal groups became involved with the wholesale Captagon smuggling operation into Europe and Wagner Group saw opportunities in gaining control over oil fields which used to be controlled by the Islamic State, but which were lost to Syrian Democratic Forces as the Islamic State control over Syrian territory declined due to US military operations (Yes, the United States was in fact unknowingly doing the dirty work for Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime government in Damascus). As Syrian territories, including Syrian oil fields, were liberated from Islamic State forces by US military forces in support of the Syrian Democratic Forces, these territories were handed over to the SDF to establish proper administration and governance following Western rule of law, which included control over oil production to enable the SDF to take care of the people and territories it controlled as a means of reducing dependence on Western humanitarian aid, In 2021, Wagner Group secured its oil and gas leases with Damascus in exchange for its permanent presence in Syria (or for as long as the al-Assad regime remains in control of the Damascus government). The challenge, however, is that Damascus allocated Syrian oil fields to the Russian Wagner Group which were located in US supported Syrian Democratic Forces territories, the main reason why Wagner Group continuously challenges both SDF and US military forces in Syria, and why Wagner Group was managing a disinformation campaign against the US by insinuating that the United States was only in Syria to control Syria's oil fields. The reality, however, is that if the US supported SDF did not control these resources to the benefit of the Syrian people within their respective territories, then those resources would have been controlled by the Russian Wagner Group. What both Ukraine and Syria has proven (and what Russia’s expanding footprint in Africa will support), is that Russian expansionism is driven by financial rewards derived from the control of resources. Not to the benefit of the Russian nation, but to the benefit of a few people who label themselves as the ‘political elite’ of Russia, the so-called ‘oligarchs’.


Note: This opinion is based on our own extensive experience countering the so-called 'Islamic State' movement in the global war on terror, which includes Syria.


2015, October 01: The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine comes into effect as a campaign promise by Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, as a means to implement stricter anti-corruption mechanisms to reduce government corruption as demanded by the IMF. Since its inception, 189 cases were sent to court, but with no major convictions. It was later exposed that suspects were coached by the head of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office on how to avoid corruption charges. Poroshenko’s involvement in this practice is not verified, although he failed to address the lack of convictions when confronted by independent oversight groups.

2015, October 31: A Russian chartered flight, Metrojet Flight 9268 on route to St Petersburg, crashes in the Sinai Peninsula after being brought down by an explosive device supposedly loaded onboard the aircraft at Sharm El Shaik International Airport, Egypt. All 224 passengers and crew die because of the incident. 212 Passengers on board were Russian nationals. The attack was claimed to be the work of ISIS/ISIL based on an article published by ISIL in its online magazine Dabiq on November 18, 2015. A mechanic employed at Sharm El Shaik International Airport was later arrested for placing the explosive device which he supposedly received from his cousin who was a member of the Islamic State branch in Sinai.


On November 14, 2015, Russian media personality and propagandist, Dmitry Kiselyov, blamed the attack on the United States being in a “secret pact with ISIL” in its fight against Russia. Russian intelligence capitalized on this incident by creating the false narrative that the United States maintained special relations with the Islamic State. Although the US failed to take it serious by disregarding the possible effects of Kiselyov’s statement as disinformation and speculation, the message stuck in the heads of a majority Russian audience and global followers who are still under the impression that the US was responsible for the enablement of the global Islamic State movement. This incident again highlights how the Russian regime follows the Bolshevik Code to the letter to exploit every opportunity to its favor in its silent war with the United States.


2015, December 07: Former President Viktor Yanukovych, while in exile in Russia, confirms his interest to return to Ukrainian politics.


2016:


2016, April 03: Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk states that a “strict policy against any aggressor country which in this case means the Russian Federation is needed. No deals and compromise at the expense of Ukraine. The restoration of the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state. The return of Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea, and the extension of sanctions against the Russian Federation until Ukraine has restored its territorial sovereignty.

2016, June 13: Konstantin Kilimnik, within the capacity as an associate of American Paul Manafort, leaves Ukraine for Russia permanently. Kilimnik left Ukraine after being tipped off by former Ukraine Prosecutor-General Yuri Lutsenko after a US Federal Grand Jury charged Kilimnik for obstruction of justice.

2016, July 31: In a video published on YouTube, a person supposedly representing the Islamic States calls onto its supporters in Russia to carry out attacks in Russia.


This publication was different from normal Islamic State publications because it was released on a medium addressing a predominantly Western audience. Upon closer evaluation it is suspected to be a staged production with the purpose of diverting growing concerns about Russian collaboration with Daesh (Islamic State), especially as US officials raise concerns about Russia’s unwillingness to engage ISIS targets in Syria.


2016, August 02: Russian GRU agent Konstantin Kilimnik meets with American political consultants Paul Manafort and Richard Gates at 666th Fifth Avenue. Based on various witness statements to the FBI, Kilimnik was responsible for communicating Trump campaign information to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire and close ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kilimnik was confirmed to be an employee of the Russian GRU at the time. In statements provided to the FBI during investigations to follow years later, Manafort confirmed that he had also discussed the activities relating to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and leaking of e-mails by Russian hacker groups ‘Cozy Bear’ and ‘Fancy Bear’. Trump election campaign data also had to be passed onto Russian-linked Ukrainians Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov based on witness statements given to the FBI.

2016, November 08: A new law is implemented in Ukraine requiring a quota of at least 60% of all radio and television content to be aired in Ukrainian language. Up until the implementation of this law, the majority television and radio content were broadcast in Russian, which is in fact a minority language in Ukraine.

2016, December 02: Ukrainian MP and pro-Russian politician, Oleksandr Onyshchenko, confirms in a public statement that he had organized and funded a defamation campaign against former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his government (under the Yanukovych administration) with “US$ 30 million of unclear origin” (his own words), on behalf of Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko with the aim of enhancing his own political career.


2017:


2017, January 20: Donald Trump is inaugurated at the 45th President of the United States of America. In attendance of President Donald Trump’s inauguration as a ticket holding guest was Russian GRU agent and fugitive Konstantin Kilimnik. The ticket purchase was facilitated by American lobbyist, Samuel Patten, at a cost of US$ 50,000 per ticket for four tickets.

2017, February 22: Konstantin Kilimnik, and Russian/Ukrainian political consultant, confirms the existence of a peace effort between Russia and Ukraine referred to as the ‘Mariupol Plan’, whereby Viktor Yanukovych would return to serve as the President of the Russian occupied territories in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. This plan is supposedly the product of a Ukrainian politician, MP and businessman, Andrii Artemenko.


Andrii Artemenko, although less obvious than Yanukovych, was later identified as a major contributor to facilitating a pro-Russian Ukraine. When his activities were later exposed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, he was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship during 2017. Andrii Artemenko was introduced to Michael Cohen, former US President Donald Trump’s lawyer (2006 – 2018) via a powerful Ukrainian oligarch Alex Oronov (who’s daughter Oxana was married to Michael Cohen’s brother, Bryan Cohen). Artemenko worked with Cohen to develop a Ukraine peace plan, although the Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States confirmed that Artemenko was not authorized by the Ukrainian government to propose any peace plan to any country, including the United States. During 2016, Andrii Artemenko, still an MP in the Ukrainian parliament, was the only Ukrainian politician to openly support the election of Donald Trump as US President, also demanding that the Poroshenko government in Ukraine change their foreign policies to support the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, instead of the Democrats Presidential nominee. On April 29, 2017, Artemenko was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship by the Poroshenko government. On February 19, 2017, Artemenko was exposed as the back channel link between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. As a result of poor publicity as a result of his relationship with Russia, he changed his name to Andy Victor Kuchma during 2017 (assuming his wife’s maiden name as his last name). He also maintained close relations with the American lobbyist Paul Manafort. After he lost his Ukrainian citizenship, he resumed life on his Canadian citizenship acquired voluntarily during 2005. He now lives in Washington DC. During 2020 he unsuccessfully petitioned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to reinstate his Ukrainian citizenship without success. Andrii Artemenko (aka Andy Victor Kuchma) is currently involved in the following ventures:


1. Co-owner and Executive Chairman of Airtrans LLC, alongside Blackwater founder, Erik Prince, a long-time Republican donor and Trump supporter, and founder of Frontier Resource Group, who also attempted to offer a US$ 10 Billion private military services proposal to the Ukrainian government during 2020 without success.


2. Co-owner of Global Assets Inc, which is managed by Skyway International, a suspected gambling and money laundering operation from Unit 63A, Trump Tower, New York.


3. Co-owner and President of American Industrial Group Inc, which manufactures disinfectant and PPE for the COVID-19 pandemic.


4. Executive Chairman of Global Management Association Corporation, registered as a lobbying firm in the US Lobbyist Register. The firm is under scrutiny by the FBI for its connections with influential Russian politicians connected to Vladimir Putin, especially after evidence was exposed regarding their efforts to fabricate incriminating evidence against the Bidens. The investigation is still ongoing.


5. Owner and President of IT company, Alphanet Technologies Inc, which is developing a blockchain based COVID-19 immunity passport project (NewNorm).


2017, March 14: Former President Viktor Yanukovych is charged with the encroachment of the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine, high treason, and complicity in aggressive warfare by Russian Federation aimed at altering Ukraine’s state borders. The trial continues until January 24, 2019, via video link with Yanukovych still in exile in Russia.

2017, March 31: Visa-free travel is introduced between Russia and South Africa.


This arrangement was facilitated between South African President Jacob Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and had little value to the expansion of the South Africa economy. Instead, the Zuma Administration facilitated visa free travel to enable greater Russian participation in the unregulated economy (underworld) in South Africa to establish expanded revenue streams to the ruling party funding mechanisms derived from indirect involvement (not subject to any oversight mechanisms) in the unregulated (criminal) economy. Since the implementation of visa-free travel between South Africa and Russia, South Africa has experienced a greater outflow of undeclared foreign currency and precious metals, and a rapid increase in domestic instability and violent crime upon the arrival of the Russian Mafia a day later. However, the major value of a visa-free travel arrangement between Russia and South Africa now is that Russia has access to a friendly proxy state still connected to the Western business world to circumvent sanctions being enforced against Russia and key oligarchs since its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. It is for this reason why various Russian oligarchs moved their high value assets (yachts, private jets) to their residences in South Africa, predominantly in Cape Town, while being protected by the local Russian organized criminal group.


2017, April 01: One day after the implementation of visa-free travel between South Africa and Russia, dominant nightclubs in the major cities of South Africa experience a coordinated hostile take-over of club security by predominantly Russian speaking men, with some originating from Serbia and Ukraine.


Control over nightclubs is essential to control the supply of narcotics, prostitutes, and illegal weapons (the three top organized criminal activities in South Africa). During the first two weeks after the implementation of visa-free travel, South African cities were engaged in ‘gang wars’ erupting between the historical club ‘security’ scene, and the incoming Russian Mafia. Eventually, the underworld in South Africa was taken over by the Russians, and the South African Police Services did little to change it due to high-level political interference from the ruling party in government. In fact, any arm of government who intended to counter the Russian underworld would be influenced to do otherwise by the political arm of government. The significance of the international Russian Mafia mechanism from the Russian state mindset is that it serves the function of a covert expeditionary force for the Russian oligarchs (who conduct foreign business in close relationship with the Russian Mafia that provides protection to these high-value individuals), and it also establishes a support network for the Russian Military Intelligence services, GRU. Wagner Group, and both the FSB and GRU have established bases in South Africa (protected by the Russian Mafia network), from where it conducts operations throughout Africa. By now it is no secret that South Africa’s state mechanisms are captured and controlled by foreign forces, especially by the Russian faction controlling the Russian government. Looking even deeper into the extent of Russian influence in South Africa, we find Russian support behind the CapeXit movement campaigning for Cape independence from the Republic of South Africa (following similar tactics to the Catalonia independence movement), as well as technical support to former President Jacob Zuma in the planning and coordinated execution of the violent protests that hit Kwa-Zulu Natal province during July 2021, to include the hacking of various government websites and digital infrastructure, targeting mostly Western associated brands in response to corruption charges against him relating to his involvement in the facilitation of illicit activities to his personal benefit while serving as the President.


2017, April 28: Russia’s National Bureau of Interpol request that former Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk be placed on the Interpol wanted list based on false charges alleging his involvement in attacks on Russian servicemen between 1994 - 1995 and 2000, in Russia’s North Caucasian republic of Chechnya. The charges also alleged that Yatsenyuk was part of an armed group, and participated in attempted murder. No details relating to the charges were provided. Interpol officially dismissed the request due to a lack of evidence. Yatsenyuk responded to the Russian charges as absurd, and he considered it an attempt to discredit his reputation. It was later confirmed that the charges were part of a defamation campaign against Yatsenyuk by political rival Petro Poroshenko.

2017, July 26: Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko issues a decree stripping Mikheil Saakashvili, the former President of Georgia, and Governor of Odessa Regional State Administration. No official reasons were provided, but the decision was most likely based on Saakashvili’s decision to start his own political party, Movement of New Forces, to contest the next Presidential elections against Poroshenko.

2017, September 25: Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko signs a new law on education stating that Ukrainian would be the language at all levels of education, except for subjects that were other language specific (such as language subjects, etc), including any of the other recognized languages in Ukraine. A 3 year implementation period was allowed ending in 2023. Hungary, Romania, and Russia opposed the implementation of the new laws, demanding that indigenous minorities should be allowed to be educated in their indigenous language by choice from basic education level.

2017, October 27: The Parliament of Catalonia pass a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Spain to form an independent Republic of Catalonia.


The Spanish government immediately rejected the declaration of independence and arrested all the leaders of the Catalonian Independence Movement. Carles Puigdemond, leader of the independence movement, who also declared himself President of Catalonia, fled to Belgium in a self-imposed exile to avoid prosecution by Spanish authorities for rebellion, sedition, and embezzlement. During a thorough investigation into the organizers of the independence movement, it was determined that Russia had provided funding to Puigdemond’s efforts to facilitate Catalonian independence. There were also evidence suggesting Russia’s willingness to pay off all Catalonia’s sovereign debt, and to deploy 10,000 Russian soldiers to Catalonia if the movement succeeded in becoming independent from Spain. During later events, Josep Lluis Alay, an advisor to Carles Puigdemond, had met with Russian intelligence officers in Moscow during various visit in 2019 to discuss means of severing Catalonia from Spain. In attendance of these meeting were various serving officers in the Russian FSB, including Andrei Bezrukov (Russian KGB officer who served as an ‘illegal’ in the US), Sergei Sumin (then a Colonel in the FSB), and Artyom Lukoyanov (who was also involved with supporting the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine), and Russian businessman Alexander Dmitrenko. Shortly after Alay’s return to Catalonia from Russia, the ‘Tsunami Democratic’ protest movement was established in Spain to seek Catalonian independence. The group was responsible for organizing rots at Barcelona airport and disrupting up to 150 international flights departing from the airport. Intelligence reports also found Russian GRU agent, Denis Sergeev (aka Sergey Fedotov), one of the agents involved with the 2018 near-fatal poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in England, was a regular traveler to Catalonia up until the evening before the declaration of independence.


The UDI was rejected by the US and the EU in support of the Spanish government, and by the majority of the world. Africa, being majority pro-Russian aligned, failed to condemn nor support the Catalonian declaration of independence, nor did it support Spain in the matter. Russia chose to maintain a ‘neutral’ stance (just as BRICS member South Africa abstained from providing any response), although the break-away [Russian supported] Republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, and the Republic of Artsakh (officially still a recognized part of Azerbaijan), supported the Catalonian declaration of independence.


2017, December 05: Ukraine’s Security Service detains Mikheil Saakashvili, former President of Georgia, and former Governor of Odessa Regional State Administration, for protesting against the Poroshenko government. He was freed from police custody by a large group of protesters.


2018:


2018, February 07: Around 500 pro-government fighters supporting the Syrian Government, with Russian Wagner Group in support, launches an attack on US backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near the town of Khasham, Syria. In the SDF headquarters base was a detachment of US special operations forces. The pro-government forces commenced the attack on the base with mortars, artillery, and rockets, with T-72 and T-55 tanks in support. The US military detachment calls in an airstrike after the official Russian military liaison confirmed no Russians were present in the attacking force. US air assets engage the attacking force, killing around 200 of the attackers. Around 14 members of the accompanying Wagner Group died during the attack.


Based on previous near-similar incidents a few days prior, some observers believe that Russia was intentionally testing the US willingness and capabilities to engage its forces. This incident, including various other incidents involving Russian supported activities in Syria, forced the US to conduct a nuclear posture review based on comments by outgoing US CIA director, Mike Pompeo, on April 12, 2018. At this stage in time, the US was aware of Russia’s motives and global strategic objectives, why it was taking the Russian threats against Ukraine much more serious than its NATO allies.


Wagner Group PMC: Wagner Group, a pseudo-private military company (in name only), is in fact a Russian government sponsored paramilitary force which reports directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and operates independently, but in close partnership with the Russian Ministry of Defence and the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate GRU. In the Ukraine, Wagner Group is delegated under the operational control of the Russian Force Commander only for the purpose of operational coordination. The first Wagner Group deployment was observed during the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, and first combat operations commenced during the War in Donbas which followed immediately after the Crimea annexation. The paramilitary group was established based on lessons learnt from the 2008 Russo-Georgian War in response to Vladimir Putin’s concerns that the combat effectiveness of the regular forces of the Russian Federation were not as desired, along with guaranteed loyalty to Putin and his government within the military ranks to deter any possible attempts of forced government overthrow. These concerns echoed similar concerns Adolf Hitler had regarding the German Wehrmacht in the years prior to WW2 which motivated the creation of the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel) which reported directly to Adolf Hitler but delegated under the operational control of the German Wehrmacht during combat operations. Wagner Group follows a much similar organization to that of the Nazi SS, reporting directly to Vladimir Putin instead of the Russian Armed Forces, but funded and equipped (upon Vladimir Putin’s instructions), by the Russian Ministry of Defence. The purpose of Wagner, as a predominantly special operations force, is to act like a military expeditionary force in foreign hostile territories to facilitate new business relations between Moscow and governments in conflict. Initially, Russia provides security guarantees in the form of training and arming the host nation armed forces in exchange for mining rights and natural resources, or whatever else is on offer to extend Russia’s foreign economic footprint. In Africa alone, Wagner Group has already established itself (representing the Russian Government and Russian Armed Forces), in 20 African states alone. Wagner Group started with 250 members in 2014, and by November 2022, the group had around 40,000 members engaged in operations globally of which the majority were dedicated to the Russian war effort in Ukraine. On Russian territory, Wagner Group is used by the Russian political elite to neutralize political opposition figures, especially critics of the current regime. Within the Russian organs of government control, Wagner Group is not a private military company, but rather a private army in service of Vladimir Putin and his closest allies as a safeguard against possible attempts of military initiated government overthrow similar to the failed coup on August 24, 1991, to which Vladimir Putin was a witness.


2018, February 12: Former President of Georgia and former Governor of Odessa, Mikheil Saakashvili, is deported from Ukraine to Poland for being within Ukrainian territory illegally after Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko stripped Saakashvili of his Ukrainian citizenship on July 26, 2017.

2018, March 04: A former Russian military officer and double-agent for British intelligence services, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, is near-fatally poisoned with Novichok nerve agent by two Russian GRU agents serving with Russian GRU Unit 29155. The attempted assassination occurred in Salisbury, England. A third GRU officer was later identified as Denis Vyacheslavovich Sergeev. During various investigations to follow, investigators found that Yulia Skripal’s e-mail had been hacked since 2013 by the Russian GRU, and that they had since tested various methods of testing an effective delivery system of a lethal poison, to include transmission from door handles. No motive for the attack was ever provided, and in Russia the government controlled the narrative via State media by implying that Skripal was in fact poisoned by the British intelligence services, and that the allegations against Russia was part of an anti-Russian defamation campaign by the West.

2018, April 07: Syrian government forces under leadership of Bashar al-Assad launches a chemical attack on the Syrian city of Douma. The attack caused around 40 civilian deaths, with another 100 serious injured. The attack was carried out by the Syrian Army. The chemical used in the attack contained various forms of reactive chlorine contained in cylinders dropped from helicopters.


Initially this attack was considered the work of the Syrian Army, but during the investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), evidence suggested the involvement of Russian GRU unit 26165 which attempted to hack the OPCW servers as an attempt to either manipulate or remove evidence from the Douma chemical attack investigation. In the final report, Russia expressed it dissatisfaction in the conclusions of the OPCW, stating that it was not within the organization’s mandate to account blame for the attack, resulting in Russia threatening to end financial contribution to the organization to which it was a member. The extent of total Russian involvement leading up to the attack remains undisclosed but accepted as incriminating considering the fact that the GRU was attempting to interfere in the OPCW findings.


2018, June 08: Konstantin Kilimnik, a known Russian GRU agent and long-time associate of American political consultant Paul Manafort, is indicted by US Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, in conjunction with Paul Manafort, regarding unregistered lobbying work. At present (2022), the FBI offered a reward of US$ 250,000 for information leading to the arrest of Konstantin Viktorovich Kilimnik. Kilimnik is also considered a vital witness in the 2016 US Presidential Elections fraud. Kilimnik’s last known residence is within a heavily guarded security compound in Khimki, north-west of the Moscow Region outside the Moscow Ring Road (MKAD). This area is also the base for the Moscow unit of the GRU.

2018, August 23: American lobbyist Paul Manafort, political consultant to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions, and paid Russian asset, meets with Kyrgyzstan President Bakiyev to motivate him to terminate the lease of the US Airbase outside Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, at the request of Russia.

2018, September 18: Paul Manafort, Republican political consultant and lawyer, confesses before US special prosecutor Robert Mueller, that he and his business partner, Tony Podesta (brother of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta), assisted former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych to conduct a media campaign in the West against former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko as a means of undermining the Obama administration’s support to her. In exchange for his testimony, Tony Podesta and The Podesta Group receives full amnesty from being prosecuted as unregistered agents of a foreign government.


Based on Manafort’s testimony, the campaign was designed to portray Tymoshenko as ‘anti-Semitic’. The same indictment also implicated former US journalist, Alan Friedman, for his involvement during July 2011 in the provision of a 6-page document to Manafort which contained a plan to “destroy” Yulia Tymoshenko via video, articles, and social media to target audiences in Europe and the US. The plan also proposed editing Tymoshenko’s Wikipedia page to emphasize “corruption and legal proceedings” relating to her political and business career in Ukraine. This is a classic example of what is defined as 'character assassination' or 'cancel culture', and how mainstream media was abused to enable such activities.


2018, September 19: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree to end the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation originally agreed on May 31, 1997, which renewed automatically after every 10 years unless one of the parties to the treaty provided written notification to end the treaty.

2018, August 30: Viktor Medvedchuk states during an interview with The Independent that the US was interfering with the affairs between the “brotherly nations” Ukraine and Russia. He admitted in the interview that Russia was illegally arming the separatist forces in Donbas, but said that the US and its NATO were doing the same by arming Ukraine (This statement was perceived strange coming from a Ukrainian political figure).

2018, September 21: Ukraine notifies United Nations about intentions to end Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership with Russia.

2018, September 24: The Russian Federation is officially notified of Ukraine’s intent to end the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership, to which the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed their regret.

2018, December 03: A bill was passed in the Ukrainian Parliament ending the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership with Russia.

2018, December 10: Two Russian Tupolev Tu-160 ‘Blackjack’ nuclear-capable bombers land in Caracas, Venezuela, in a military show of force by Russia to confirm its support to the Venezuelan government. The aircraft, with a range of around 12,000 km, started its non-stop flight from Engels Air Base, Russia. The aircraft were also operationally deployed by Russia in the Syria campaign in support of the Syrian Government.

2018, December 26: Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a comedian and actor, and future President of Ukraine, states in an interview that he thinks it would be appropriate to negotiate peace with Russia regarding the separatist Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, but that he does not consider it appropriate dealing directly with the leaders of the two break-away Republics due to them only being puppets of Russia.

2018, December 31: Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a political outsider, announces his candidacy for President of Ukraine, four months prior to the elections. He was standing against current Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko who was seeking a re-election. Zelenskyy styled himself as an anti-establishment, anti-corruption figure which gained him much support throughout Ukraine. Zelenskyy is Ukrainian born, and was raised as a Russian speaker. At this moment, Zelenskyy’s running for election as President was severely underestimated by Russia.


2019:


2019, January 05: The Ukraine Orthodox Church receives self-governing status from the head of the Orthodox Church in Constantinople. This allows the church to distance itself from the influences exercised by the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow amidst the growing divide between Ukraine and Russia as a result of growing Russian aggression in Ukraine.

2019, January 10: American lawyer and political consultant, Paul Manafort, resigns from the Connecticut bar council.

2019, January 24: Former President Viktor Yanukovych is found guilty by a panel of three judges on charges of high treason and complicity in the Russia military intervention in Ukrainian during 2014. He is sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in absentia after Yanukovych failed to provide closing argument statements due to back and knee injuries sustained while playing tennis.

2019, February 08: During former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s campaign in the 2019 Ukrainian Presidential elections, a new presidential candidate is registered with the same initials and last name as Yulia Tymoshenko. The non-factional people’s deputy Yury V. Tymoshenko, was intentionally inserted by then Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko as a deliberate means of confusing older voters to vote for the wrong Tymoshenko to dilute the electoral results in favor of Yulia Tymoshenko. The last-minute announcement by Volodymyr Zelenskyy to run for President change the course for all other candidates due to his higher public ratings.

2019, February 27: A graft scandal is exposed during Petro Poroshenko’s 2019 re-election campaign indicating his business partner’s involvement in the smuggling of Russian military components to Ukrainian defense factories at inflated prices.


The unregulated Russian defense materials trade was duly exposed after the February 24, 2022, Russian invasion of Ukraine failed to meet its operational objectives within a week, forcing Russia’s engagement in a prolonged war it had not planned for. As over-extended Russian logistics started to fail in Ukraine, along with heavy equipment losses, the Russians discovered that most of its reserve equipment in storage had been stripped of valuable components for unregulated black market arms trading, which included Russian connected Ukrainian businessmen who saw an opportunity to profit from the conditions in Ukraine. Regarding Poroshenko, he emphasized much ‘anti-Russian’ collaboration efforts and agreements within the public space upon taking office as President. However, what was concerning about his Presidential term is that as critical as he was of “Russia” in the public, Russia failed to respond to his public image in the manner they did during Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s administration. This may be indicative of Poroshenko initially preaching a hard stance against Russia for the following reasons:


1. To gain public trust and stability within Ukraine after the exposure of Yanukovych and his pro-Russian network and activities;


2. To establish a position of strength when dealing with his Russian counterparts during negotiations (to his own personal benefit, and not necessarily to the benefit of Ukraine);


3. To mask his activities involving Russian collaboration by creating a public image of being ‘anti-Russian’ (also to the benefit of Russia who was seeking less negative attention to continue with its expansionism agenda).


Unfortunately for Poroshenko, he was failed by his own network of Russian collaborators who exposed him for the person he was, why the public chose not to extend his Presidential term after 2019. What made Poroshenko different from his predecessors is that Russia knew that post-Euromaidan it had to change its strategy in terms of controls over Ukraine’s politicians, why Russia had to follow a different strategy in terms of gaining benefits from Poroshenko compared to his predecessors up to Viktor Yanukovych. The most cunning of this strategy by Russia was the instigation and allowing for the implementation of various ‘anti-Russian’ reforms in Ukraine which fit the Russian ‘anti-Russian Ukraine’ narrative favorably (why Russia capitalized on its information campaign value leading up to the February 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine). The extent of Poroshenko’s awareness about how his actions benefited Russian grand strategy during his term remains questionable. However, what we do know about Poroshenko is that his loyalties was always with himself first, especially his aspirations in terms of increasing his business influence, why he considered Ukrainian EU membership as a positive way forward for him (by means of Ukraine). From a business perspective, he did not favor any direct alliances with Russia for the reason that he knew he would not survive competing against the more powerful Russian oligarchs, and to a lesser degree the Russian connected Ukrainian oligarchs (especially after his Presidential term), why he was adamant at reducing the powers of influence of the Ukrainian oligarchs while he had the Presidential powers to do so. Basically, with most of his government reforms his priority was focussed on expanding his own interests first while simultaneously meeting public demands.


2019, March 27: A 2018 EU Commission report highlights how Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko achieved developing legislation for reforms in Ukraine towards EU membership quite rapidly, but for some unknown reason failed in implementing and enforcing the new legislation effectively. Some foreign observers became suspicious that Poroshenko might have been playing his foreign (and domestic) audience by creating the appearance of change, whereas the reality was that not much had changed in Ukraine since he became President. This creates the question: To who’s benefit did Poroshenko act within his Presidential capacity?

2019, April 18: Presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskyy states that Russian artists who have turned into anti-Ukrainian politicians should not be allowed to enter Ukraine.

2019, April 19: Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a Presidential debate at Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex where he made the statement during his opening speech that during 2014 he voted for current President Petro Poroshenko, but that he was mistaken for the Poroshenko that Ukraine received was not the Poroshenko they voted for. He also said: “The first [Petro Poroshenko] appears when there are video cameras, the other Petro sends Medvedchuk privietiki (greetings) to Moscow” (referring to Poroshenko’s back-channel relations with Russia and former President Viktor Yanukovych).

2019, April 21: Volodymyr Zelenskyy wins the second round of votes for President of Ukraine with 73% of the votes against current President Petro Poroshenko. Throughout his campaign spanning less than four months, he avoided engaging with the mainstream media, rather choosing to engage directly with the electorate via social media which proved a success. For this reason, he was underestimated by his opponents who were powerful figures in Ukraine, but still of the opinion that traditional campaigning methods were in their favor. Polish President Andrzej Duda is the first EU head of State to congratulate him on his election win.

2019, April 22: US President Donald Trump congratulates Volodymyr Zelenskyy on his election victory.

2019, May 20: Volodymyr Zelenskyy is inaugurated as the President of Ukraine. He becomes the President of a country that is listed by Ernst & Young as the 3rd most corrupt country in the world (a title Ukraine inherited from nearly two decades of being subject to a majority political leadership controlled by Russia). Immediately upon entering office, he dissolves the Ukrainian Parliament and calls for early Parliamentary elections. The first reforms he implements is the reduce Russian influence in the Ukrainian economy and politics. He also implements anti-corruption laws to reduce government corruption, to include the phasing in of e-services to decrease bureaucracy being abused by government officials for personal gain.

2019, May 29: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reinstates the Ukrainian citizenship for former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, after his citizenship was stripped from him on July 26, 2017, by former Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko due to political rivalry when Saakashvili, the then Governor of Odesa Oblast, challenged Poroshenko’s government policies.

2019, June 03: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appoints former Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma as Ukraine’s representative in the Trilateral Contact Group (Ukraine, Russia, and the OSCE) on Ukraine to reach a settlement in the conflict with Russia.

2019, July 11: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy holds his first discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin via telephone to discuss ways of ending the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, during which Zelenskyy urged Putin to participate in talks with the European OSCE. Both leaders also discussed a prisoner exchange.

2019, July 21: The political party ‘Servant to the People’ which supports President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is wins 254 of 424 seats in Parliament.

2019. August 29: Ukraine President informs Poland of his intentions to lift the moratorium on exhuming Polish mass graves in Ukraine after the previous Ukraine government under leadership of Petro Poroshenko banned the Polish from exhumations of Polish victims of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army perpetrated Volhynian massacre while under German occupation during WW2.

2019, September 03: Ukraine Parliament approves a law proposed by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to strip all immunity from lawmakers, diplomats, and judges in an attempt to decrease state corruption, thereby fulfilling one of President Zelenskyy’s campaign promises.

2019, September 27: US President Donald Trump blocks a US$ 400 million congressionally approved military aid package to Ukraine after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy refuses Donald Trump’s requests for an investigation into alleged wrongdoing by Joe Biden and his son in relation to business dealings in Ukraine. This later became known as the Trump-Ukraine scandal, and the basis for an impeachment enquiry against Donald Trump. Zelenskyy later stated that he was not under pressure from Trump, and he refused to become involved in anything relating to the possible outcomes of a foreign election.

2019, October 02: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announces a preliminary deal with the separatists, under which Ukraine would respect elections within the regions on the condition that Russia withdraws all its unmarked soldiers from the respective territories. Zelenskyy defended the negotiations against his critics, stating that no elections will be held before the withdrawal of all Russian troops.

2019, October 23: Two Russian Tupolev Tu-160 ‘Blackjack’ nuclear-capable bombers (RF-94112, RF-94102) land at Waterkloof Air Base, South Africa, as part of friendly military visit to South Africa. The aircraft were based at Engels Air Base in Russia from where it departed on its non-stop journey to South Africa after refueling over the Caspian Sea.


What this PR exercise proved is the extent of Russia’s strategic reach, especially the fact that it had secured authorization to utilize the airspace of various countries to enable military flight operations connecting Russia with South Africa. However, what we need to understand about South Africa’s importance to Russia is not its friendship, but rather access to South Africa as a staging area for future:


1. Southern Ocean military operations,


2. Safeguarding of Russian assets transiting the Cape Sea Route,


3. Monopolizing power generation and supply to Southern Africa (South Africa and its surrounding neighboring states) by means of building and operating Russian nuclear power stations at inflated costs (already politically facilitated by creating an artificial power crisis via infrastructure theft, neglect, and sabotage to allow Russia to apply its neo-Bolshevik doctrine which implies that if you wish to provide the solution, you need to create the problem).


3. Control over major oil and gas extraction operations within Southern Africa (Mozambique, South Africa,

Angola); and


4. Operational support to enabling Russian expansionism into Antarctica.


The current South African government is the only friendly government to Russia offering direct access to Antarctica, a major important strategic requirement for Russia taking into consideration the extent of catastrophic events which are expected to unfold around two decades from now. However, thanks to the Ukrainian drone strikes on Engels Air Base in Russia on December 05, 2022, and December 26, 2022, this strategic capability has been severely compromised. Up until the most recent drone attack on Engels, the base used to be the primary launching point for cruise missile attacks targeting Ukraine.


2019, November 24: Russian Slava-Class missile cruiser, Marshal Ustinov, medium sea tanker, Vyazma, and rescue tug SB-406 assigned to the Russian Northern Fleet arrives in Cape Town, South Africa, for a joint naval exercise with the South African Navy and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), until November 30, 2019. The PLAN contribution to the exercise is a Weifang guided-missile frigate of Project 054A.

2019, December 09: The Presidents of Russia and Ukraine meet in Paris to resume talks mediated by France and Germany under the so-called Normandy format. This is the first face-to-face meeting between Zelenskyy and Putin. The mediation format was established earlier after the failure of the Minsk protocols, but failed to gain traction. During initial renewal of negotiations efforts initiated by both France and Germany with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Zelenskyy was not much convinced about the anticipated success and benefits to Ukraine, having described the previous receptions by both Merkel (Germany) and Macron (France) as “lukewarm” to US president Donald Trump during a conversation held during September 2019. Consequently, western Europe failed to appreciate Zelenskyy’s opinion.

2019, December 20: Ukrainian law enforcement raid both Poroshenko’s party head office and gym on orders from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The raid uncovered hidden cameras and recording devices used to spy on politicians and influential businessmen who were members of the gym. The raid related to the theft of government servers containing classified information, as well as tax evasion and money laundering.

2019, December 25: The peace deal negotiated between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the breakaway regions fail due to continued attacks against Ukrainian forces by Russian backed separatist forces, along with Russia’s refusal to withdraw its soldiers from the territories. Russia continues to send arms and equipment to the separatist regions. As a result of the separatists’ continued hostilities, several nationalist Ukrainian militias refuse to conform with the peace deal, especially the Azov militia based in Luhansk region of Donbas. Zelenskyy personally meats with the Azov commander to appeal with them to surrender all their unregistered weapons, which they refuse.


2020:


2020, January 08: Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 is shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran shortly after take-off from Tehran to Kyiv. All 176 passengers and crew were killed in the incident. The aircraft was shot down by two ground-launched surface-to-air missiles. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was on a visit to Oman, but returned back to Kyiv upon being notified of the incident.

2020, January 21: Documentary film “The Ukraine Hoax: Impeachment, Biden Cash, and Mass Murder” with guest host Michael Caputo is aired on OANN (One America News Network). The film was produced by Michael Caputo, and it was co-produced by Sergey Petrushin, a Russian national. The film release was supported by Konstantin Kilimnik, Andrii Derkach, and Andrii Telizhenko, all members of the Russian intelligence community, with Derback having close relations with Rudy Giuliani.

2020, February 01: Effective from 00:00AM (CET), the United Kingdom (UK) leaves the European Union (EU). The UK becomes the first sovereign nation to leave the EU. This event was more commonly referred to as ‘Brexit’ via mainstream media.


The significance of Brexit is the extent of the Russian media campaign leading up to the 2016 referendum in which the UK population was deliberately targeted by Russian controlled social media- and state television outlets Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik. Based on a report issued by British public relations firm 89up, Russia spent around £ 4 million during the run-up to the June 26, 2016, referendum which determined the UK’s departure from the EU. Based on all the evidence gathered during the investigation, the following Russian interferences were confirmed leading up to the


1. Russian state media outlets Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik had more reach on Twitter for anti-EU content compared to the accounts of either ‘Vote Leave’ or ‘Leave.EU’.


2. Russian bots reach during the EU referendum was significant, equivalent to 29% of both ‘Vote Leave’ and ‘Leave.EU’ Twitter activity combined.


3. The Russian narrative was in support of the UK leaving the EU, why the Russian backed narrative was predominantly anti-EU.


4. During the period January 01, 2016 to June 23, 2016, both Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik published 261 media articles on the EU referendum in the UK, all with a strong anti-EU sentiment. The social reach for the Russian sponsored articles were 133 million potential impressions, compared to a total social reach of 33 million and 11 million potential impressions for Vote Leave and Leave.EU respectively. Basically, the Russian campaigns had three times (3x) more reach than the official UK ‘Leave’ campaigns combined.


5. As in most of the Western nations, both Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik are available in the United Kingdom. Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik are the current dominant international ‘narrative communicators’ of the Russian state mechanism. These two channels televised hundreds of misleading articles to target global audiences, to include paid promotions via social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook). Of all social media platforms, Twitter was the preferred (and most effective) means of communicating the Russian narratives. On the day of the referendum, both RT and Sputnik activities spiked on Twitter supported by a spike in Russian bots activities further promoting the posts to target user profiles. None of the contents were ‘fact checked’ by any of the social media outlets.


6. On the day of the referendum, the RT and Sputnik articles published were all factually inaccurate and misleading, portraying false narratives relating to exaggerated and false stories about European refugee flows, immigration to the UK, the role of MI5 during the referendum, and that the EU was in fact a creation of the CIA.


7. An independent US Congress investigation identified confirmed Russian bots had delivered over 10 million Twitter impressions on the day of the referendum relating to the EU referendum. This number resembles a third of the total potential reach of the official Leave account.


However, the question we face now is why Russia supported the United Kingdom from leaving the EU. To understand this better, we need to look at what Russia has been doing consistently since the moment it decided to challenge the West and its global influence. The one thing Russia has done everywhere it interfered was to create divisions. The main purpose of these divisions is to dilute both political- and economic power within the target society (which directly affects military power potential), and to create internal distractions within the political space which could potentially be exploited into escalation to organized domestic violence which diverts law enforcement and intelligence focus away from the actual enablement activities. We have seen this in Ukraine, France, Georgia, United States, South Africa, and various other Western dominated nations. To understand the Russian mindset from an irregular warfare perspective, we need to know that the Russian units responsible for attacking the centers of gravity through the creation of false divisions within societies think like anarchists who are not morally bound to any rules or limitations. Also, we need to understand that Russian tactics in achieving their operational goals always include a margin of plausible deniability (hence the reason they have mastered the analysis of historical weaknesses within a target society which is then exploited/weaponized to achieve Russian strategic objectives). In the US we witnessed Russian foreign interference doctrine with the emergence of the so-called ‘woke’ movements which infiltrated US media, entertainment, and liberal politics, as well as the BLM movement that was mobilized to intentionally create racial divisions (exploited by the Russian intelligence system because it remains an unresolved sensitive part of US history). The effects of the Russian interference campaigns within the US society caused a major divide between the Republican and Democrat political support base to the point where inter-party cooperation to resolve national issues affecting all (irrespective of party affiliations) are nearly unthinkable. The reason for this is to create division, for the greatest fear that Russia has in its current global expansionism strategy is a politically unified US government countering Russia and its allies effectively.


2020, February 29: The US, under leadership of the Trump Administration, signs a deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan whereby the US commits to cease its combat operations targeting the Taliban if the Taliban ceases attacks against US forces in Afghanistan. The agreement also confirmed the total withdrawal of NATO from Afghanistan by May 01, 2021, in return for the Taliban’s counter-terrorism commitments. The deal was negotiated and signed in Doha, Qatar, without the involvement of the Afghan government at the time.


As part of the agreement, the Trump Administration immediately reduced the number of US troops in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 8,600 by July 2020, with an immediate draw-down in air attacks in support of ANSF against Taliban targets. Under the Trump agreement, full withdrawal of US forces would be complete by May 01, 2021, if the Taliban kept to its commitments agreed to within the deal. This event is the start of what is considered the withdrawal of the US Forces and its NATO allies from Afghanistan. The agreement between the US and the Taliban was essential for the simple reason that both sides realized that there was a much larger threat gradually developing itself within the region in the form of Daesh (Islamic State). At the time, Daesh had already infiltrated the Afghan government, with many politicians serving within the US sponsored Afghan government being Daesh sympathetic (and anti-West), with the greatest fear to the US being Daesh (Islamic State) taking over control of the Afghan National Army and its large stocks of US supplied weapons similar to what it did in Iraq and Syria. For this reason, the US came to accept the Taliban as the most suitable (and unlikely) ally they needed to ensure that Afghanistan did not become another ‘Islamic State’ caliphate, or in other words, a belligerent territory allowing Russia strategic military access. If Daesh (which is much dependent on funding from the Russian GRU and Russian organized criminal groups involved with wholesale narcotics supply and unregulated oil trading), allowed Russia unconditional military access to Afghanistan, it would effectively create a land bridge between Iran and Russia. Daesh (Islamic State), made its entry into Afghanistan around 2015 from the north and east shortly after establishing the Islamic State caliphate in Iraq. What we need to keep in mind is the extent of Russian support to Daesh (Islamic State), and the strategic value that Daesh offers Russia in terms of achieving strategic military objectives with plausible deniability. The extent of our knowledge relating to Daesh in Afghanistan is derived from our experience within the ranks of SOCOM over the period 2014 to 2016 in Iraq and Afghanistan. When Daesh entered Afghanistan, it challenged the legitimacy of the Taliban within areas it traditionally controlled, bringing in foreign fighters much to the Taliban’s dislike, which later became the main motivation for the Taliban to accept a deal with the US having realized that both forces were facing a common enemy. It is also based on this knowledge why we in ADF / FDA do not consider the August 15, 2021, withdrawal of NATO from Afghanistan as a sign of failure as commonly emphasized within mainstream media, for the Taliban takeover was in fact the only solution to maintain regional peace, and to avoid Afghanistan becoming a hostile Islamic State caliphate.


2020, March 30: Russian Navy Neustrashimyy-Class frigate, Yaroslav Mudry, and Altay-Class replenishment oiler, Yenya, arrive in Cape Town, South Africa, for replenishment on route for supposed deployment on an anti-piracy mission in the Indian Ocean.

2020, July 27: Ukraine agrees upon a ceasefire with the separatist regions, the 20th ceasefire since the start of the conflict in 2014. Compared to previous ceasefire agreements, this ceasefire was different for it succeeded in reducing the number of violations during the following 12 months by 55%.

2020, September 11: The US Treasury Department sanctions Andrii Derkach, a Ukrainian politician, businessman, and Russian intelligence agent, for “attempting to influence the U.S. electoral process” during the 2020 U.S. elections.

2020, September 21: Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the Parliament relating to reforms required to improve the domestic and financial situation in Ukraine. Ukraine’s economy is stagnating, and economic conditions worsened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. His approval rating reached a low 32%.

2020, October 23: The Second Libyan Civil War ends with a permanent cease fire between all warring factions. Russia withdraws its forces in accordance with the requirements stipulated in the peace agreement. Russia’s Wagner Group, which becomes a prominent component of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during 2022, is redeployed to other mission areas in Africa, predominantly in the Central African Republic.

2020, December 14: Spanish law enforcement, supported by Europol and the US FBI, commence with a nationwide crackdown on Russian organized criminal group members, prominent businessmen, law enforcement officials, and senior members within the judiciary to dismantle the control Russia has over the Spanish government and its institutions following an intense 7-year secret criminal probe into the extent of Russian organized criminal group infiltration in the Spanish government. During follow-up arrests and further investigations, the international law enforcement effort exposes one of the largest Russian foreign government infiltrations ever recorded in the West, to include precise details how the Russian political system uses Russian organized criminal groups to capture foreign governments.


This operation exposed the whole Russian modus operandi on foreign government take-over, and it was critical for both Europol and the FBI to ensure successful dismantling of the Spanish based organized crime network. A major critical success factor required during the planning phase of this operation was secrecy and the specific exclusion of Interpol for the simple reason that the international law enforcement body has proven through the past two decades to be highly compromised by predominantly European based criminal organizations, mostly affiliated to Russian organized crime groups who are supported by the Russian mechanisms of government. The operations were based on information provided by ex-Russian FSB officer, Alexander Litvinenko, before his death in 2006.


In Spain, the Russian infiltration started during the 1990’s upon the arrival of Gennady Petrov, a senior member of one of Russia’s most powerful organized criminal groups, Tambovskaya. Petrov used to be a professional boxer in the Soviet Union and advanced himself through his political connections to become a dominant figure within the Russian organized crime network. He left Russia during the 1990’s during the rival gang wars period to explore more lucrative opportunities in Europe, and consequently settled in Spain to eventually dominate the tourist regions of Spain and its islands. It was only when Vladimir Putin came into power that the international Russian organized crime network started collaborating under Putin’s guidance to achieve a singular state goal, while at the same time benefiting financially from it, eventually controlling the European human trafficking, narcotics distribution, and illegal arms trade sectors. When Vladimir Putin became the President of the Russian Federation, the Russian organized crime network in Spain was allocated the task of taking over control of the Spanish government through various means to include extortion, bribery, intimidation, and murder of opposing figures. This was essential to be achieved by the time the Catalonian independence movement gained traction, a location that was already dominated by both Russian state- and organized crime influences. However, looking at the evolution of the Russian organized crime network in Spain, it initially started off by controlling the underworld through illicit activities, which later transformed into the upper world where legitimate business interests were pursued in the entertainment- and hospitality industries, later expanding into real estate developments. By this time, the Spain based Russian organized crime network had become so powerful and influential that it had stakes in the banking sector, and therefore it became the main hub for laundering money on behalf of all the global Russian organized criminal groups (why the legitimate business investments always involved predominantly cash businesses). During the most recent investigations, much evidence was found implicating how Vladimir Putin also utilized the services of the Spain based organized crime networks to manage his personal money laundering requirements.


So, based on the lessons learnt from Spain, how did the Russian Mafia expand its global network without detection by Western law enforcement and intelligence services? The answer to this question is summarized as follows:


1. The Russian government exploited the period when most NATO resources were dedicated to fighting the Global War on Terror (predominantly the Al Qaeda network of shared Islamist ideology). During this era, law enforcement and intelligence budgets were mainly focused on finding and neutralizing Islamic terrorist networks, and at that time organized crime was considered a lesser threat which would be attended to at a later stage when the ‘War on Terror’ was deemed under control.


2. Initial infiltration into a target state was facilitated with Russian state assistance and involved the deployment of key organized crime figures to the target territory with a certain degree of legitimacy (such as business development, political, etc). Gazprom, LUKoil, Rosneft, and Rosatom are common sponsors, but also includes various other lesser-known Russian enterprises with global business infrastructure. The next step is then to identify corruptible politicians, judges, law enforcement, banks, and industries in target cities with assistance from the Russian intelligence services. Targets are then corrupted which solidifies Russian mob control over the center of gravity of the target society, which effectively renders any enforcement actions through legal means ineffective. Consequently, effective prosecution of anyone involved with the Russian organized crime network becomes effectively impossible within legal limits due to the rapid infiltration of State mechanisms of government (Example: Republic of South Africa vs Jacob Zuma).


3. With the specialized support of the Russian state funded FSB and GRU, the Russian Mafia control is supported where necessary, to include neutralizing opposition politicians, and manipulation of election results to maintain the status quo.


The unfortunate reality is that in most cases the only means of cleansing the affected government system of a nation state under control of the Russian strategic control alliance (organized crime – Intelligence services – business and industry – political allegiance), is by means of foreign intervention starting with diplomatic pressure, followed by sanctions, escalated to international law enforcement actions, and in worst case scenarios, military intervention with forced government overthrow if no alternative options exist.


So, how did the Spanish overcome Russian control over its government institutions?


1. The members of government that were resisting the growing Russian influence over their state institutions requested assistance from Europol (and not Interpol which is suspected of being Russian compromised).


2. Collaboration with foreign intelligence services with expert knowledge about countering Russian expansionism operations and organized crime (UK, USA).


3. Contracted the services of former Russian KGB/FSB agents who defected to the West in protest of the Russian kleptocracy (which resulted in the Russian campaign of assassinations of former members of its intelligence services who defected to the West such as Litvinenko, Skripol, and various others).


4. Suspects who were listed by the US as wanted criminals were extradited to the United States as a means of splitting up the prosecution effort for greater conviction success rate, and to reduce suspect/witness testimony interferences.


To understand how Russian organized crime evolved into a Russian state asset for foreign expansionism, we need to follow the rise of Vladimir Putin through the ranks of the FSB from the KGB, to becoming the President of the Russian Federation. With the fall of the Berlin wall, Vladimir Putin was just an officer in the East German branch of the Russian KGB, with a close working relationship with the East German Stasi. This relationship, and how it evolved into the current state of both Russian- and German political affairs, will be discuss in greater details in a separate article. However, when Vladimir Putin returned to Russia after the unification of East Germany and West Germany which formed the present day German Federation, the USSR was literally falling apart, which was then exploited by members (more senior than Putin), from both the KGB and the Soviet Communist Party who then took over control of Soviet state assets to form the first generation of Russian oligarchs, people that Putin mostly despised. After the dissolution of the USSR, Vladimir Putin found himself in the FSB (successor to the KGB), based in Saint Petersburg. Through his own manner of network development, he became the deputy mayor of Saint Petersburg in 1994, and during 1998 he was appointed by then Russian President Boris Yeltsin as the Director of the Federal Security Services (FSB). Between his term as Deputy Mayor of Saint Petersburg to becoming the Director of the FSB, Putin had already established himself as a facilitating figure between the mechanisms of government and the Russian organized criminal groups. Up until when Vladimir Putin was appointed as the acting Prime Minister of the Russian Federation on August 09, 1999, the Russian organized criminal groups were still functioning as separate competing criminal syndicates, fighting each other for control over resources and territory. However, Putin was ambitious, and he required resources to support his power trajectory. One of the methods he exploited was to unify the Russian organized criminal groups to work towards supporting singular national strategy determined by him, and in return he would allow them to operate without government interference for as long as they respected his authority and stabilized their relations with one another to enable cooperation. Consequently, the Russian Mafia gave Putin immense power in return for his protection as a senior representative in government. On December 31, 1999, Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned, and Vladimir Putin was inaugurated as the acting President of the Russian Federation. With this new appointment, Putin warned the first-generation oligarchs (who he despised), that he would give them amnesty if they supported (and financed) his rule as the head of state of the Russian Federation. Effectively they had no choice in the matter for those that chose to resist Putin would consequently pay with their lives. When Putin became President, he effectively established the second generation of oligarchs from loyalists he brought in from the Russian organized criminal groups, ex-KGB/FSB colleagues, and other senior political figures that would effectively become the foundation of his government and continued political control for the past two decades. Since 1999, Vladimir Putin has supported the Russian organized criminal networks into an international asset of the Russian state to support Russian state objectives while also serving their own interests at the same time. This arrangement enabled the reduction of crime and gang violence within Russian territories by means of projecting that hostility towards Russia’s foreign enemies, and slowly depleting their resources to Russian strategic benefit. Spain was an essential strategic objective for Catalonian independence would have given the Russia Navy a harbor in the Mediterranean Sea (before the Syrian civil war).


2021:


2021, January 21: Parliament approves a bill to reform Ukraine’s referendum laws which the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional in 2018.

2021, February 19: Viktor Medvedchuk and his wife, Oksana Marchenko, are added to the sanctions list of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine for financing terrorism in Ukraine. They were accused of channelling money from a Russian-based refinery to separatist forces in Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic. Medvedchuk’s assets, most of which were held under his wife’s name, were frozen, and an oil pipeline controlled by Medvedchuk used to transport oil from Russia to European markets was nationalized.

2021, February 21: Russia deploys 3,000 paratroopers to the border of Ukraine for what it calls “large scale exercises”. This action follows after the Ukrainian government takes action against Viktor Medvedchuk for his involvement in supporting the Russian expansionism agenda in Ukraine. Medvedchuk is a pro-Russian Ukrainian opposition politician and business tycoon with close personal ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This date symbolizes the start date for the Russian build-up for the invasion of Ukraine one year later. This is by no means a coincidence for the reason that Russian President Vladimir Putin had already realized by this time that he was not going to succeed in gaining control over Ukraine through the political system being reformed under the leadership of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who does not support a Ukraine under Russian control.

2021, March 03: Separatists from self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) claims they were granted authority to use “pre-emptive fire for destruction” by their Russian controlled leadership against Ukrainian military positions.

2021, March 16: SBGS (State Border Guard Services) of Ukraine reports a Russian marked Mil Mi-8 helicopter trespassing 50 metres into Ukrainian territory before returning back to Russian airspace. NATO commences with a series of near simultaneous military exercises known as Defender Europe 2021, one of the largest since the end of the Cold War, covering 30 training areas located in 12 countries involving 28,000 soldiers. Russia conveys its dissatisfaction with NATO conducting military exercises, consequently ordering a larger build-up of forces along its Western borders and Crimea to around 40,000 soldiers. Germany condemns Russia’s build-up of troops as a sign of provocation.

2021, March 24: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy releases a statement confirming Ukraine’s intent to retake Crimea from Russia, to include the use of military force. He also signs Decree 117/2021 approving the “strategy for de-occupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol”.

2021, March 25: Russia deploys more soldiers to the border of Ukraine in response to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s intent to retake Crimea.

2021, March 26: Russian forces fire mortars from Russian territory into Ukraine targeting Ukrainian armed forces, killing four Ukrainian soldiers.

2021, March 30: Intelligence confirms a major Russian military build-up along the Russian-Ukraine border in preparation for the “Zapad” military exercises. Around 28 Russian battalion tactical groups (BTG) are deployed at Crimea, Rostov, Bryansk, and Voronezh, with plans to increase the Russian presence to 53 BTG’s. Around 60,700 Russian soldiers were already stationed in Crimea and Donbass, with an additional 2,000 soldiers attached to the local separatist battalions as advisors.

2021, April 01: Russia refuses to extend the ceasefire in the Donbas.

2021, April 02: Open source media in Russia display Russian Kamov Ka-52 and Mil mi-28 attack helicopters conducting exercises along the Russian-Ukraine border. According to Russian media reports, the exercises were recent, but had already occurred by the time it was aired.

2021, April 05: Ukrainian JCCC (Joint Centre for Control and Coordination) contacts the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission about concerns that Russia was starting a disinformation campaign against Ukraine, blaming them for incidents occurring which cannot be verified as true. The OSCE conducts an investigation, and fails to confirm any conclusions.

2021, April 06: NATO surveillance and Ukrainian intelligence sources confirm that Russia was moving large volumes of heavy military equipment from across Russia (to include as far as Siberia), closer to the Ukrainian border by train. One Ukrainian soldier dies in a mortar attack on a Ukrainian military position near the town of Nevelske, Donetsk. Another Ukrainian soldier dies in Stepne by an unidentified explosive device. Expecting an imminent Russian invasion, the Ukrainian Armed Forces gather to develop a territorial defence force to strengthen Ukraine’s borders and defences to counter anticipated Russian sabotage and reconnaissance in southern Ukraine.

2021, April 08: Russian Navy vessels redeployed from the Caspian Sea complete exercises with the Black Sea Fleet. Additional vessels include landing ships and artillery boats.

2021, April 10: Ukraine invokes paragraph 16 of the Vienna Document (series of agreements on confidence and security build ups between the States of Europe, including Ukraine and Russia), and initiates a meeting with the OSCE (Organization for Security and Coordination in Europe) regarding Russia’s military build-up along the Ukrainian border. Ukraine’s initiative was supported by several European nations, but Russia failed to send a delegation, also refusing to provide a reason for not attending the meeting as per treaty obligations.

2021, April 13: Ukrainian consul in Russia, Oleksandr Sosoniuk, is detained by the Russian FSB in Saint Petersburg, and is consequently expelled from Russia.

2021, April 14: Russian Secretary of the Security Council of Russia accuses Ukraine of planning to organize “terrorist attacks and sabotage” within the [Russian occupied] Crimean peninsula during a meeting in Crimea. That night, six vessels belonging to the Russian Coast Guard of the Border Service of the FSB intercepted three Ukrainian patrol boats escorting civilian cargo ships in the Sea of Azov, 40 km from the Kerch Strait. The Russian boats broke off from the Ukrainian convoy after the Ukrainian crews threatened the Russian vessels with the use of Ukrainian Naval air assets.

2021, April 19: Ukraine expels senior Russian diplomat, Yevhen Chernikov, who works at the Russian Embassy in Kyiv, to leave Ukraine within 72 hours.

2021, April 22: Russian Minister of Defence, Sergey Shoigu, confirms a drawdown of Russian forces from the previous build-up. The drawdown only implies personnel, and not vehicles and equipment.

2021, May 01: The Taliban commences its final offensive to retake control over Afghanistan. This date also symbolizes the date negotiated and agreed upon by both parties when all US forces and its NATO allies would have withdrawn in total from Afghanistan.


At the start of the Biden administration, there were around 2,500 US soldiers remaining in Afghanistan. During April 2021, US President Joe Biden confirmed that the US would NOT begin withdrawing its remaining forces until May 01, 2021, basically in breach of the conditions of the agreement signed on February 29, 2020, but would be completed by no later than September 11, 2021. The Taliban, however, originally planned its final offensive to commence when all US forces were withdrawn, and on May 01, 2021, the plan went ahead targeting the rapid take-over of outlying territories under the control of government forces. The Taliban advance progressed much rapidly than originally anticipated, why Western forces acted somewhat unprepared when Taliban forces arrived in Kabul. What needs to be understood during the May 01, 2021, offensive is that the Taliban did not take over Afghanistan territories with much force, but in fact through coalition with tribal leaders and influential ANSF commanders. Basically, the majority Afghan Security Forces just changed flags, and continued as normal with sworn allegiance to the Taliban leadership. The Taliban did face pockets of resistance, but not of great impact to prolong the defense of Kabul Province. Also, of critical importance to understand now based on the actual situation at the time is that the Taliban never targeted any NATO forces still in-country (mainly concentrated within Kabul around Kabul International Airport), and its sole objective was to regain control over the government to avoid Daesh from taking over control which would have resulted in another prolonged civil war. What mainstream media fails to report is the fact that the Western supported government reached its lowest level of support amongst the local population who considered the government as being corrupt and only taking care of its own interests. At the political level, there were also growing dissatisfaction between political factions caused by failed governance resulting in the expansion of support to both the Taliban and Daesh. The US was aware of the imminent collapse of the Western supported government and that neither the US nor its allies could fix the failing government, but it underestimated the rate at which the government eventually collapsed. However, what the Taliban and the US both agreed upon was the impending disaster a Daesh caliphate would be to the region and its future stability, and the majority Afghans were united to deny both Daesh (Islamic State) and Russia to gain control over Afghanistan, why the Taliban enjoyed majority support during its advance on Kabul.


2021, May 05: US intelligence confirms that only a small portion of Russian forces were withdrawn from the Russian-Ukraine border resulting from the April 22, 2021, announced Russian drawdown. Around 80,000 Russian soldiers remained along the Russian-Ukraine border.

2021, May 08: Viktor Medvedchuk congratulates the leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic on its Victory Day celebrations, further stating that the military parade was impressive.

2021, May 11: Viktor Medvedchuk and Taras Kozak are accused of high treason and illegal exploitation of natural resources in Ukraine’s Russian annexed Crimea. During December 2021, former President Petro Poroshenko was added to the criminal investigation as a co-accused based on new evidence obtained during the investigation.

2021, May 14: Russian authorities commence with the liquidation of the Russian registered company Novye Proekty which was used by Medvedchuk to illegally exploit Crimean resources.

2021, April 15: Russian GRU officer and Paul Manafort associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, is sanctioned by the US Treasury Department for his actions in spreading a false narrative that Ukraine was responsible for the 2016 elections hacking, instead of Russia who was the actual culprit.

2021, June 22: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy submits a bill to the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) which calls for a public registry of Ukraine’s oligarchs, banning them from participating in the privatization of state owned companies, and forbidding them from contributing financially to politicians.

2021, August 18: In the final report on the 2016 US election interference, the Senate Intelligence Committee characterized Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate of Paul Manafort who was Donald Trump’s campaign manager, as a “Russian intelligence officer”. Kilimnik’s name is mentioned around 800 times within the report. The sharing of information between Manafort and Kilimnik was also characterized as a “grave counterintelligence threat”.

2021, July 12: Russian President Vladimir Putin publishes an article “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” on his presidential website (kremlin.ru). In this article he questions the legitimacy of Ukraine’s borders, asserts that Russians and Ukrainians are one people, and blames the collapse in bilateral ties between Russia and Ukraine on foreign anti-Russian plots.

2021, August 12: With the imminent fall of the Western supported government of Afghanistan considered a reality, US President Joe Biden authorizes the deployment of 3,000 US military personnel to assist with the withdrawal of US diplomatic staff, and all other foreign- and local national staff who supported the final US mission in Afghanistan. At the time of deployment, the US had around 650 soldiers in-country.


While NATO member states were evacuating their citizens from Afghanistan by means of an air bridge last observed during the start of the cold war in Germany, Russia remained in position as a ‘neutral observer’, confirming that it would remain as is. The evolving situation gave Russia the false idea that NATO, and especially the US, was in a state of weakness which further fueled Russian motivations to commence with its planned invasion of Ukraine on February 22, 2022. Russia always considered a Democrat administration in the United States as the weaker government, why much of the Russian covert activities in the US focused on degrading the Republican power base (because Vladimir Putin considered a Republican administration as a greater threat to Russian expansionism due to its historical ‘anti-communist’ and ‘conservative’ political ideologies, knowing that the majority older Republicans still maintained an ‘anti-Soviet’ mindset). The anti-Republican campaign in the United States was further fueled by Russian support and enablement of the BLM movement, and the ‘anti-gun’ lobby groups which aimed at reducing legal firearms ownership in both the United States and South Africa.


2021, August 15: The Taliban takes control of the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, and its leadership resumes control over the government. At the same time the US and its NATO allies are overwhelmed by large masses of Afghans who seek to obtain SIV’s (Special Immigration Visas) to immigrate to the United States in far of possible persecution under Taliban rule, causing major obstructions at Kabul International Airport delaying NATO efforts to extract its citizens with priority. During this phase, no combat action occurred between NATO forces and the Taliban.

2021, August 23: US intelligence staff in support of US diplomats negotiate a new withdrawal deadline with the Taliban leadership in Qatar. The meeting was facilitated by the Qatar government in good faith. The revised withdrawal deadline of all NATO forces, including Afghan nationals qualifying for Special Immigration Visas, is set for midnight on August 30, 2021. The Taliban committed to allowing NATO forces the required freedom of movement to gather its citizens for evacuation via Kabul International Airport. Taliban forces in control of Kabul are also instructed by its leadership to support NATO forces during its evacuation efforts, forbidding any hostility.

2021, August 26: In Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, a suicide bomb attack at Kabul [Hamid Karzai] International Airport kills 11x US Marines, 1x US Army Paratrooper, 1x US Navy Corpsman, 28x Taliban, and upwards of 70x Afghan nationals. The attack is claimed to be the work of Daesh (Islamic State). The attack was executed as a complex attack initiated by the detonation of a suicide vest (SVIED), followed by small arms fire (SAF) targeting Afghan civilians and US servicemen manning Abbey Gate.


We wish to reiterate the circumstances leading up to this event for it is very much significant within the greater scope of events occurring at the time, and it is still one of the most misunderstood military operations due to the political complexities involved. The US was well aware of the eventual Taliban take-over of Afghanistan, but with the fragile state of political affairs back in the US (mainly as a result of targeted Russian interference operations), the Biden administration thought it better not to disclose US government cooperation with the Taliban leadership leading up to (and post-withdrawal), for the simple reason that the majority US population was considered by all sides of the political spectrum not to be mature enough to understand the reasons behind the undeclared expansion of US cooperation with the Taliban that has been branded in the average American minds as the enemy of the United Sates to justify its prolonged presence in Afghanistan. We totally agree with this sentiment. To further complicate matters, for the US government to rapidly change the Global War on Terror narrative to a ‘fighting Daesh (Islamic State) in Afghanistan in cooperation with the Taliban to deter Russian expansionism’ would have been perceived by the general US public as absurd, especially taking into consideration the depth of Russian influence within Western mainstream media. To be honest, even us at ADF/FDA as past GWOT veterans would have considered that narrative as absurd at the time. However, with the expansion of our own awareness about the depth of Russian interference in global affairs in our efforts to support Ukraine counter a belligerent Russia, we have come to learn the actual situation at play, and why we support the US government efforts 100% (also acknowledging the contributions by each of the political administrations respectively). Could the withdrawal from Afghanistan be done better? Yes, but the way the August 2021 withdrawal played out is not important. What is important with respect to its impact on global affairs is that Russia, by means of its continuous enablement of Daesh (Islamic State) as a convenient [covert] tool for expanding Russian foreign interests, failed to gain control over a strategically important location being Afghanistan for this alone saved thousands of lives in the event of an alternative reality where Daesh gained control over the government of Afghanistan. Going forward, we as the West should make peace with the fact that the Taliban controls Afghanistan in the manner most suitable to controlling the people and the territories of Afghanistan. At the diplomatic level (as applicable during the history of modern humanity) it is not uncommon for past enemies to become allies, and vice versa, for the focus now should be aimed at countering Russian expansionism, even if it means partnering with past enemies. From a Russian perspective, the Taliban is considered a major threat to Russian expansionism since much of the Taliban leadership are veterans of the Mujahideen who countered the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War (Dec 24, 1979 – Feb 15, 1989). This is one of the reasons why the Taliban publicly admitted to its desire to resume a friendly relationship with the United States and its allies after the total NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 31, 2021, and why the Taliban government refrained from commemorating the NATO withdrawal as a national celebration. From a military perspective, the US military leadership cannot be blamed for the execution of the withdrawal operation taking into consideration all factors, including political factors at play behind the scenes. Unfortunately, military operations of this scale often result in losses, and it should be accepted as part of the risk territory and in most cases unavoidable considering the circumstances. Looking at the total successes achieved from this withdrawal, the achievements gained exceeds the negatives sustained.


2021, September 10: Russian gas company Gazprom confirm that construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline linking Russia with Germany via the Baltic Sea has been completed. US President Joe Biden publicly opposes the pipeline, but commits to the German government that the US would hold off on implementing sanctions on the condition that Germany funds alternative energy projects for Ukraine. The German government is not satisfied with this arrangement, although it has no alternative choice.


The German government did not appreciate being strong-armed by the US, especially having to commit to building alternative energy projects in Ukraine as a condition for suspension of US sanctions on the Russian gas pipeline to Germany. Looking at the events that unfolded after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the German government was one of the nations that believed that Russia would successfully occupy Ukraine. The implications of a Russian occupation of Ukraine would mean that Russia would control all gas pipelines to Germany to the benefit of the German economy without major US interference, and Germany would in fact be free from its obligations to build alternative energy plants in Ukraine as per US conditions. This also explains why the German government acted with great hesitancy to support Ukraine with arms immediately after the Russian invasion. 6 Months after the failed Russian occupation of Ukraine, the German government is still hesitant in supporting Ukraine, and only does it as a result from growing US pressure on NATO.


2021, September 21: During a formal visit by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the United States, a failed assassination attempt is made against his closest aide in Kyiv, Serhiy Sherif. Sherif was unhurt, but his driver was hospitalized with three gunshot wounds.

2021, September 23: The Ukraine Parliament approves a law on oligarchs as proposed by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on June 22, 2021, much to the dissatisfaction of the opposition and many oligarchs.

2021, October 01: Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who served as President of Georgia during the 2008 Russo-Georgia War and served as the Governor of Odesa Oblast in Ukraine, is arrested in Georgia for breaching immigration laws. Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili states that she will “never’ pardon Saakashvili who remains imprisoned in Georgia at present.


Both the US government and EU parliament, along with various international humanitarian organizations have formally requested the Georgian government to treat Saakashvili more humanely because of his rapidly deteriorating health, citing that the current Georgian government is already experiencing much political instability because of constant Russian interferences. At the time of writing this article, Saakashvili remained in confinement with no indications of when he would be released. He remains a major critic of the current Georgian government, and still has a large political following amongst the Georgian citizens why he is considered a threat to the current political leadership with ties to Russia.


2021, November 02: Ukrainian military intelligence confirm that Russia has increased its troops numbers on the Ukraine border to around 90,000 with the addition of specialized air defense units and equipment.

2021, November 10: US intelligence services record unusual Russian military movements along the border of Ukraine.

2021, November 12: Russian Defence Ministry describes deployment of US Navy ships to Black Sea as “threat to regional security and strategic stability”. Russia is concerned about the reason the US Navy entered the Back Sea was to “explore the theatre of operations” in the event that Ukraine commenced with military operations to re-occupy Crimea from Russia.

2021, November 17: The US warns its NATO Europe allies that Russia is preparing an invasion of Ukraine based on intelligence confirming Russia’s continued build-up of forces and equipment along the Ukrainian border. The majority European commentators discount the warning as an attempt by Vladimir Putin to improve his position for negotiations.

2021, November 21: Several COVID-19 anti-vaccination protests break out in Kyiv. Intelligence sources confirm links between the protest organizers and Russia as a means of destabilizing the country. Russian forces build-up along the Russia-Ukraine border now confirmed to be around 92,000 soldiers. Vladimir Putin responds to requests for clarification by the international community that Russia is by no means preparing an invasion, and that the reports are alarmist, but fails to explain the reasons for the forces build-up.

2021, November 26: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accuses Russia of plotting to overthrow the Ukrainian government with the assistance of a Ukrainian billionaire.

2021, December 04: US intelligence warns Ukraine and Europe that Russia is intending an offensive operation against Ukraine starting end of January 2022 with a force strength of around 175,000 troops.

2021, December 07: US President Joe Biden warns Russian President Vladimir Putin of "strong economic and other measures" if Russia invades Ukraine.

2021, December 09: Russian reinforcements of ground- and naval forces in Crimea begin based on increased road- and train traffic surveillance of the Kerch bridge, as well as an assessment of Russian Black Sea fleet assets arriving at Sevastopol harbor.

2021, December 12: Former President Petro Poroshenko is accused of high treason and illegal exploitation of natural resources in Ukrainian Russian-occupied Crimea alongside Viktor Medvedchuk.

2021, December 17: Russian President Vladimir Putin proposes a prohibition on Ukraine joining NATO, which Ukraine rejects.

2021, December 20: Former Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko is accused of state treason, aiding terrorist organizations, and financing terrorism for allegedly organizing the purchase of coal from separatist areas of Ukraine together with pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk.

2021, December 23: Ukrainian military intelligence suggests Russia is planning a major operation to commence around end of January 2022. Russian forces build-up along the border of Ukraine reaches 94,300 troops. An independent analysis conducted by Janes also confirms that major elements of the Russian 41st Army and 1st Guards Tank Army which are usually based around Moscow, are now present on the Russia-Ukraine border. The US approves $ 200 million worth of military aid to Ukraine, bringing the total US defense aid for 2021 to Ukraine to $ 650 million.

2021, December 30: Former President Viktor Yanukovych files a legal suite against the Ukrainian Parliament in an attempt to have the removal of his constitutional powers as President of Ukraine reinstated.


2022:


2022, January 06: Russian Airborne Forces, along with airborne forces from Belarus, Tajikistan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan are deployed to Almaty, the capitol of Kazakhstan to support pro-Russian President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to suppress violent anti-government civil unrest throughout Kazakstan. The Russian forces first liberated Almaty Airport upon arrival by air, which was occupied by protesters. Around 18 members of the Kazakhstan security forces were killed by protesters, which includes two beheadings. A few dozen protesters died as a result of security forces activities, with more than 2,000 protesters arrested. The total Russian deployment effort was executed using seventy (70) Ilyushin Il-76, and five (5) Antonov An-124 flights, and numbered around 2,500 soldiers belonging to the 45th Separate Airborne Special Forces Brigade (Russia), 98th Airborne Division (Russia), 31st Separate Airborne Brigade (Russia), and 103rd Airborne Vitebsk Brigade (Belarus), under the command of Colonel-General Andrey Serdyukov, a veteran of the Russian annexation of Crimea, the War in Donbas, and Russian intervention in Syria. Following Russia's 'peacekeeping' deployment to Kazakhstan, the United States questioned the reason why Russia would send its forces to Kazakhstan while the Kazakhstan armed forces were more than capable of handling the security situation themselves.


During the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, 7 weeks after the Russian deployment to Almaty Airport, Kazakhstan, Colonel-General Andrey Serdyukov was appointed the airborne forces commander responsible for the [failed] capture of Hostomel Airport, Ukraine. Based on various Russian sources following the failed occupation of Hostomel Airport, the majority of Russian airborne forces that participated in the Almaty Airport operation in Kazakhstan died in the operation to capture Hostomel Airport. As a result of Serdyukov's failure (along with the losses of the majority Russian airborne forces during the initial invasion of Ukraine), Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Supreme High Command which commands Russia's airborne forces, relieved Serdyukov from his duty, and appointed him to command the Russian forces in Syria. Following the failed Hostomel Airport operation, it became clear that Russia used the Almaty Airport operation in Kazakhstan as a rehearsal for the planned occupation of Hostomel Airport 7 weeks later.

The torched Mayor's Office building in Almaty, Kazakstan.


Burnt Kazakstan security forces vehicles at the main entrance to the Presidential residence.


Kazakhstan armed forces members manning a security forces barrier in the main square in Almaty. In this image, these troops stand in front of an Arlan 4x4 Armored Personnel Carrier which is manufactured by Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering, a joint venture armaments manufacturing facility between Paramount Group (South Africa), and Kazpetromash (Kazakhstan). The Arlan 4x4 is a winterized version of the South African designed Paramount Group Marauder MRAP. In South Africa, Paramount Group is the largest private owned defense services company, and its founder and Chairman is also an occasional funder and supporter of the pro-Russian African National Congress (ANC) ruling party.



One of the major causes of public dissatisfaction in Kazakhstan relates to former President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his pro-Russian government policies until his retirement in 2019. During Nazarbayev's term as President, he accumulated approximately US$ 7,9 Billion in personal wealth hidden in various trusts and foundations, mainly derived from state oil revenue and other government spending related activities. The fact that his replacement, current President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was personally "hand picked" by him [Nazarbayev] prior to his retirement also does not fit well amongst the Kazakhstan public. During the January 2022 civil unrest Tokayev issued the order to the security forces to "shoot to kill". However, on March 16, 2022, Tokayev implemented major reforms to reduce the powers of his office away from his predecessor's 'super-presidency'. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Tokayev refused to recognize any of the Russian enabled 'separatist' Republics in Ukraine in support of the Ukraine government. He also confirmed his support to the enforcement of Western sanctions against Russia.


2022, January 10: Ukrainian SBU arrests three Russian intelligence agents who were attempting to recruit pro-Russian Ukrainians to conduct attacks in Odessa.

2022, January 13: Russian cyber-attacks target Ukraine government websites in response to the arrest of three Russian intelligence agents on January 10, 2022.

2022, January 14: Ukraine military intelligence confirms Russian special services were preparing ‘provocations’ against Russian forces stationed in Transnistria, a break-away state in Moldova, in an attempt to create a casus belli for Russia to invade Ukraine. US intelligence services also confirm the presence of Russian agents trained in urban warfare and explosives, to act as Ukrainian ‘saboteurs’ against Russian proxy separatist forces in eastern Ukraine as a pretext for a further invasion of Ukraine. The US warns Russia that it would support Ukrainian resistance movement similar to how it supported the Mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980’s against the Soviet Union if Russia continues with its planned invasion of Ukraine. US intelligence sources also confirm that Russia has identified Viktor Medvedchuk as an alternative option to Viktor Yanukovych for President of Ukraine after successful occupation of Ukraine.

2022, January 16: Denmark approves a US$ 24,8 million defense package to Ukraine.

2022, January 17: (1) The British supply 2,000 NLAW short-range anti-tank missile systems to Ukraine. (2) Russian troops arrive in Belarus under the guise of 'military exercises'.

2022, January 18: Russia silently evacuates its Embassy from Kyiv without giving reasons. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov threatens that if an agreement is not reached between the United States, NATO and Russia regarding Ukraine, that Russia might consider deploying strategic forces to both Cuba and Venezuela. Russian President Vladimir Putin referred to this possibility as “military technical measures” if negotiations over Ukraine fails. Western diplomats refuse to give in to Russia’s unreasonable demands.


The foundation of Russia’s strategic influence in Latin America: Russia has had a long-standing relationship with various Latin American nations since the era of the Soviet Union and the Cold War, being a major supporter of socialist regimes in Central America and Cuba. In the 21st century, Russia has regained its historical support by enabling and supporting anti-US regimes such as Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. However, Russia is struggling to gain support from other leftist Latin American governments who are cautious about allowing the expansion of Russian influence within their territories in favor of strategic partnership with the PRC which is considered less provocative than Russia. However, to understand why especially the impoverished nations of Venezuela and Cuba are subjects of severely restrictive US sanctions, we need to understand Russia’s hand in enabling of the current regimes, and their abuse of government structures to influence their respective populations in supporting the [Russian motivated] anti-US narrative without understanding (due to cause blindness), the reasons for US restrictions against their respective governments. Latin America is of great strategic importance to Russia to expand its economy through diversification away from oil and gas, why Venezuela is of such great importance. From a Russian perspective, if it can maintain the current belligerent Venezuelan government, the West will maintain its economic pressure on Venezuela through restrictive economic sanctions enabling Russia greater power to manipulate global oil supply (by restricting current supply which increases global pricing). However, the greatest threat to Russian expansionism within Latin America is the PRC which operates an economy 10x that of Russia, with much greater diversification. However, Russia has seen an opportunity to capitalize on the PRC’s great spending budgets in especially Venezuela (US$ 62.2 Billion in Chinese loans received to date), which Venezuela (through Russian technical support), uses to support the regimes of Nicaragua and Cuba through both financial- and oil aid. This is the reason why Cuba has a large military presence in Venezuela as a safeguard to deter any Venezuelan military revolt against the current government. South Africa is also a major supporter of the government of Cuba, using Cuba to train military pilots and military health services staff, and contracting Cuban military technicians to maintain South African military hardware in favor of enabling South Africans (who are subject to high youth unemployment), to fulfil such technical expertise. Looking at Russia’s military industry, Latin America currently favors military procurement from China instead of Russia because of historical issues relating to the reliability of Rosoberonexport and Rostec to support its products effectively over lifetime. Also, Russia is finding it difficult to offer comparative favorable terms of purchase as offered by the Chinese.


2022, January 19: (1) Ukrainian Ministry of Defence confirms that Russian forces have reached the final stages of their mobilization along the Russia-Ukraine border with a total of 127,000 troops composed of 106,000 land forces, and the remainder being naval- and air forces personnel. These forces are complemented by around 35,000 separatist forces under Russian control in DPR/LPR, with an additional 3,000 Russians serving as military advisors in the break-away Republics. 36 Iskander SRBM’s are confirmed deployed along the Ukraine border within striking distance of Kyiv. (2) US President Joe Biden warns Russia that if they invade Ukraine, that they would come to regret their actions. (3) Pending imminent Russian invasion, the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces recruits additional citizens to be trained in urban warfare tactics to counter the Russian forces. The Territorial Defense Forces also train in sabotage operations to engage in insurgency activities in the event of Ukrainian territory being seized by Russia. Ukrainian defence strategy focusses on establishing a resistance movement in the Ukrainian military is overwhelmed by Russian forces. (4) US authorizes its NATO allies to transfer US-made equipment to Ukraine in addition to transferring US$ 200 million in military aid to Ukraine.

2022, January 20: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that Russia is planning an invasion of Ukraine, and that Russia plans to occupy various eastern territories, and warns that if Russia was to continue with its plans to invade, that everyone would lose for it would turn into a full-scale war between Russia and Ukraine.

2022, January 21: US approves the provision of FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine. The Baltic states receive approval from the US to supply Ukraine with US manufactured anti-armor systems. The UK increases the number of Royal Air Force RC-135W Rivet joint surveillance aircraft to Ukraine to monitor Russian military activities along the Ukrainian borders. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation confirms their intention to request Russian President Vladimir Putin to recognize the break-away states of Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as independent states.

2022, January 22: (1) The British government confirms that its intelligence services received information that the Russian government was planning an overthrow of the Ukraine government in Kyiv by military force. (2) The first shipment of 90 tons of US military aid arrive in Ukraine which includes anti-tank missiles, anti-armor artillery, communications systems, medical supplies, heavy machine guns, small arms, and ammunition. (3) Both the British and Canadians send military reinforcements to support their existing training missions in Ukraine. The Spanish Navy deploys two vessels to the Black Sea (Frigate: 1, Patrol Boat/Minesweeper: 1). The Netherlands confirms that they would deploy two F-35s to Bulgaria as part of the regional NATO mission.

2022, January 24: NATO forces in Europe are put on standby for a possible Russian military action.

2022, January 25: (1) Former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk labels Russia as the “biggest threat” to Ukraine, and criticizes Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s handling of the growing Russian tensions. (2) Russian forces conduct a military exercise with 6,000 ground troops and 60 fighter aircraft of different variants along the border of Ukraine and Crimea.

2022, January 26: US rejects Russian demands to keep Ukraine out of NATO, and offers Russia a means of de-escalating the current situation with Ukraine. Russia declines the US offer for de-escalation, continuing to insist that the supposed Russian invasion is just NATO paranoia.

2022, January 28: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls on the West not the create “panic” in his country over a potential Russian invasion, adding that constant warnings of an “imminent” threat of invasion is putting the economy of Ukraine at risk (looking back to this period, especially factoring in how much influence Russia exercised through its sovereign investments in traditional Western mainstream media, these constant ‘warnings’ were in fact part of a greater Russian information strategy prior to its planned invasion. Basically, Russia planned and executed the whole ‘media panic’ situation for psychological effect).

2022, January 30: (1) Russian forces enter Belarus under the auspices of major combined military exercises planned alongside the Armed Forces of Belarus. Combat units from the 5th, 29th, 35th, 36th Combined Arms Armies (CAA), along with 76th Guards Air Assault Division, 98th Guards Airborne Division, and Pacific Fleet 155th Naval Infantry Brigade, are deployed to Belarus. Both the US and Ukraine estimates the main effort of the pending offensive operation to start from Belarus due to its close proximity to Kyiv. (2) Russian business executive, Leonid Shulman, is found dead with multiple stab wounds in the bathroom of his house in a gated community in St Petersburg, Russia. Shulman was the head of transport at Gazprom Invest. He was 60 years old at the time of his death. St Petersburg authorities accounted Shulman’s death to suicide.

2022, January 31: Poland confirms its decision to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons to include small arms ammunition, artillery shells, light mortar systems, reconnaissance UAV’s, and the Polish-made Piorun MANPADS.

2022, February 03: US intelligence sources indicate that Russia was preparing fabricated video ‘evidence’ of a staged ‘Ukrainian’ attack on a still unknown target associated with Russia as pretext for an invasion of Ukraine.

2022, February 05: US intelligence confirms that Russia has 83 Battalion Tactical Groups (BTG), which represents around 70% of its combat capabilities, ready for an invasion of Ukraine. By US military estimates, the invasion launch window is estimated to commence any time from February 15, 2022 to around March 31, 2022, when extreme cold weather would assist with the freezing of roads to support major mechanized forces deployments at the scale prepared by Russia. 2,000 US soldiers arrive in Germany and Poland to bolster the NATO eastern flank in response to Russia’s continued expansion of Russian forces along the Ukrainian borders.

2022, January 06: A Ukrainian court seizes former Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko’s property following treason accusations.

2022, February 07: The UK prepares to deploy Royal Marines, various RAF aircraft, and Royal Navy ships to eastern Europe.

2022, February 10: Six Russian Navy landing ships (Korolev, Minsk, Kaliningrad, Petr Morgunov, Georgiy Pobedonosets, Olenegorskiy Gornyak), arrive at Sevastopol, Crimea. Russian Black Sea fleet conducts a naval exercise in the Black Sea blocking the sea routes at Kerch Strait, Sea of Azov, and the Black Sea. Ukraine protests the Russian activities. Russian land forces in Belarus conduct a joint exercise with Belarusian forces allocating 30,000 Russian troops along the Belarus-Ukraine border for a period of 10 days. Ukraine responds by deploying 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers to the border with Belarus to conduct its own exercises. The Baltic States invoke provisions of the Vienna Document demanding Belarus explain its position in terms of its participation in military exercises with Russia using its total armed forces along its border with Ukraine.

2022, February 11: US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, states that the Russian invasion of Ukraine can commence at any moment after the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing ends on February 20, 2022. Ukraine invokes Chapter III (Risk Reduction) of the Vienna Document demanding Russia to explain the reasons for conducting military exercise directly adjacent to Ukrainian territories in Belarus and Crimea. Russia refuses a response within the 48 hours timeframe provided for response. US President Joe Biden warns all American citizens in Ukraine to evacuate pending a Russian invasion. US approves deployment of an additional 3,000 troops to Poland, along with the deployment of F-15’s to Romania.

2022, February 12: US intelligence services informs its NATO allies that Russia might commence with a ground invasion of Ukraine on February 16, 2022. US orders the evacuation of all its military- and diplomatic staff from its Embassy in Kyiv. Japan, Germany, Israel, and Australia urge their citizens to leave Ukraine immediately. Spain deploys four Eurofighters to Bulgaria.

2022, February 13: International airlines decrease their flight schedules to Ukraine from international destinations. KLM suspends all flights to/from Ukraine. The Ukraine government requests an emergency meeting within 48 hours (February 15, 2022) with the OSCE, with specific request that Russia be summoned to provide a response to earlier requests for clarification of intentions.

2022, February 14: Russian and Belarussian Defence Ministers confirm mutual defence cooperation ties. Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu releases a statement to the media that Russian Southern- and Western Districts have commenced to return to their barracks (not stating where), upon completion of the military exercises. Based on NATO surveillance and intelligence efforts, no Russian troop movements are observed indicating signs of de-escalation.

2022, February 15: Emergency OSCE meeting convenes in response to Ukraine’s formal request two days prior. The Russian delegation refused to attend the meeting aimed at de-escalation of the current threat situation. In a media statement, Russian President Vladimir Putin attempts to create a pretext of ongoing ‘genocide’ in the Donbas. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, and the Council of Europe confirm that they have observed no evidence of any genocide claims in the Donbas since the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea started. The European Commission dismisses Russian claims of genocide as disinformation. The US Embassy in Ukraine responded to the Russian claims as being “reprehensible falsehood”, followed by the US Department of State commenting that Russia was looking for “an excuse to invade Ukraine”. The Russian State Duma approves the request submitted by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation for recognition of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation is supported by United Russia.

2022, February 16: NATO Secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, refutes Russian claims of withdrawal, and states that Russia was instead building up its forces along the Ukrainian border. The Russian Foreign Ministry responds by downplaying NATO warning as “anti-Russian hysteria”. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls for a ‘day of unity’ in Ukraine in light of an imminent Russian invasion. Authorities controlling the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic order full mandatory evacuation of civilians from their respective capital cities.

2022, February 17: US and NATO confirm that Russia is still maintaining an invasion posture along the borders of Ukraine in Belarus and Russia, but that Russia is still awaiting for a casus belli (an event that either provokes or is used to justify a war), and that Russia might conduct a false flag operation to achieve it. The UK, Poland and Ukraine form a trilateral pact to respond to threats to Europe caused by the imminent Russian aggression. The Russian-led militants in Donbas increase the rate of artillery bombardments of known Ukrainian positions from an average of 2-5 engagements per day during the first 6 weeks of 2022, to 60 engagements as a means of drawing Ukraine to respond with military force. Russian separatist forces shell a kindergarten at Stanytsia Luhanska using artillery, injuring three civilians.

2022, February 18: US intelligence sources warn that Russian security forces have lists of ‘anti-Russian’ Ukrainian politicians that should be captured or assassinated upon military occupation of Ukraine, specifically Kyiv. The use of lethal force against crowds of unarmed protesters resisting the Russian military have been authorized.

2022, February 19: Two Ukrainian soldiers are killed, and another five soldiers wounded after an artillery attack on a Ukrainian position by separatist forces in the east. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warns the Western nations at the Munich Security Conference to abandon their “appeasement” attitude towards Russia. He further states: “Ukraine has been granted security assurances in exchange for giving up the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal. We don’t have any firearms. And there is no security, but we have the right to urge a transformation from an appeasement policy to one that ensures security and peace”.

2022, February 20: President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, and Russian President, Valdimir Putin, announce that they have collectively decided to extend Allied Resolve 2022 military exercises in response to the escalation of military activities in Ukraine, and the “deteriorating” situation in the Donbas. Consequently, Russia insinuates the Ukrainian military deployments in response to the Russian military exercises along the Ukrainian borders with Belarus and Russia as casus belli. US intelligence services confirm that Russian commanders in position along the Ukrainian border are issued their respective invasion plans.

2022, February 21: Russian FSB reports that an FSB facility located 150 m from the Ukraine border inside Russian territory within Rostov-Oblast, were attacked by Ukrainian soldiers. Separately, the press services of the Southern Military District in Russia released a statement to the media claiming that Russian forces had killed five saboteurs travelling in two IFV’s at Mityakinskaya, Rostov-Oblast, who supposedly drove over the border from Ukraine. Ukraine denies the Russian accusations, stating it was a false flag operation by Russia in an attempt to discredit Ukraine amongst the local Russian populations bordering Ukraine. Luhansk Thermal Powerplant is decommissioned after being shelled by artillery fire originating from the Luhansk separatist region. Vladimir Putin signs the decrees of recognition of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), along with treaties “on friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance” between Russia and the Republics. The Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council both reject Russia’s recognition of the DPR/LPR as independent Republics. Immediately after signing the decree on the recognition of the DPR and LPR, Russian President Vladimir Putin orders the deployment of Russian forces to both the DPR and LPR in what Russia referred to as a “peacekeeping mission”.

2022, February 22: The West sanctions Russia, specifically targeting the banks. The EU sanctions all members of the Russian State Duma who voted in favor of the recognition of the break-away republics. The US government classifies the deployment of Russian forces to the DPR and LPR as an “invasion” of Ukrainian territory. The Federation Council of Russia authorizes Russian President Vladimir Putin to use military force outside of Russia. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy order all reserve forces to be called up, but not committed to general mobilization yet.

2022, February 23: In a public event addressing the Russian population, Russian President Vladimir Putin announces that the Ukrainian statehood was a fiction, and that “modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia, more precisely, Bolshevik, Communist Russia”, and specifically blamed Vladimir Lenin for the separation. He further stated that Ukraine’s membership to NATO was a “foregone conclusion”, and that Moscow could not afford to “ignore a nuclear armed Ukraine”, demanding that “those who seized and retain power in Kyiv immediately cease hostilities” or face consequences. Vladimir Putin continues by criticizing Ukraine’s decision to de-communize after Russian’s annexation of Crimea during 2014 when the Ukraine government outlawed Communist symbols (This remark is considered the main inspiration why Russian military forces invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, with flags of the USSR mounted on top instead of the official flag of the Russian Federation). US defense officials confirm that 80% or Russian forces committed along the borders with Ukraine are ready for battle, and that the invasion could commence at any moment.



To be continued / ...

Last Updated: 28 1200Z January 2023



 

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