Ex-spy Valentin Nalivaychenko said even he’s concerned Ukraine’s assassinations are going too far.
He told The Economist Ukraine’s “security services shouldn’t do things just because they can.”
Ukraine is tight-lipped, but assassinations in occupied territory and Russia have cropped up over the war.
Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, dozens of Russian officials and conspirators have been assassinated both in occupied Ukrainian territory and Russia.
But now, even a Ukrainian ex-spy is concerned the country’s assassination squads are going too far.
Valentin Nalivaychenko, former Head of the Security Service of Ukraine and current Parliament member, told The Economist that recent missions have been quite risky for Ukrainian intelligence, in some cases lacking strategy or endangering agents and their sources.
“Our security services shouldn’t do things just because they can,” Nalivaychenko said, adding that while some assassinations have been justified, others have given pause.
His comments echoed concerns from other Ukrainian officials, with one anonymous source inside SBU counter-intelligence telling The Economist that targeting mid-level propagandists or relatively small fish in Russia’s larger information and political systems was sometimes meant to impress the president rather than achieve victory in the war.
“Clowns, prostitutes and jokers are a constant around the Russian government,” the source told the outlet. “Kill one of them, and another will appear in their place.”
Ukraine’s network of spies has supposedly ramped up its attacks, especially on pro-war propagandists far from the front lines. In an interview last May, Major-Geenral Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence service, said his agents had “successfully targeted quite a few people.”
“There have been well-publicized cases everyone knows about, thanks to the media coverage,” Budanov told The Times.
One of the most recent suspected assassinations was in July, when a Russian submarine commander was shot dead while on a run in Krasnodar. He was previously believed to be responsible for a high-precision Kalibr cruise missile attack in Vinnytsia in July 2022 that killed 28 Ukrainian civilians.
And in April, a Russian military blogger was killed in a cafe explosion in St. Petersburg. Russia arrested a woman for the attack and blamed the attack on Ukraine; the country has denied it had a role in the attack.
Other attacks have fallen into a moral grey area. In October 2022, The New York Times reported that US government officials were blaming a car bombing that killed Darya Dugina — the daughter of Russian far-right nationalist and propagandist Alexander Dugin — on Ukraine.
It’s unclear if Dugina or Dugin himself had been the intended target.
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