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Message received – but sure of the messenger? Bomb blast at Odessa SBU

September 28, 2015

At 0442 hours on 27th September (according to your author’s watch) a bomb went off in Odessa.  Sound travels at night and the explosion at the SBU offices on Evreiskaya was clearly audible in Arkadia.

It is the first bomb to go off in Odessa for many months (although it probably won’t be the last when the dark nights and cold weather set in, for it is easier to hide identities under umbrellas, scarves, or a hat, and to secrete bulky objects beneath a coat – which is really not so easy when dressed in shorts, flip-flops and a T shirt during the hot summer).

Like all previous bombs, it detonated at a time when casualties would not be expected.  Almost all Saturday night/Sunday morning clubbers have gone home, street cleaners have yet to start their oh so early graft.  Like all previous bombs the damage caused was structural.

Unlike most previous bombs, the target was not a Kolomoisky bank branch, nor was it the political offices of Samopomich or Batkivshchyna Party offices.  It wasn’t rail track, nor was it “big board” advertising placements.

SBU building Odessa (Photo by Dumskaya)

SBU building Odessa (Photo by Dumskaya)

This time, strikingly, the target was an institution of State – the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).

Zoryan Shkiryak, an advisor to the Ministry of Internal Affiars wasted no time in placing the blame firmly on The Kremlin and the FSB on his Facebook page:

“Увага! Нинішній теракт в Одесі – прямий наказ путіна. Деякі деталі по суті.
В тому, що цей злочин справа рук ФСБ Росіі, жодних сумнівів. Варто зазначити, що черговий терористичний акт російських спецслужб на територіі Украіни, був чітко спланованим заздалегідь. Його головна ціль – залякування і попередження.
Метою російських терористів не були передбачені людські жертви. Вони чітко відслідковували, щоб під час вибуху поруч нікого не було. Саме тому, було обрано відповідний час для дистанційного приведення в дію вибухового пристрою. Варто зазначити, що ворог може діяти і руками, прикуплених ними, так званих “патріотичних формувань”, для ще більшої дестабілізації внутрішньої ситуаціі в Украіні. НКВДшні методи впливу нікуди не ділися, вони працюють і сьогодні.
Головний тіньовий заказник терактів 31 серпня під ВР і 27 вересня в Одесі – Кремль! Це провокаційний сигнал путіна перед його виступом на Генасамблеї ООН. Таким чином російський диктатор шантажує Украіну і весь цивілізований світ! Мовляв, дивіться, ми все можемо і тіпа “не при делах”. Зважаючи ще і на події в Сиріі, дії російського агресора цілком передбачувані і очевидні.
Наразі, в Одесі відбуваються контртерористичні заходи із залученням спецпідрозділів МВС, Нацгвардіі, СБУ. В дію введено план “Перехват”.”

Perhaps he is correct in where he apportions the responsibility for this latest terrorist blast, although “The fact that this crime – the work of the FSB of Russia, no doubt” is perhaps a little presumptuous, for some doubt there surely is when making such statements within a few hours of the explosion.

Of the several dozen bombings that occurred late last year and early 2015, all were swiftly blamed by politicians in Kyiv upon The Kremlin, pro-Kremlin groups, or “professional Russians”.  (“Professional Russians” are those who become “Russian” for money when a protest, brawl, or other headline grabbing acts are required.  They are not a new phenomenon to Odessa, for they can be “professional whatever” for whomever is paying on a different day.  Rent-a-mob for rent-a-cause.)

Yet not all the bombings in Odessa were caused by the aforementioned in the above paragraph.  A great many were – indeed the mjaority.  The “Communist 3”, one of whom foolishly kept a diary, admitted responsibility for at least 10 explosions, but they do not account for all at the time of their detention.  Far more remain undetected than are now detected following their arrests.

There were certainly several bombings (about 10% of those that occurred) that have absolutely nothing to do with The Kremlin, pro-Kremlin groups or “professional Russians”.  The spate of Kremlin sponsored bombings were simply used as cover for “business orientated/crime orientated score-settling and/or messaging” in which one more explosion was supposed to be lost amongst the many, sheltering beneath the umbrella of swift condemnation from Kyiv that pointed to offenders elsewhere.  Had Kyiv an ear for the Odessa underworld it would have heard that not all roads led to Rome – or rather that not all explosions led to The Kremlin – before providing alibis for the criminality of Odessa.

Thus, no matter how slight, despite the statement of  Zoryan Shkiryak, there is some room for doubt as to where the responsibility lies at this time.  This is particularly so as the SBU in Odessa has been very active and quite successful over the past 12 months.

It has been arresting not only those that have been involved terrorist acts, and also the would be/wannabes, some of the loony left, and more recently some of the swivel-eyed right, but also allegedly corrupt military commanders from Odessa too.  That is not withstanding raids on organised criminality at Odessa and Illichovsk ports, and arresting other State employees involved in large scale corruption etc.

It follows that in doing its job fairly well and taking on those most extreme amongst the loony left and the swivel-eyed right, organised crime, nefarious “businessmen”, corrupt military and other rent seeking State employees – all of which have access to illicit arms and explosives to some degree or another – that whilst The Kremlin may well turn out to be the offender, it is by no means the foregone conclusion Mr Shkiryak states.  Indeed, there would be few CT (counter-terrorism) officers (none that your author has met over many years) that would make such public statements before any meaningful investigations have begun.

Any throwing about of the “who done it?” question around the CT office would remain very much unofficial and private – ultimately evidence led in the answer.

Some readers may also wonder why an advisor to the Ministry of Internal Affairs is not advising the MIA over the issue rather than making public statements on Facebook that will be perceived by many as statements of the MIA.  Perhaps it is an age thing, or the historical institutionalisation of your author in expecting government advisors to advise privately and discretely, whilst expecting ministers or press spokespeople to make public statements within hours of a terrorist incident?

Your author was no stranger to CT theory or training, and when it came to public communication there were but a few rules of the game.

The Golden Hour (the first hour after a terrorist incident) was to set the tone of communication.  It was about factual information and advisory measures (if any).  To explain and clarify what is going on.  To explain and clarify the CT measures being taken.  To confirm or deny rumours as quickly as possible.  Clear and concise messaging.  Avoid speculation.  Remember no news is news, so update regularly even if to say there is no further news.

The rules of the game were to avoid playing into the hands of terrorists.  Avoid unnecessary rhetoric and alarmist wording.  Limit the incident impact and stimulate the normalisation of society getting back to business as soon as possible.  Use societal resilience to the advantage of the authorities and to the detriment of the terrorists.

As far as talking to the public was concerned (for those that had to talk to the public), that was about it when it came to the rules.

Whatever the case, it may very well be that Mr Shkiryak is correct – but as Kyiv has made such claims before and on occasion it has been quite wrong when it came to bombings and the motivations behind them in Odessa, perhaps a little more caution is required when making public statements based upon what appears to be circumstantial evidence and gut feelings – even if they ultimately prove to be correct?

Will it effect the efforts and current work ethic of the SBU?  The only public measurement may be the number of reported arrests over the coming weeks and months – although those are operationally dependent and not necessarily the best guide.

As to what effect this most recent bomb has had on the public of Odessa, the answer very clearly today in the city centre was no effect at all (no differently to all the other explosions to be blunt).

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