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“Winter” is coming (and got arrested for trying to recruit SBU officers)

June 25, 2017

That Russian infiltration remains within the political class and institutions of the Ukrainian State is no secret.  Indeed Ukraine as a State is perhaps better working on the assumption that it has no secrets.

Whether Russian infiltration has increased over the past few years, remained constant, or has diminished, is far more difficult to asses – for that would require an understanding of just how many GRU, FSB and SVR officers and their agents were actually in Ukraine to begin with.

Suffice to say the entire governance and State structure was riddled with Kremlin spooks and their networks and probably remains so – at least any counterintelligence officer in Ukraine would certainly work on that assumption, for no amount of lustration, clever SBU work, or simple good luck will clear them all out – ever.

Indeed, arguably those most easily identified are not going to be the greatest threat – and even if a professional spook is identified it certainly doesn’t mean they will immediately become persona non grata and sent back to Moscow post haste.  There are reasons, political, diplomatic, and also perhaps most importantly, domestic counterintelligence, that may very well (and often does) dictate leaving such opposition personnel in place unless they seriously overstep the “acceptable boundaries” of their diplomatic cover (should they be operating under diplomatic cover).

It came as no surprise when former Consul General Valeriy Shibeko of the Russian Federation based in Odessa was PNG’d in July 2015.  Valeriy Shibeko arrived in Odessa as Consul General in March 2014 – at the height of the Novorossiya nonsense, social unrest operations such as the Potemkin “Bessarabian People’s Republic”, and remained in post throughout the bombing campaign of 2014/15 – which ceased almost immediately he was PNGd.

Mr Shibeko’s curriculum vitae, or at least the official legend offered, was particularly dull, grey and uninteresting.  Thus a sudden CG posting at that particular time and within the strategic city of Odessa immediately cast a shadow over its legitimacy for those with a curious mind.   Since being PNGd, Mr Shibenko has once again disappeared into the grey.

To be blunt, his PNG was somewhat overdue as it was common knowledge within Odessa regarding the “assistance” the RF Consulate in Odessa was giving to all manner of anti-Ukrainian activities.

Since that time the Russian Consulate in Odessa has had acting Consular General office holders only.

The illegals placed by the SVR (and occasionally others), being without diplomatic cover, play a slightly more risky game, but even so it does not necessarily follow that they will automatically be jailed or PNGd if identified (at least not immediately – and sometimes never).

This entry is not entirely about professional intelligence officers but also about their agents and networks.

Without going into too much detail, in this particular case (there are cases every other week) a man with the code name ” Зима”, or “Winter” in English, whose real name is Igor Vadimovich Tkachenko, was recruited by the Russians in Transnistria (the Russian enclave/protectorate in Moldova), to come to Odessa and engage in espionage.  Mr Tkachenko holds both Moldavian and Russian citizenship and was once the commander of the Dniestra Battalion in Transnistria.  He was also a GRU unit serviceman many moons ago.

He arrived in Odessa to recruit SBU officers to the Russia cause.  A rather interesting assignment if, as it appears, he had no history of recruiting assets and/or informants, nor of acting as a handler or controller – which would perhaps explain his undoing.

Whether or not the Russian secret services that recruited “Agent Winter” believed he was up to the task or not, who knows?  These days they seem to be taking greater risks – perhaps due to the lack of penalties when things don’t work out, and seeking reward from Moscow Centre when they do.

His motivation was financial.

His money came via Evgene Shultsev the current acting Consular General of the Russian Federation.

This is all known because Mr Tkachenko has been forthright with the Ukrainian SBU since his detention.

(Indeed “Agent Winter” has also given up another with the code name “Гравер” or “Engraver” in English.  For now nothing more will be written about “Engraver”.)

However, as details regarding this incident will turn from a drip into a torrent within the local public domain over the coming days, it remains to be seen whether Ukraine will feel it necessary and/or unavoidable to persona non grata Evgene Shultsev, thus adding another PNGd Russian Consular General to the Odessa list.

Whatever the case, the majority of those deeply embedded within the infiltrated Ukrainian State (and local) apparatus will live to undermine Ukraine another day, whilst inept distractions such as “Agent Winter” continue to offer the easy, low hanging fruit when some harvesting is deemed appropriate.

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