May 20, 2019

The President of the “Borysfen Intel” Center Victor Hvozd took part in the European-American Security Dialogue


On May 16–19, 2019, in Romania, a European-American Security Dialogue took place themed “Securing the Black Sea: How to Counter Russian New Generation Warfare in the Region”.

The event was organized by the New Strategy Center (Romania) and the Center for the Study of the New Generation Warfare (USA) with the support of the Ministry of Defense of Romania.

At the invitation of the organizers, the President of the Independent Analytical Center for Geopolitical Studies “Borysfen Intel” Victor Hvozd made a report “Russian Introduction of the Armed Insurgents and Support Thereof: Lessons Learned from Crimea and Donbas”.





1. Introduction

Five years ago, in February 2014, Russia began an armed aggression against Ukraine in the form of a “hybrid” war (new generation war).

As you know, the reason for it was the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, which led to the fall of V. Yanukovych's pro-Russian regime.

At this, Moscow aimed at the actual elimination of Ukraine as an independent and integral state with further establishment of control over its territories.

At the same time, the attack on Ukraine was not a spontaneous step by the Kremlin, but became a logical continuation of its policy of preserving, and in the future, resuming Russia's dominant positions in post-Soviet territories.

To this end, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow began taking a complex of “hybrid” measures to preserve its influence on Ukraine and continues taking them to this day.

Such measures were taken in the political, economic, informational, special and military spheres, and their specific forms depended on the situation in Ukraine and Russia, their inter-state relations, and on Moscow's ability to realize its geopolitical interests.

Simultaneously, Russia was preparing an armed aggression against Ukraine in case if all other methods to implement Russian policy on the Ukrainian direction would be ineffective.

It is precisely this situation that arose at the end of 2013 – early 2014, as a result of the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine.

To date, political, economic and informational components of Russia's “hybrid” actions against Ukraine are already quite well studied and known. In view of this, I would like to pay more attention to the special and military components of such Moscow's measures.


2. Actions of Soviet Special Services to Create Levers of Moscow's Influence on Ukraine. The Second Half of the 1980s

In the second half of the 1980s special services of the USSR began the implementation of a set of measures to create levers of Moscow's influence on Ukraine. In particular, such measures included:

  • creation of a pro-Moscow lobby in central and local authorities of the then Ukrainian SSR;
  • transformation of Crimea into Russia's outpost in Ukraine, a center of separatism and a potential hotbed of conflict.


3. Russia's First Attempt to Annex Crimea. 1992–1994

After the collapse of the USSR as a result of Ukraine's refusal to accept Russian initiatives, that were meant to preserve Moscow's influence in post-Soviet territories, the above-mentioned levers of influence were used.

Through them, Moscow provoked a political crisis in Ukraine, which ended in early presidential elections in 1994.

In the same period, Russia made its first attempt to annex Crimea with active involvement of Russian agents and pro-Russian forces in the Peninsula, as well as the Black Sea Fleet.


4. Russia's Resolving Internal Problems and Moving to Restoration of Its Positions in Post-Soviet Territories

At the same time, internal problems in Russia, including the aggravation of socio-economic problems, a series of political crises and the war in the North Caucasus, limited Moscow's ability to influence Ukraine through political, economic and special (military) methods.

Under such circumstances, the main efforts of the Kremlin to implement its plans for Ukraine were transferred to the special sphere. First of all, this concerned the expansion of the Russian lobby in the leadership of Ukraine and bringing to power frankly pro-Russian politicians and political forces.

Such Russia's actions gained significant momentum in the early 2000s, after creation in the country of a rigid vertical of power, overcoming the economic crisis, and achieving relative stabilization of the situation in the North Caucasus.

At the same time, in response to Ukraine's announcement in 2002–2003 of concrete plans for joining NATO and the EU, Russia resumed open provocations against Ukraine.

In a number of cases, such provocations created a real threat of armed conflict between the two countries. The most resonant and dangerous were Russia's actions in September 2003 to establish control over the Ukrainian island of Tuzla in the Kerch Strait. In fact, it was another trial of strength as for the possibility of the annexation of Crimea.


5. The Orange Revolution in Ukraine

Russia's policy towards Ukraine, as well as the connivance on the part of the Ukrainian government of that time, caused mass discontent in the Ukrainian society. The result of this was the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004 and the coming to power in the country of pro-Western national-democratic forces.

All this was perceived by Moscow as a challenge and a direct threat to its interests, therefore it began a series of measures to restore its positions in Ukraine.

In the special sphere, such actions included:

  • using Russian agents and agents of influence in order to make a split in the leadership of Ukraine and provoke a permanent political crisis in the state;
  • destabilization of the internal situation in Ukraine by organizing mass protests with the involvement of both local pro-Russian forces and specially organized groups of Russian provocateurs;

It was when the Russian special services mastered the practice of recruiting and training Russian citizens who were brought to Ukraine for participation in all sorts of actions, aggressive ones included.

  • using special propaganda methods to artificially exacerbate the confrontation between different groups of the Ukrainian population based on different attitudes to the West and Russia;

All this helped to create the basis for implementation of the plans for disintegration of Ukraine. The first attempt to implement them was made in November 2004 in the context of the apparent tendency of the victory of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. November 26, 2004 Luhansk Regional Council voted to create a “South-Eastern” republic. November 28, 2004 the congress of deputies of all levels from 17 southern and eastern regions of Ukraine in the city of Severodonetsk, Luhansk region, discussed creating a “South-Eastern Federal State” with Kharkiv as its capital.

At this, Russia did not even conceal its leading role in the implementation of the above-mentioned plans. In all of these events actively participated a representative delegation from Russia, led by Moscow Mayor Yu. Luzhkov — one of the main organizers of separatist processes in Crimea.

  • involving Russian agents and agents of influence in western countries in order to discredit Ukraine and create obstacles in processes of its European and Euro-Atlantic integration.


6. V. Putin's Announcing Confrontation Between Russia and the West

Against this background, Russia switched to an open confrontation with the West, which was initiated by Putin's speech at the Munich Security Conference in February 2007.

As part of such a policy, Moscow began focused efforts to restore Russia's military potential as the main instrument for implementing its foreign policy. In this regard, the main tasks of the Russian Armed Forces were defined as follows:

  • to exercise pressure on the countries of the former USSR and ensure interference in their internal affairs, including through military operations;
  • maintaining a balance of power with the United States and NATO and deterring them from interfering in Russia's sphere of interests and, first of all, in post-Soviet territories;
  • demonstration of Moscow's resolve to achieve its foreign policy goals by all, including military, methods.

So, in August 2008, after Tbilisi had declared a clear course to joining NATO, Russia attacked Georgia under the pretext of protecting the population of South Ossetia.

At the same time, the RF intensified demonstrative and provocative flights of tactical and strategic aviation of its Armed Forces over the Black Sea.

In order to ensure that these tasks were carried out, a number of steps were taken which, at the initial stage, were quite controversial.

In 2008, taking into account the experience of the war against Georgia, Russia began transforming its Armed Forces in accordance with the western organizational structure. For example, most of divisions were reduced and reformed into brigades; some separate regiments were also reformed into brigades; aviation regiments were transformed into air bases; rear structures were cut to the minimum level. Besides, some forces and troops were redeployed.

In December 2008, the 810th Separate Marine Regiment of the Black Sea Fleet was upgraded to the 810th Separate Marine Brigade.

During the same period, the HQ of the 20th Combined Arms Army was redeployed from the city of Voronezh to the city of Nizhny Novgorod. To this Army were also subordinated the 2nd Motorized Rifle and 4th Tank Divisions (stationed in Moscow region), reformed into brigades.

At the same time, in the context of the resumption of confrontation between Russia and the West, the Russian leadership abandoned the aforementioned approaches to the implementation of the military reform in the country. Instead, it was decided to return to the principles of the structure of the Soviet Armed Forces. Moscow was paying special attention to South-Western (Black Sea) and North-Western (Baltic) directions, where it directly bordered with NATO and the EU. The main measures to implement new plans for the development of the Armed Forces of Russia included:

  • improvement of the command structure and strengthening of the Russian troops on North-Western and South-Western directions;

in October 2010, on the basis of the Southern Military District (MD) of the RF Armed Forces, the North Caucasus MD was created. The 58th Combined Arms Army (HQ — in Vladikavkaz) became part of the Southern MD;

in December 2011, a new 49th Combined Arms Army (HQ — in Stavropol) was created within the Southern MD, intended for actions in the Azov-Black Sea operational area, and in the long run — against Ukraine;

at the same time, within the Western MD, the 2nd Motorized Rifle and 4th Tank Divisions were restored.

  • stepping up, expansion and changing the nature and focus of the operational and combat training of Russia's Armed Forces;

In 2007, Russia began the practice of conducting strategic command-and-post exercises such as “The West”, “The Caucasus”, “The Center” and “The East”, with mastering different scenarios of armed conflicts and wars between Russia and the United States and NATO, including with using of nuclear weapons.

Elements of these exercises included performing the tasks of mobilizing and deploying Russian troops (redeployment of troops from rear regions included), blockade of the Baltic and Black Sea Straits, defensive and offensive operations, and missile attacks on the territory of NATO member states at operational and tactical depth with the use of ground- and sea-based missile systems, and — at strategic depth — with the use of long-range (bomber) aviation and Strategic Missile Forces.

The character of operational and combat training of the Russian Black Sea Fleet was also amended accordingly. From 2008–2009, the Fleet switched to the mastering of new tasks, including blocking bases and ports from the sea; transportation of forces and means by large landing ships and military-transport aviation both, within the Black Sea region and to other theatres of military operations; conducting of military operations by marines in urban environment; blocking of military objects and infrastructure of Ukraine in the Crimean Peninsula.

  • equipping the Armed Forces of Russia with new types of weapons and military equipment.

At the end of 2006, the State Arms Program for 2007–2015 was adopted, which envisaged the development of new types of arms and military equipment throughout the all nomenclature. All in all, for this purpose the RF allocated 4 trillion 939 billion 400 million rubles. Of these, 4 trillion 98 billion rubles (83 %) had to be spent on the Armed Forces (the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation). However, the program was not implemented. In early 2011, it was replaced by the State Arms Program-2020.

Besides, Russia began measures to restore and strengthen military-technical ties with Third World countries, including those in sensitive for US regions.

In this regard, the most illustrative is the military and military-technical cooperation between Russia and Venezuela, which is in Central America, actually in the underbelly of the United States. In 2005–2017, Venezuela was provided with a wide range of weapons of various types, including Su-30MK fighters, strike and military-transport helicopters, tanks, artillery systems, air defense systems, etc., worth more than 11 billion US dollars.

At the same time, was initiated the practice of conducting joint military exercises, which became clearly demonstrative after the resumption of confrontation between Russia and the United States and NATO. The first of these exercises took place in November 2008 in Venezuela with the participation of a large anti-submarine ship “Admiral Chabanenko” and two Tu-160 strategic bombers.

All this was accompanied by the intensification of Russian special services' actions to undermine the unity of NATO and the EU and to weaken Western countries.


7. The Period of the Yanukovych Regime in Ukraine

The above-mentioned actions of Russia allowed it to largely realize its interests.

The results of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine were actually destroyed, and the pro-Russian regime led by V. Yanukovych came to power in the country.

At the same time, Russia actually made the West reckon with its interests. In particular, under Moscow's pressure and influence, the leading European countries refused to grant Ukraine the status of a member of the NATO “Membership Action Plan”.

In such a situation, Moscow focused its efforts on consolidating its positions in Ukraine. In particular, they included:


in the special sphere

  • strengthening of the Russian lobby in state authorities of Ukraine and political-business circles;
  • creation and expansion of the network of agents in all key ministries and structures of Ukraine, including security agencies;

The main direction of Moscow's actions was infiltration of Russian agents into the leadership of the national security system of Ukraine, including the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Security Service of Ukraine, and even Presidential Security. In fact, all senior executives of the above-mentioned structures were citizens of Russia.

  • imposing the ideas of federalization of Ukraine as the basis for its further disintegration and establishment of Russian control over the southern and eastern regions of the country.

In September 2013, with the participation of Russian special services, a conference was organized in Kharkiv themed “Kharkiv as the Capital of Eurasian Integration”. They also started to implement the concept of creating so-called Eurasian regions, which provided for Ukraine's gradual integration into the Customs Union by intensifying Russia's cooperation with eastern and southern Ukrainian regions.


in the military sphere

  • undermining combat readiness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and their ability to counteract an aggressor;

Thanks to the Russian lobby in the Ukrainian leadership, defense funding was limited to critical less than 1 % of GDP.

The plans for the restoration of the 32nd Army Corps of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Crimea were canceled.

Moreover, in 2013 (on the eve of Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine), in the Armed Forces of Ukraine almost 17,000 people were dismissed, including more than 14,000 servicemen, and disbanded were over 70 military units and commands, mostly of combat and operational support, as well as training centers and territorial recruitment centers.

In particular, were disembodied air defense divisions armed with S-300V surface-to-air missile systems, 19 aviation military units and institutions, and the 114th Tactical Aviation Brigade was transformed into a squadron.

Besides, virtually the whole grouping of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Crimea was operatively subordinated to the Navy. In the face of betrayal of its Command, this led to the loss of combat readiness of the Ukrainian troops in the Crimean Peninsula and to their inability to resist the aggressor.

  • demoralization of Ukraine's defense and law enforcement agencies, their reorientation to fulfill unusual for them tasks, and also blocking the activity aimed at detecting and counteracting threats from Russia.

For one, the main tasks of military intelligence were shifted by the leadership of Ukraine into the economic sphere, which de facto had nothing to do with it. Besides, the Main Intelligence Directorate's efforts focused on secondary issues, in particular monitoring the situation in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, which did not directly affect Ukrainian interests.

In turn, were “not recommended”, but in fact prohibited, any assessments of anti-Ukrainian activities of the Russian Federation, as well as negative aspects of the West's reaction to the changes in Ukrainian politics. In the event that such assessments were still made by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, they caused irritation of consumers, including those with resolutions such as “stop frightening us with Russia”.

In contrast, Romania was declared as the main potential enemy of Ukraine, which allegedly laid the plans for building “Great Romania”, including at the expense of Ukrainian territories. That was an indirect attempt to make both, NATO and the European Union (of which Romania was a member), enemies of Ukraine.

At the same time, in view of the growing dissatisfaction with the Yanukovych regime in the Ukrainian society, Russia continued to prepare for the possibility of forceful (military) interference in the internal situation in Ukraine.

In September 2013, a joint Russian-Belarusian strategic command-post exercise “West-2013” was held in the territory of Russia and Belarus, during which the entire complex of preparations for armed aggression against Ukraine, as well as the deterrence of the United States and NATO were rehearsed.

For example, the scenario of the exercise included the emergence of a crisis situation in a country friendly to Russia, namely — the extremists' attempted coup with the support of external forces. In order to assist the leadership of a friendly country, units of the Armed Forces of Russia were quickly redeployed into its territory and helped to stabilize the situation.

Approximately 15,000 servicemen, 180 armored vehicles, 40 aircrafts and 10 warships were involved in the SCPE. From the Russian side, the units of the 20th Combined Arms Army (at that time, HQ — near Nizhny Novgorod) of the Western MD, including the 2nd Motorized Rifle and 4th Tank Divisions, as well as the 9th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade.

Moreover, by then, Moscow had started preparing public opinion for the possibility of an armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

In this regard, Russian mass media publications emphasized the “Crimea's historical belonging to Russia”, “the split in the Ukrainian society” and “a high probability of a civil conflict in Ukraine”, as well as “violations of Russians' rights in Ukraine”, which could make Russia use military force to protect its compatriots in the Ukrainian territory.


8. Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine

Despite Russia's attempts to keep Ukraine in the sphere of its influence, the refusal of the Ukrainian authorities from the course of European and Euro-Atlantic integration caused mass discontent in the society, which resulted in the Revolution of Dignity in the country.


8.1. The Initial Stage

In such a situation, at the first stage of the revolutionary events in Ukraine, Russia tried to keep V. Yanukovych's regime in power.

In particular, in the special sphere the following measures were taken:

  • informational support to the acting authorities of Ukraine with the use of special propaganda methods;
  • assisting the Yanukovych regime in fighting opposition and countering Ukrainians' mass protests (first of all, EuroMaidan in Kyiv).

In late 2013 – early 2014, Russian curators from the leadership of special services, as well as special task groups, were sent to Ukraine, which operated under the guise of Crimean Special Police Unit “Berkut”. Besides, Russia provided the law enforcement agencies of Ukraine with special means to crackdown on demonstrators, including weapons, ammunition, light-noise and gas grenades.


8.2. The Final Stage

However, due to the fact that those measures proved to be useless, Russia changed its objectives and moved to the implementation of the plan for disintegration of Ukraine and seizure of the Crimea. In this regard, Russia's actions included:


in the special sphere

  • provoking an internal conflict in Ukraine through the aggressive information campaign aimed at dividing the Ukrainian society and provoking separatism in southern and eastern regions of the country;

The campaign was interpreting the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine as a “fascist coup”, and was imposing the idea of the need to protect Russian-speaking people from Ukrainian nationalists.

  • creation of illegal armed groups, intended to seize power in Crimea, in the South and East of Ukraine;

Usually, such formations were created under the guise of “self-defense militia” based on various types of security structures, sports associations, criminal groups and civic organizations. Such formations mainly included deideologised and declassified mercenaries, as well as pro-Russian locals activists.

A separate role was played by pro-Russian Cossack groups, which existed in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and maintained close ties with Russian Cossacks in the North Caucasus.

In the training of the militants were involved, both, Russian special services, and structures of the RF Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. There was also a close coordination of their actions with pro-Russian organizations in Ukraine.

  • sending to Ukraine special task groups from the GRU and FSB of Russia;

In particular, such groups were allocated from separate special task brigades (SSTB) of the GRU of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia, including:

the 2 SSTB (Pskov region) and the 16 SSTB (Tambov) were sent to Chernihiv, Sumy and Kharkiv regions of Ukraine;

the 10, 2 and 346 SSTBs (located in the North Caucasus) were sent to Donetsk, Luhansk, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhya, Kherson and Odesa regions.

Members of such groups entered Ukraine both, legally — through official checkpoints, and illegally — crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border along with weapons, ammunition and other equipment.

At that time, the favorable conditions for such actions of Russia were due to the fact that Ukraine did not have effective border guarding beyond the border crossing points. At this, ties with smugglers were used, who already had their own illegal routes.

Russian special task groups and illegal armed formations were housed in all sorts of private recreation and sports bases, hotels, apartments and private homes. Most of them were rented in advance or provided by local pro-Russian forces.

  • activation of the Russian lobby in local authorities and pro-Russian forces in eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, including Crimea, for active steps to change the state system;
  • mass recruitment and bringing to Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv and Odesa trained groups of Russian citizens to organize mass riots and participate in local takeover of power.

For this purpose, the already worked out scheme of organizing mass unrest in Ukraine was used. Russian citizens were recruited by private companies set up under the auspices of Russian special services. In most cases, the provocateurs legally traveled to Ukraine by trains (including suburban ones) and by regular buses.


in the military sphere

  • creation of groups of troops designed to invade Crimea and demonstrate force near the borders of Ukraine.

Under the guise of ensuring the safety of the Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi in February 2014, a powerful group of Russian troops was concentrated in Rostov region and in the North Caucasus of the Russian Federation, and had to be used to occupy Crimea.

The total number of the troops was about 50 thousand servicemen, and it included forces of the 49th and 58th Combined Arms Armies, the 7th Air Assault Division (Novorossiysk), 56th Separate Air Assault Brigade (Volgograd region), as well as troops brought to the North Caucasus from other regions of Russia.

Simultaneously, under the guise of operational and combat training within the framework of a comprehensive inspection of the RF Armed Forces for the winter period, Russian troops were concentrated near the borders of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Sumy and Chernihiv regions of Ukraine.

For example, battalion tactical groups with regular weapons and military equipment were deployed at training grounds in neighboring Rostov, Voronezh, Belgorod, Kursk, Orel and Bryansk regions of Russia.

In particular, they were allocated from forces and units of the 20th Combined Arms Army (including the 2nd Motorized Rifle and 4th Tank Divisions, as well as the 9th Motorized Rifle Brigade, 76th Air Assault Division (Pskov region), 98th Airborne Division (Ivanovo), 106th Airborne Division (Tula) and 31st Separate Air Assault Brigade (Ulyanovsk).


9. The Change of Power in Ukraine and the Beginning of Russia's Armed Aggression

The victory of the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine opened wide prospects for the state, European and democratic development of the country. At the same time, the situation of the post-revolutionary chaos in Ukraine was used by Russia to start the active phase of the “hybrid” war against our state in the form of a special operation “Russian Spring”.

The plans for the operation included two main stages, within the framework of which the following had to be done: at the first stage — occupation and annexation of Crimea; on the second — disintegration of Ukraine by creating the so-called Novorossiya in eastern and southern Ukrainian regions, as a result of taking a series of special and military measures that were interconnected and mutually integrated. Therefore, it is expedient to analyze them in a single complex.


9.1. During the Occupation and Annexation of Crimea

Actually, Russia began the operation to capture Crimea immediately after the fall of V. Yanukovych's regime on February 20–21, 2014. At that stage, Moscow's main steps included:

  • launching of rallies and demonstrations in Crimea, aimed at destabilizing the situation on the Peninsula, creating an impression of local residents' being unhappy with the Ukrainian authorities, and creating conditions for a coup d'état.

The actions were launched on February 23 in Sevastopol and immediately spread to Simferopol and other cities of Crimea. The most numerous of them were held near the Crimean Parliament in Simferopol with the participation of about 20 thousand people from local pro-Russian activists and Russian citizens brought to Crimea.

The rallies were guided and coordinated from a single center, which was at the HQ of the RF Black Sea Fleet and included representatives of the Russian military command in Crimea, Russian special services, supporters of Russia in local authorities of the Peninsula and pro-Russian organizations.

During the actions, their participants consistently demanded to give up transferring taxes to the state budget of Ukraine, to re-elect local authorities, and to make Crimea part of Russia.

At the same time, the process of creation of alternative authorities was started. In particular, during a rally in Sevastopol, without observing any legitimate procedures, a citizen of Russia A. Chaly was elected “a mayor”.

  • blocking the Ukrainian security forces' activity to prevent a coup d'état in Crimea.

Such actions were mainly directed against the Armed Forces of Ukraine, since the leadership and the majority of the personnel of local structures of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Security Service were Russian protégés or had pro-Russian views.

Blocking of the actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was carried out at several levels and with the involvement of all sorts of forces, including:

traitors (Russian agents recruited in advance) from the Command of the Navy of Ukraine and some military from the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the Peninsula. They were given the commands not to let the Armed Forces of Ukraine interfere in the events on the Peninsula. From that point on, an active propaganda was conducted to tempt Ukrainian servicemen over to Russia's side;

activists of local pro-Russian organizations, Russian citizens brought to the Peninsula and Cossack groups, which were blocking military bases of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Crimea. For this purpose, pickets were created on access roads to military bases and around them, tent camps were deployed and rallies and demonstrations were held. In that way, a number of tasks were resolved, including the prevention of Ukrainian military units' leaving the places of permanent dislocation, obstructing their supply (first of all with food), as well as moral and psychological pressure on Ukrainian servicemen;

units of Russian Special Task Forces and Marines of the Black Sea Fleet, which were demonstratively deployed under the guise of the so-called “green men” around the places of deployment of military units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Due to this, Ukrainian troops in Crimea were refrained from active actions against the rebels. Later, units of Russian Special Task Forces and the Black Sea Fleet moved to capturing some military units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which were not able to organize ground defense, first of all, airfields, positions of air defense systems and various institutions.

According to radio interceptions, the Russian side tried to provoke Ukrainian servicemen to use weapons against civilians, which would have allowed Moscow to justify bringing its troops to Crimea and occupation of the Peninsula.

  • occupation of Crimea by bringing Russian troops into the territory of the Peninsula.

Redeployment of Russian troops to Crimea began on the night of February 27, 2014 by aircrafts of military-transport aviation. As mentioned above, in order to secure the redeployment, airfields of military aviation and positions of air defense systems of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were blocked and captured on the eve. In future, the Russian troops would be brought to Crimea also through the Kerch Ferry Port and by landing ships of the Black Sea Fleet.

In the operation to occupy Crimea were used the forces of the 810th Separate Marine Brigade of the RF Black Sea Fleet, units of Russian Special Task Forces, as well as units of the 7th and 76th Air Assault Divisions, 98th Airborne Division, 31st Air Assault Brigade, 45th Separate Special Task Regiment, 18th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade, 15th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of Russian Peacekeeping Forces and some units of the 58th Combined Arms Army of the Southern MD of Russia's Armed Forces. Russian servicemen arrived in the Crimean Peninsula in the Russian military uniform, but without insignia.

At the initial stage (within the first two days) Russian troops were brought to Crimea under the guise of conducting military exercises. At this, such actions were covered by relevant provisions of the Agreement on the conditions of the presence of the Black Sea Fleet of Russia in the territory of Ukraine, which provided for the possibility of increasing the number of its personnel in the Peninsula to 25 thousand servicemen (by the end of 2013 there were about 15 thousand servicemen).

February 28, the occupation of Crimea was “legalized” by the decision of the Federation Council of Russia to satisfy V. Putin's request for bringing Russian troops into Ukrainian territory. According to official explanations by the leadership of the Russian Federation, such a decision was due to the “threat to the lives of Russian citizens and servicemen in Crimea”.

  • the final overthrow of Ukrainian authorities in the Peninsula.

Under the protection of Russian troops, on February 27, groups of Russian Special Task Forces, acting under the guise of “unknown persons”, captured the buildings of the Crimean Parliament and government in Simferopol. Immediately after that, the flags of the Russian Federation were hung on them. All this enabled separatist actions of deputies of the highest legislative body of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, who made a decision to hold a referendum on Crimea's status.

On the 1st of March, the self-proclaimed “Head of the Council of Ministers” of the ARC S. Aksenov appealed to V. Putin to “assist in the maintenance of peace and stability on the Crimean Peninsula”. The appeal was immediately satisfied by the President of the Russian Federation. This “untied hands” of the Russian military in Crimea, which turned to open actions to seize military bases of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Crimea, administrative buildings and other important objects, as well as to take control of transport communications.

  • legalization of the fact of occupation of Crimea and its further annexation by Russia.

March 16, the occupying authorities of Crimea held the so-called referendum, which actually took place at gunpoint of the Russian army, in violation of all possible international laws. Referring to the results of the voting that were not valid, March 17, the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea proclaimed “independence” of the ARC.

March 18, 2014, President of the Russian Federation V. Putin, together with the self-proclaimed “Head” of the Council of Ministers of the ARC S. Aksenov, Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of the Crimean Autonomy V. Konstantinov and self-proclaimed “Head of the Coordination Council for the Maintenance of Sevastopol” A. Chaly signed the “Treaty on the Accession of the Republic of Crimea to Russia”. Based on it, on the 21st of March, the Federation Council of the RF adopted the law “On Ratification of the Treaty of March 18” and the law “On the Formation of New Subjects of the Federation — the Republic of Crimea and the City of Federal Importance Sevastopol”, which “legally” enshrined Russia's annexation of Crimea.


9.2. When Trying to Create “Novorossiya”

During the seizure of Crimea in February–March 2014, Russia completed preparations for the second stage of its plans to disintegrate Ukraine through creation of “Novorossiya”. At this, Russia acted under the same scenario as in Crimea, but on a much larger scale. The main points were:

  • destabilization of the situation in eastern and southern regions of Ukraine by organizing massive anti-government (anti-Maidan) protests and social unrest;

In early April 2014, the most powerful of such actions were launched in Donetsk and Luhansk. Attempts to organize mass riots were made in Kharkiv, Odesa and Mariupol, however, they were suppressed by law enforcement agencies of Ukraine. Anti-Ukrainian forces' actions also took place in Sumy, Kherson, Zaporizhzhya, Mykolaiv, Dnipropetrovsk and a number of other Ukrainian cities, but they did not find support.

Like in Crimea, most of protesters were local pro-Russian activists, as well as organized groups of provocateurs who came from Russia. In particular, a significant number of Russian citizens was detained by law enforcement agencies of Ukraine during the suppression of unrests in Kharkiv and Odesa.

The general coordination of pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian forces' actions in eastern and southern regions of Ukraine was conducted from a single center in Moscow, while their direct organization was carried out by a pro-Russian lobby from local authorities (first of all by representatives of the Party of Regions of Ukraine) in coordination with local oligarchs and leaders of criminal organizations.

  • concentration of efforts to seize power in Donetsk and Luhansk regions after the failure of such attempts in other regions of Ukraine;

To this end, a typical “Crimean” scenario was used in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which included seizure of government buildings, creation of parallel authorities, and blocking Ukraine's security structures, mainly the Armed Forces. As in Crimea, the leadership and personnel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Security Service in the majority sided with Russia.

The main role in seizing power in Donetsk and Luhansk was played by special task groups of the GRU and FSB of Russia, specially trained Russian mercenary detachments, formations of local and Russian Cossacks, as well as local militant groups from pro-Russian activists and mercenaries.

  • creation and legalization of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics;

April 7, the leaders of Donetsk self-proclaimed government announced the “Declaration on the Sovereignty of the Donetsk People's Republic”, which included the entire Donetsk region. On the same day, the leaders of the self-proclaimed republic appealed to Russia for bringing the RF Peacekeeping Forces into the region, and on April 12, Slovyansk and Kramatorsk were captured by Russian special forces.

May 11, “referendums” on the sovereignty of the “DPR” and “LPR” were held. According to the organizers of such actions, the turnout was more than 75 %, and the independence of self-proclaimed republics was supported by about 100 % of voters.

  • building up the group of Russian Armed Forces near the border of Ukraine.

The deployment of Russian troops on the Ukrainian direction was aimed at intimidating the Ukrainian leadership and putting pressure on it, as well as providing military assistance to separatists. Thus, a plan was made for bringing Russian troops into the territory of eastern (left-bank) and southern regions of Ukraine, which was supposed to ensure the possibility of proclamation of “Novorossiya” and suppress Kyiv's attempts to preserve Ukraine's territorial integrity.

In fact, the group of Russian troops on the eastern border of Ukraine included all the battleworthy units of the RF Army and Airborne Forces at that time, as well as the marines of all four Fleets of the RF Armed Forces, a total of more than 100 thousand servicemen. Battalion and brigade tactical groups of Russian troops were stationed in field camps in western regions of Bryansk, Orel, Kursk, Belgorod, Voronezh and Rostov regions of Russia. Alongside with this, there were deployed command posts, military communication networks, advanced airfields of the military aviation, as well as stockpiles of weapons, ammunition, liquid fuel and other means of logistics.

After the massive unrest in the neighboring regions of Ukraine, as planned by Russia, all this group had to immediately cross the Ukrainian border. At this, such plans were not concealed by the Command of the Russian troops, including at the level of junior officers.


10. The War in the East of Ukraine

The Russian Federation and separatists controlled by it turned to direct aggressive actions in the Donbas, and this made the Ukrainian leadership take a decision to conduct an Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) in the region, which was launched on April 13, 2014.

Thanks to this, Ukraine managed to stop the enemy and liberate part of the captured territories. By mid-August 2014, self-proclaimed republics in the East of Ukraine were in fact eliminated. Over 70 % of Donetsk and Luhansk regions were liberated, and most of terrorist groups were dispersed and encircled.

Such prospects not only undermined the Kremlin's strategic interests regarding Ukraine, but also created a direct threat to Putin's policy of restoring “Great Russia.” In view of this, on the night of August 24, Russia began bringing its troops into the territory of Ukraine, which allowed Moscow to preserve the “DPR” and “LPR” and even expand their territory.

At the same time, Russian troops and pro-Russian armed formations under their command failed to reach their main goals, which included taking full control of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

As a result, the conflict in the Donbas turned into a protracted and long-term one. Under the circumstances, Russia focused its efforts on preventing Ukraine from restoring control over the “DPR” and “LPR”. First of all, due to the deployment of a powerful group of Russian troops in their territory under the guise of armed formations of self-proclaimed republics.

It was then that the deployment of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps of the “Armed Forces of the DPR” and the “People's Militia of the LPR”, respectively, began in the occupied territories of the Donbas. At this, they were mainly formed of the units of Russia's Armed Forces, while they were subordinated to the Command of Territorial Troops of the Southern MD of the RF Armed Forces. In the future — the newly formed 8th Combined Arms Army of the Southern MD.

Since then, the armed conflict in the Donbas has been the most dangerous centre of tension in Europe, which poses a threat not only to Ukraine but also to the whole European community.


11. Conclusions

All this allows us to draw some strategic conclusions regarding the nature of modern conflicts in the form of “hybrid” wars.

Firstly, the use of “hybrid” wars by countries-aggressors, including in the special and military spheres, is a very effective tool for realization of their foreign policy interests.

Secondly, in fact, the effects of “hybrid” wars can be compared to consequences of a large-scale use of military force, including nuclear weapons. In view of this, the urgent need is to create a powerful system of counteracting adversaries' “hybrid” wars in all spheres.

Thirdly, the experience of Ukraine testifies to the real possibility of deterring the aggressor's “hybrid” actions, including with more powerful potential and in the most difficult conditions. But this needs mobilization of both, the whole complex of own forces and existence of strong allies.

Fourthly, the most effective components of “hybrid” wars are special and information measures that can influence the policies of other countries through the aggressor's lobby in their leaderships, undermine economic and military potentials of rivals, organize political crises and mass riots, and provoke conflicts. It is these directions that require immediate attention as part of countering “hybrid” wars of adversaries.

Fifthly, as a rule, “hybrid” wars turn into direct confrontation of the parties with the open or covert use of their armed forces. The high probability of such a threat determines the importance of maintaining a high level of defense potential of the country, first of all, the readiness of its armed forces to holding off an aggressor's attack.

Sixthly, despite possible regime change in Russia, it will never change its imperial policy, including towards Ukraine and the West, unless critical problems in the Russian economy emerge. In this regard, it will continue to use all possible means to achieve its goals, both in the military and in the “hybrid” spheres. The commonality of such threats to Ukraine and the West requires joining their efforts to contain the Russian Federation.