Russia Claims To Break Up Ukrainian Spy Group In Annexed Crimea
By Crimea Desk, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service April 15, 2020
Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) claims to have uncovered a Ukrainian intelligence "sabotage and terrorism" group in annexed Crimea that included a female Russian military officer who allegedly divulged "state secrets."
The FSB said on April 15 that the Russian servicewoman had handed state secrets to Ukraine's military intelligence in 2017-18, and that a Ukrainian national also allegedly spied on orders from Kyiv.
Both suspects are being investigated for treason and espionage. The Ukrainian national has been detained, while the Russian military officer was put under house arrest because she has a child, the FSB said.
According to the FSB, the operation was directed by Colonel Oleg Akhmedov, the head of military intelligence in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson.
The alleged espionage activity was uncovered during a separate investigation opened in January against another Russian suspect accused of building weapons caches in Crimea on the orders of Akhmedov, the FSB said.
The timing of the announcement has raised eyebrows, as it comes a day after the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) said one of the country's top officials had been detained on suspicion of collaborating with the FSB.
The SBU said Major General Valeriy Shaytanov was suspected of high treason and terrorism for working for the FSB in 2014 and had planned "terrorist acts" in Ukraine.
Among the allegations, the SBU said Shaytanov planned to kill Adam Osmayev, the leader of Chechen volunteers fighting on the Ukrainian side against Russia-backed separatists in the east. Osmayev was injured and his wife was killed in an ambush near Kyiv in October 2017 that Ukraine has pinned on Russian agents.
Shaytanov also allegedly provided information to Moscow about secret operations against the separatists in eastern Ukraine and recruited additional agents, the SBU said.
The alleged spy cases come ahead of an expected prisoner exchange before Orthodox Easter on April 19 between the Ukrainian government and the separatists.
Relations have been strained since 2014, when Russia seized Ukraine's Crimea region after sending in troops and staging a referendum deemed illegitimate by at least 100 countries.
In April that year, Russia threw its support behind armed separatists in Ukraine's eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where some 13,200 people have been killed in the ongoing conflict.
With reporting by TASS, Interfax, and RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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