CIA builds 12 secret spy bases in Ukraine along Russian border

Ukrainian soldier in his command position near Velyka Novosilka
The CIA has built 12 secret spy bases along the Russian border - Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu via Getty Images

The CIA has built 12 “secret spy bases” along the Russian border in Ukraine that act as the “nerve centre” of Kyiv’s military, an investigation has revealed.

Over eight years, the US agency has trained and equipped Kyiv’s intelligence officers in underground bunkers, some of which are buried deep in Ukraine’s forests. They have also fully financed and partially equipped them, according to the New York Times.

Russian spy satellites are tracked by Ukrainians in the bunkers who eavesdrop on communications between Russian commanders and report back to the CIA, the report said.

The intelligence partnership began a decade ago after Russia’s invasion of Crimea. The Ukrainians collected intercepts that helped prove Russia’s involvement in the 2014 downing of a commercial jetliner, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. They also helped to pursue Russian operatives who interfered in the 2016 US election.

A snowy trench with Ukrainian soldiers on duty facing the direction of Kupiansk
The CIA stayed behind in Ukraine to relay 'critical intelligence' to troops - Jose Colon/Anadolu via Getty Images

Initially, the intelligence-gathering hubs intercepted more Russian communications than the CIA station in Kyiv could handle, the NYT reported.

In return, the CIA began training a “new generation of Ukrainian spies” who operated inside Russia, across Europe, and in Cuba.

They also began training an elite Ukrainian commando force, Unit 2245, which captured Russian drones and communications equipment so that CIA technicians could crack Moscow’s encryption systems. One of the unit’s officer’s was Kyrylo Budanov, who is now the general leading Ukraine’s military intelligence.

The CIA officers remained in western Ukraine when the Biden administration evacuated US personnel in the weeks before Russia’s invasion, and helped to relay “critical intelligence, including where Russia was planning strikes and which weapons systems they would use”.

“Without them, there would have been no way for us to resist the Russians, or to beat them,” said Ivan Bakanov, former head of Ukraine’s domestic intelligence agency, the SBU.

American intelligence agencies provide Ukraine with intelligence for targeted missile strikes, track Russian troop movements and help support spy networks.

William J Burns, the CIA director, made a secret visit to Ukraine last Thursday, his 10th visit since the invasion.

Speaking of the visit, a CIA official told the NYT: “We have demonstrated a clear commitment to Ukraine over many years and this visit was another strong signal that the US commitment will continue.”

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