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EXCLUSIVE War in Ukraine Interview

Intel General Skibitsky Warns Enemy Losses Will be Crippling

In an exclusive interview with Kyiv Post journalist Aleksandra Klitina, military intelligence General Vadym Skibitsky discussed preparations for the ongoing counter-offensive, the Kremlin’s reaction t

In an exclusive interview with Kyiv Post journalist Aleksandra Klitina, military intelligence General Vadym Skibitsky discussed preparations for the ongoing counter-offensive, the Kremlin’s reaction to Ukraine’s military successes and aid from. He also underlined that the main goal is to de-occupy captured territories. 

[Klitina] Good afternoon. We have a member of the military intelligence of Ukraine, General Vadym Skibitsky, with us today.

[Skibitsky] Good afternoon.

[Klitina] I have many questions to ask you. First of all, I would like to ask about the Ukrainian counter-offensive. Why did it come as such a surprise to the Russians?

[Skibitsky] It wasn’t a surprise, because offensive actions were being prepared by our forces, both in the south and other areas. It was necessary to halt the pace of the offence by the Russian Federation, primarily in the Donetsk direction.

The main goal of the Russian Federation, which is still in place today, is the complete occupation of Donetsk Region. Because of this, all necessary actions were taken to prevent such events developing further.

The Main Directorate of Intelligence carried out all the necessary measures to expose the plans and intentions of the enemy and the deployment of Russian troops along the entire front line. This operation was planned thanks to, among other things, the data obtained by military intelligence.

In the Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy Regions, the Russian leadership planned its offensive operation in autumn and began to conduct it in February. In March, Russian troops left these territories because of successful actions by Ukrainian soldiers and resistance from the Armed forces of Ukraine and security services as well as the local population, which enabled them to expel the occupiers from those territories.

We understood that sooner or later it would also be necessary to carry out counter-offensive actions in the Kharkiv direction. Because of the threat to Kharkiv, the Russian occupiers shelled and continued shelling, using all sorts of weapons.

The weakness of the Russian army in the Balakliya area was apparent to us even in spring. It became evident in June that it was possible to carry out an offensive in this direction.

What we planned in the south – Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Regions only helped to develop the overall success of the Armed forces of Ukraine.

Some of the positions held by the Russian army, especially its reserves, weren’t clear to us at that time. In August, everything became clear when the Russians began to actively move their troops, essentially the strategic reserves of the eastern district, from the Kharkiv and Donetsk directions. Within one month, Russian forces had moved all their troops in the southern direction, creating the conditions for successful actions both in the Kherson and Kharkiv Regions. The Ukrainian army developed this success. Our main goal is de-occupation of all captured territories.

[Klitina] Yes, but judging by the fact that the Russians quickly left captured territories, at least for them, the actions of the Ukrainian army came as a surprise. What are the chances that Russian troops will regroup and fight back? Do they have the resources?

[Skibitsky] What military intelligence notes today is that Russian troops are actively preparing for defensive operations. They’re carrying out the construction of their first and second-line defensive borders.

Russians acted just the same in the south of Ukraine, in Kherson Region. When Russian troops captured these territories, the defense was immediately organized – at least two lines, and even three. Now they’re trying to create reserves to renew their positions. There are problems with that. We can see them.

The main forces of the Russian army were thrown into Ukraine’s territory starting in February, and in mid-summer, and it’s became difficult for them to form reserves. The same third army corps, which Russian commanders planned to form by the middle of August, is still not fully established and doesn’t act as a single combat unit. Now it is beginning to get scattered in different directions. This means that the creation of reserves and the rapid advance through our territory is a very problematic issue for the Russian Federation.

[Klitina] What are the chances that general mobilization will be announced in Russia? There is news. The leadership of the Russian Federation is currently discussing it. Will they be able to gather large human resources?

[Skibitsky] The topic of mobilization has been discussed by the leaders of the Russian Federation since the very beginning of the military conflict. During this period, when the Russian army suffered its first losses, especially in the Kyiv and Chernihiv Regions, and southern Ukraine, they began to use different approaches to replenish their resources and losses.

So-called volunteer battalions and battalions of reservists were formed, and the same private military companies were involved. Then the formation of the third army corps began – the creation of new associations of Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

Later on, President Putin’s decree to increase the size of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to 137,000 soldiers appeared – aimed at replenishing resources and continuing further active combat operations.

An announcement of general mobilization would be a significant blow to Putin’s regime because it would mean recognizing that Russia has not been able to fulfill all the tasks it declared, that Putin’s so-called “special operation” has not achieved results, and real war is being fought.

In addition, declaring a general mobilization would mean declaring war on Ukraine and recognizing that Russia is an aggressor. Today, we have begun to collect information – rhetoric about mobilization has dramatically increased in the Russian Federation. [Russian Communist Party leader] Gennady Zyuganov and other Russian political representatives say that yes, there is, in fact, a war and that the Russian army cannot cope. There is a need to declare war and begin mobilization. At the same time, Russian officials say that they will wage war not just with Ukraine but with NATO and the U.S. because they are fighting on the Ukrainian side.

Russia understands that in order to seize the entire territory of Ukraine, which is the primary goal, sooner or later, it will be necessary to enlist additional resources. The announcement of general mobilization would only be a positive thing to us because the protest mood in Russia is weak, but young people do not want to go to war.

We have analyzed Russian society and concluded that in the main those who support Putin’s war are people who are 50 years old and who will not be going to war. Young people in their twenties and thirties are needed on the front. Because of that, this announcement of general mobilization would be an indicator that will show the readiness of the Russian people to continue this bloody war.

[Klitina] Zyuganov clarified that he meant economic mobilization, though judging by the latest news, they are not ready to announce general mobilization in Russia. Is there any information on how the Kremlin reacted to Ukrainian successes on the front? What is happening there? Putin unveils a Ferris wheel and celebrates Moscow Day. Is that actually sane? What does it mean?

[Skibitsky] I will tell you in very simple terms – Russia and Ukraine live in different parallel worlds. Since the beginning of the full-scale war, we have had two screens in the command post – one showed CNN, and the other Russia 24, because we are intelligence and we monitor open sources. When we saw these pictures, it was a completely different world.

For the first two months, Russian propagandists generally talked about hostilities taking place in Donbas – they were liberating Donetsk and Luhansk Regions, and that’s it. Some time later, manifestations began to appear of the fact that there is a war on the entire territory of Ukraine. We are monitoring Putin’s reaction to how the commanders are changing and to the signed orders of the Russian president regarding the appointment of the commanders of armies and district associations.

Over the past three months, the post of commander of the western direction has already changed three times – this indicates there’s been no success. This is the primary indicator of how the Kremlin reacts to our successes. As for society and political parties, everything is controlled by the Kremlin. There is a clear hierarchy of power and censorship.

You will not read there about the events taking place on Ukrainian territory. Only information from influential Western publications, Kyiv Post, CNN, BBC, the Telegraph, and TIME can somehow enter Russia’s media space. We work with all of them to convey the actual situation on the front line and provide information related to the aggressive policies of the Russian Federation.

[Klitina] Do you think that Putin is becoming desperate if he’s changing his military commanders?

[Skibitsky] He’s looking for people who will carry out his orders, but he hasn’t succeeded yet.

[Klitina] How do you assess the chances of a military coup taking place in Russia?

[Skibitsky] It is hard to say. We do not see any signs that a military or political coup could take place there. Perhaps a coup is coming to maturity somewhere, but there are no clear signs. First, Putin has a very high percentage of support in Russian society. Second, there is precise control in the Kremlin – Putin has limited the circle of people who work with him. His proxies have huge powers and will not allow regime change because that will also mean the end of their political and military careers. In addition, all material goods are now with those who are part of Putin’s entourage.

[Klitina] However, he’s still afraid to announce mobilization, despite support of the population – perhaps there is not that much support?

[Skibitsky] There might be support for general mobilization in Russia. I repeat, Zyuganov and members of the Russian Duma have begun to increasingly talk about war with the West, about the need for mobilization. “Public opinion” will be formed, and it will be much easier to carry out mobilization than at the current stage.

[Klitina] Is there a risk that there will be an attack from the territory of Belarus, and a second front will open while we are advancing at the present time?

[Skibitsky] The territory of Belarus was used against our state. The first such use of the territory and infrastructure of Belarus was in February when the battalion tactical groups of the Eastern Military District from the far east of Russia entered our territory. Russian military columns were formed directly on the border of Belarus and headed toward Kyiv. Also, missile strikes using bomber aircraft – the same Tu-22M, cruise missiles, and Iskander missile systems also used to strike our territory – are the threat.

If we talk of the threat of a large-scale offensive from the territory of Belarus, the current risk level is low because all the main formations and units of the Russian army have moved to other areas. The battalion of the tactical group of the eastern district was initially in the Kharkiv and Donetsk directions. It has moved to Kherson Region. Because of this, at the present time we do not see reserves and groups of troops capable of conducting offensive operations from the territory of Belarus.

The military forces of Belarus are currently conducting exercises, and specific battalions are deployed near our border, but everything is under control. We understand their actions and are ready to react at any moment.

[Klitina] What are your predictions as to how long this war will last, given our successful offensive? Are there new forecasts and data from military intelligence?

[Skibitsky] Overall. forecasts are based on specific statistical data: which groups are acting against us; what the stocks and reserves are, including supplies of ammunition and weapons of the Armed forces of Ukraine.

A lot will depend on international aid, primarily ammunition, weapons, and military equipment, and on those sanctions that were introduced against the Russian Federation. Today, sanctions are working very effectively against the military and defense complex of the Russian Federation. First and foremost, sanctions relate to the production of missiles and we can already see the results clearly.

Military intelligence continually monitors the extent to which Russia manages to produce new weapons – the Kalibr, Iskander and cruise missiles that are used against our country. Sanctions are effective, but the potential of the Russian Federation will still be sufficient until at least the summer of 2023.

In the future, everything will depend on the factors I mentioned, but Russia’s resources are also exhaustive. We will try to cause such losses that further combat operations will be a failure for the enemy.

[Klitina] Are Western allies helping sufficiently now? Is military intelligence cooperating with international partners? Is the supply of weapons sufficient?

[Skibitsky] Today, Western countries, the U.S., and Great Britain, have formed a clear position. These countries are the locomotives of aid for us, and it works. The first platform is Ramstein, and the last meetings held last week in Germany proved that Europe, the Western world, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, and other countries, even those that are not on the European continent, understand the threat that the Russian Federation poses not only to Ukraine, but to the international security system in general.

The Ramstein platform has been formed. It operates and works every month. The priorities for equipment, ammunition, and armaments, which are necessary for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, are clearly defined. As a result, forces and means are allocated to ensure our potential and the capabilities for waging this aggressive war launched by the Russian Federation.

As for weapons and military equipment, they are on their way. There are schedules. We clearly understand the quantity and quality of the weapons provided and are, accordingly, giving feedback, especially about new weapons. For example, the same Polish AHS Krab artillery systems operate on our territory. Also, our soldiers have mastered the French Piorun MANPADS. These are very effective weapons. Constant repairs and maintenance are carried out to keep these weapons in continuous combat readiness.

In addition, another platform was recently created, the Copenhagen platform – it already involves the countries of northern Europe. An online meeting of this group was held in Kyiv yesterday. The Defense Ministers of Denmark and Estonia, and Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov. He chaired this meeting directly.

Training our personnel is being discussed, a very valid issue – preparations for winter, equipment, and equipment that will enable combat operations to be carried out in winter.

Medical provision too. For example, Estonia presented us with a modular mobile hospital. This is very important because there are wounded people on the battlefield who need urgent medical care.

International aid is one of the critical factors in resisting and maintaining a high level of combat readiness in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and its defense.

The Main Directorate of Intelligence is grateful to our colleagues because we cooperate very closely, as cooperation began in 2014. We clearly understood what our needs are and what NATO standards are. Now we “speak the same language” and work in a single system of coordinates. We know the standards and procedures used by leading countries. Accordingly, exchanging information and intelligence is much easier and more effective.

[Klitina] Military intelligence now works very effectively. Your boss, Kyrylo Budanov, was one of the first to warn the Ukrainian leadership about the start of a full-scale war with Russia. I have already written many articles about successful operations carried out by Ukrainian military intelligence. What is the secret of such efficiency? Is it the introduction of reforms or effective leadership?

[Skibitsky] It was a broad set of measures carried out in the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense. We began in 2015, when we understood what approach was needed, thoroughly modernized the technical types of intelligence, and increased efforts regarding other kinds of intelligence. We raised our analytical work significantly, to a higher level, which enabled us to forecast and predict the development of a situation. It was thanks to this that it became possible to make a prediction in autumn that a full-scale war would begin in February.

Our chief, Kyrylo Budanov, is a knowledgeable specialist in active operations. At the beginning of this second phase, I call it the second phase of the war since February, when the Russian Federation expanded its aggression to the entire territory of Ukraine, we strengthened those units we have that conduct active measures.

We are cooperating with the command of the Special Operations Forces. We have begun to work with the resistance movement because a law of Ukraine defines the resistance movement or partisans. This combination has enabled us to be effective in many directions: conducting intelligence work, obtaining information, analytical processing of data, preparing the relevant documents, leading active events, carrying out acts of sabotage, We should be active in order to obtain victory.

[Klitina] Do women work in your department, and how are they coping? Is their work  effective?

[Skibitsky] Women work in all areas, without any exception. Even military attachés were women, if you remember Colonel Valeria Romanov. She was a military attaché in Moscow before Russia launched its full-scale aggression.

Women also work in various departments: analytical, security, and as agents, because it would be impossible without them. We are now developed in a comprehensive manner, secured, and are moving forward.

[Klitina] Thank you very much for this interview.

[Skibitsky] Thank you.

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