Daily Mail, United Kingdom, on April 11, 2016, reported that Russian president Vladimir Putin is accused of building ‘battle groups’ trained in close combat who are ready for operations in western Europe. Army of sleeper agents are trained in martial arts and knife fighting. The allegations are made by Putin expert and biographer Boris Reitschuster who said he had seen intelligence reports on the groups. Excerpts below:
Russian leader Vladimir Putin is accused of forming secret ‘battle groups’ in western countries including Germany ready to activate at a moment’s notice.
Putin expert and biographer Boris Reitschuster claims in his new book ‘Putin’s Hidden War’ that this army of sleepers is trained in the Russian ‘Systema’ techniques of martial arts and knife fighting as taught to his country’s special forces units.
German author Reitschuster claims to have seen the reports of a western European intelligence service detailing the covert groups spread across the continent.
Reitschuster says the commanders of this secret army are drawn from GRU military intelligence and elite WDW airborn troops, adding; ‘This fighting force in enemy territory is a mainstay in Putin’s hidden war against the West.’
Earlier this year German intelligence agencies warned of Putin’s plan to destabilize the country through propaganda.
Now Reitschuster says the intelligence he has seen suggests the new goals are fomenting civil unrest, distorting democratic political processes and ‘conveying non-democratic ideals.’
Russian Systema self-defence schools in Germany act as ‘camouflage for agent meetings,’ according to Reitschuster and ‘are centres for recruiting new Kremlin fighters.’
The author claims European intelligence services have identified about 300 men in the previous year Germany who are actively involved in the Systema structures. Among those who have received special training in Moscow are also soldiers, policemen, judicial employees and turncoat members of the German police and elite forces GSG 9 and KSK who are ‘known’ to the security services.
‘These saboteurs with elite education are no negligible factor – they are targeted for crisis situations and trained to trigger unrest after assessing intelligence documents,’ he added.
The Russian paramilitaries, he claimed, now hold ‘real manouvres in the Swiss mountains, operate across borders and are particularly strong in Czech Republic where they mostly exercise.’
Reitschuster says the recruits, who can be activated at a moment’s notice, all receive Russian passports and receive training in sabotage and handling explosives.
Comment: The revelations above do not come as a surprise. It is known that since 2014 Putin is active in Europe supporting anti-EU groups and populist political parties financially. A recent book, Cyber War in Perspective: Russian Aggression against Ukraine , demonstrates how the ongoing conflict in Ukraine have all the ingredients for cyber war. It features 18 chapters by scholars and practitioners who identify the tactical and strategic implications, discuss their significance for policy and law, and analyse ongoing information operations. The ‘cyber dimension’ of the Russo-Ukrainian crisis offers many lessons. Examining the Ukraine crisis between 2013-2015, the book demonstrates that cyber attacks have been used in a broader strategy of information warfare. They encompass digital propaganda, denial-of-service (DoS) campaigns, website defacements, information leaks by hacktivist groups, and cutting-edge cyber espionage malware. However, apart from disruptions to Internet connectivity between Crimea, Donbass, and the rest of Ukraine, there have been no known attacks against civilian or military critical infrastructures. Is Russia holding back its attacks in expectation of a takeover of Ukraine with an undamaged critical infrastructure?