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“Putin has driven himself to the dead end” Ukraine’s top military spy talks about the dictator’s future and Moscow’s plans


Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the Defense Ministry’s office, told Ukrainian intelligence about the actions of Russians in the Donbas and Kherson and about the mood prevailing in the Kremlin.

by the materials of media NV


There is only a week left until May 9, the Kremlin’s sacred “Victory Day.” Fighting continues in eastern Ukraine, but Russia has so far failed to win the battle for Donbas. It is a matter of another failure of the occupiers’ plans.

Against this background, the Ukrainian military needs to understand – what to expect from the enemy?

Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Central Intelligence Agency (GIR) of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, is systematically looking for answers to this question.

NV spoke with the chief military intelligence officer to find out what was happening in the occupied Ukrainian lands and at the front and whether mobilization would be announced in Russia and how the Moscow dictator would “sell” its necessity to his own people.

– In Kherson, the Russians were going to hold a pseudo-referendum on April 27. But their plans changed; nothing happened. What do they plan to do with Kherson?

– The Russians have a very strong staff shortage. Those people [potential collaborators] on whom they relied before the war, in many cases, did not justify themselves at all. A number of people agreed to cooperate. But a fairly low percentage of those who have done so are able to manage at least some area of ​​the city. Therefore, the main problem is staff shortages.

Next question: what do they want to create? In the sick mind of the Russian leadership there are two ideas they nurture. The first is the reproduction of the Tavriya province, which existed for a short time in the Russian Empire. This is the territory of the Crimea, Kherson region, partly the Mykolayiv region and even a little Donetsk region and Zaporizhzhia, with the administrative center in the city of Simferopol. This is the idea they are pushing for now.

The second idea that is seldom heard, but it is the so-called Heavenly City. These are Odessa region, Kherson region, part of Mykolaiv region, Dnipro city and part of Donetsk region. There was such a concept. I say again: this is a sick mind.

Here are two crazy ideas they take seriously and are now trying to reproduce.

– Grain and tractors are now exported from the Kherson region. What does Russia want to do there? Famine?

– Of course. They will try to make a demographic crisis and then a humanitarian one. Only then will they be able to cope with the majority of the population. It is elementary to manipulate the population’s mood when people are deprived of everything and then offered humanitarian aid. To not spend millions, they will spend pennies, giving a crumb of bread.

– Did the occupiers see that the population did not accept them, and did they go that way?

– Does not accept at all. They followed the path of genocide, there is nothing new there.

– Now there is a big battle for Donbass. What do the Russians want to get as a result of this battle: to include ORDLO in the Russian Federation?

– Now they are still at a crossroads. That is not them, and he – the president of the Russian Federation – there one person who decides. He has not decided whether to try to accept the so-called Donbas into Russia or to leave it as a third territory. However, some steps have already been taken. Among them, the most important is the transfer of curation [over the LDNR project] from Mr. Surkov [Vladislav Surkov, the Russian president’s ex-deputy in foreign territories] to the first deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, Sergei Kiriyenko. They are preparing for these processes, but there is no final decision yet.

– What will this decision depend on?

– From many factors. First, they need the whole Donbas. Because even for a sick mind, it will be illegitimate when one part of Donbass is still under their control and the other is not. They need the whole of Donbas to nominally say that the people of Donbass have chosen their path.

– Why do they take people – and already a huge number of them – from the territory of the same Mariupol to Russia?

Please look at history, they always did. The Soviet Union did so in all territories, and Russia continues this shameful practice. Why is this being done? The first is the replacement of the indigenous population with the Russian one to change the socio-demographic picture in the region. The second is resettlement. If you look where they are offered to go, these are exclusively depressed regions, where the main contingent is uneducated non-professional people. 

In comparison with them the population of Mariupol – geniuses and Nobel laureates. In this way, they get a skilled and very low-paid workforce – people will be almost in slavery. This is a purely pragmatic approach.

– How widespread is the guerrilla movement in the occupied lands now? It was not the same before.

– I can’t say that it didn’t happen. We have been at war with Russia for 8 years, and there is a guerrilla movement in the occupied territories. It is called differently. We call it the “agency element.” Now the phrase “guerrilla movement” or “resistance movement” is becoming popular. There are different names, but the result is the same – it’s people from the local population, who in the temporarily occupied territories are loyal to the state of Ukraine and help in every way to overthrow the occupier. Quite a lot of effective destruction of the enemy in the occupied territories was done thanks to them. From operations to guide and adjust artillery and aircraft to conduct special operations to eliminate enemies.

– What are the most significant problems now in the Russian army? They did not succeed in the offensive in 2-3 days, it is already the 68th day…

– All the problems of the Russian army have just emerged. It was a great PR. All they spent money on was to show the greatness of the Russian army in the world. Now everyone has seen – there is no greatness. It is impossible to compare the military potential of Russia and Ukraine before the start of this phase of the war, which began on February 24: it is a ten-fold, and in some respects, twenty-fold advantage of the Russian Federation. However, real hostilities have real problems: they have a quantitative indicator, of course, but no qualitative one. Secondly, rather low motivation. The losses they have suffered during this time have a strong impact on them. Russia has already switched to covert mobilization and is preparing to announce open mobilization soon. I’m pretty curious: how will they explain this to their own people? Why does Russia, with its, as they say, the first or second army in the world, need mobilization when according to their official reports, everything is going according to plan and Ukraine as a military machine is nothing? I can make certain assumptions based on certain facts that the mobilization will be carried out under the prism that Russia is not at war with Ukraine, but with the Anglo-Saxon world. It is in this paradigm that this will be explained to Russian society.

– You said earlier that Russia is preparing terrorist attacks on its own territory to provoke even greater hatred of Ukrainians…

“I’ll break you.” What does “cook” mean? She is already conducting them quite actively. Look what’s happening. Many explosions, many destroyed objects – and Russia blames only Ukraine for everything. Look at the situation with Transnistria, for example. Of course, this is a good position – to blame Ukraine for everything. And how is all this possible? Can anyone explain?

– How is Russia going to use Transnistria in the war against us?

– Transnistria is a huge problem for them militarily. There is an area that they have complete control over. However, they have no approach to it. The border is on the one hand with Moldova, on the other – with Ukraine. And no matter how much they shout there, they can’t do anything serious there. Those units in Transnistria are all their strength, and there are about 1.3 thousand of them. These are Russia’s official troops in the region. For the most part, they guard warehouses in the village of Kovbasne. The smaller one is the radio center in the village of Mayak, and they are located in Tiraspol.

– Transnistria is not a big threat for us?

– It is not a big threat. But this is a factor of destabilization in the whole region: for Romania, for Moldova, and for us.

– Is Russia planning to announce mobilization on May 9?

– Yes, they are preparing. Now the Rosreserve has begun to check what they have in stock and calculate that they can give out on mobilization orders. This is a necessary step before the start of real mobilization.

– What is the Kremlin’s plan for May 9? Victory in Donbass?

– This is their goal, but it will not be; they do not have time. In no way do they have time.

– What is the mood in the Russian army among those who are at war? Our military says that the Russians do not even take the bodies of their victims from the battlefield. The Russian military sees that they have huge losses. Russian propaganda keeps silent about all this, but should the inside of the army know that?

– It comes, of course. The Russian army is completely demotivated. However, there is a military vertical – commands come to them, and they will be forced to carry them out. Whether you like it or not, there is an order, and you will carry it out. If you don’t do it, you go to jail; there are many different options. Therefore, their moral condition is not significant. They will carry out the order.

– The media reported that Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, was allegedly wounded near Izyum. True or not, there is no confirmation, but in any case, the entire chief of staff was sent to Izyum. For what?

– Let’s go back to the beginning of our interview – lack of staff. This is the problem. A huge number of Russian generals, and senior command staff, went down to command battalions, and in some cases – companies – by hand.

I will refrain from commenting on Mr. Gerasimov’s condition, but something must have happened if he was forced to go straight to the front. What happened? There is only one reason – unsatisfactory plans to move forward. The occupation is failing, they do not have time. They had the main deadline – to have time to finish the “special operation” by April 24, they completely failed it. The second date is to complete the operation at least in Donbass by May 9. Failure to do so will further complicate the political coloration of the whole process. How will Putin hold this parade? What will he say? Talk about war with the Anglo-Saxon world – they will work for some, but not for others. Putin cannot admit that he is losing to Ukraine. He needs to show some serious opponent to say, conditionally speaking: “Maybe we will lose a little bit, but we will not lose to Ukraine.”

– What is happening around Putin? There was information about arrests inside the FSB, and what happened to Surkov is unknown.

– To some extent, some purges have been carried out. But what most media outlets say is a bit exaggerated.

– What is an exaggeration?

– In the quantitative and qualitative composition of these purges. Yes, there are very significant changes among the military leadership, at the level of commanders of military branches, commanders in the army and so on. These are not very public people, and the media does not write much about it. There are some changes and a certain number of people arrested in the secret services.

For example, everyone knows General Serhiy Beseda, who was responsible in the FSB for providing operational information on Ukraine. By the way, the story with the financing of [arrested co-chair of the OPZH and Putin’s godfather Viktor] Medvedchuk is a bit connected with him. But there is no picture that everyone wants to see. Thousands are not imprisoned, unfortunately. There are some changes – they need to appoint a scapegoat. That’s what they are looking for.

– Did Medvedchuk turn out to be not needed by Russia at all?

– I will answer a little in general: nobody in the world needs traitors, even Russia. She uses them but then throws them away. All.

– That is, Medvedchuk has to sit and sit with us…

– Sit with us, sit with us, it may be different, but this is already used material.

– For Russia?

– To all. His time is up.

– There is a feeling that the West has finally believed that Ukraine can win this war. Land lease accepted, there will be a supply of weapons. If we endure the battle for Donbas, there will be a break in our favor. But Russia will definitely try to do something. Is the threat of a nuclear strike real?

– The chance to use tactical nuclear weapons has always been. There is no point in using strategic nuclear weapons because we are close enough to each other. But tactical nuclear weapons and their use will simply hasten the end of Russia. This war is over.

There are only two options as to how it may end.

– Which?

– The first is the division of Russia into three or more parts. And the second – is the relative preservation of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation when changing the country’s leadership. In the latter case, the new leader will say that Russia has nothing to do with all these processes, it was a sick dictator, and the country is useless. In this case, Russia will give up all its occupied territories – from the islands of Japan to Königsberg [present-day Kaliningrad], which belongs to Germany.

Here are two ways. Most of Russia’s military and political leadership knows this. And that is why there are so many attempts at dialogue with the Western world, despite the official rhetoric they all use. But the unofficial one is completely different: they are afraid of losing their wealth. And they understand how it will end very quickly for them.

Don’t worry, Ukraine will win.

– Can the war end and Putin remain alive?

– Leaving him away to retreat is one of the strategies, but it is almost unrealistic. He is a war criminal for the whole world, and this is his end, he drove himself into a dead end.