War in Ukraine, Part 5: Russian Strategic Military Expansion
Russian Kamov Ka-52 combat support helicopter firing rockets at anti-government forces targets in Syria. Russian state media commonly referred to the victims of Russian military action in Syria as 'terrorists' in an attempt to imply that Russia was fighting ISIS. In reality, after Russia arrived in Syria, Russian military activities were predominantly in support of the al-Assad regime, targeting the US supported liberation forces fighting against the Syrian government, including civilians. ISIS (Islamic State) was in fact a silent ally of the Syrian al-Assad regime, and therefore a 'hands-off' policy applied by order of Bashar al-Assad. The United States often challenged the Russian delegates to explain why Russian forces deliberately avoided targeting ISIS targets in Syria.
2015, September 30: Russian forces commence with military operations in Syria, and announces that it is targeting ISIL (Islamic State) in Syria with airstrikes. Upon US verification on the ground, the US determined that Russia was in fact targeting civilians opposing the Syrian Government, as well as Western-backed rebel groups.
Russia deployed its forces to Syria upon official government request by Syrian President Bashar al-Asad. Shortly after the arrival of the Russian military contingent in Syria, Russian officials were cited as saying that, apart from fighting ‘terrorist’ organizations such as the Islamic State, Russia’s goals include helping the Syrian government retake territory from various anti-government groups that are labelled by the United States and the American-led Intervention in Syria as “moderate opposition”, with a broader geopolitical objective being to roll back U.S. influence within the region. During a television interview Russian President Vladimir Putin defined Russia’s goals in Syria as “stabilizing the legitimate power in Syria and creating the conditions for political compromise.” Political compromise by who?
At this point we need to understand the dynamics between Russia and its declared objectives in Syria, specifically relating to the Islamic State (ISIL). When Russia deployed its forces to Syria it actually had genuine intentions to fight ISIL (aka Islamic State of Iraq and Levant / Daesh / Islamic States of Iraq and Syria), for up to that point Russian foreign policy classified ISIL as a major terrorist threat to Russia while it was still resisting Islamists (of predominant Chechen origin) within the Russian territories of North Caucasus, especially if the 5,000 Russian national Chechen Islamists (all veterans of the Second Chechen War with Russia) serving within the ranks of ISIL as combatants had to return to Russia [alive]. Therefore, up until the arrival of Russian forces in Syria, Russia in fact prioritized the destruction of ISIL. However, by the time Russia arrived in Syria, the Syrian government had already been engaged in the civil war for more than four years, although it was a beneficiary to military hardware from Russia during that period while sanctioned by the West. Also, for the Syrian government to survive that long, it had to make concessions to prolong the Sunni Ba’ath Party regime’s survivability. Those concessions came in two forms, namely:
Generation of alternative revenue streams not affected by UN sanctions; and
Coalition with warring factions fighting a common enemy (the United States of America and its allies, aka ‘the West’).
Funding the Syrian Government War Effort:
In December 2018, Greek authorities intercepted a cargo vessel, Noka, travelling from the Syrian port of Latakia to eastern Libya. Upon inspection of the ship’s cargo, 6 tons of Indian processed cannabis, and 3 million super-strength Captagon tablets were discovered. This drug consignment was destined for European markets via the refugee transit system from Libya (one of the reasons why Mediterranean EU nations enforce stricter control measures against refugees and the various refugee ‘aid vessels’ constantly attempting to assist refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea to EU destinations). Captagon is the brand name for the drug compound fenethylline hydrochloride originally produced in West Germany as a treatment for attention deficit disorder but banned during the 1980’s due to its addictive properties. Now, Captagon (also known as ‘Abu Hilalain’ in the Middle East), is more commonly considered a cheap alternative to more costly cocaine, and it is also the most common narcotic found amongst the high-earning Arabian Gulf states, especially neighboring Jordan which is used as a primary trafficking route. Prior to the Syrian civil war, Captagon destined for the European consumer market was predominantly produced in Bulgaria and Slovenia, but due to stricter enforcement measures in the EU, manufacturing was moved to Syria based on in-depth intelligence and chemical compound analysis of the seized cargo. After establishing that the latest variants of Captagon in Europe originate from Syria, further investigations exposed how the Syrian government had established a wholesale narcotics production and distribution network as a primary means of funding its war efforts to counter the Western sanctions imposed against the regime. In summary, the Syrian government produces wholesale Captagon under the supervision of the 4th Armored Division, Syrian Army, which is controlled by the Syrian President’s younger brother, Maher al-Assad. However, due to the consequences of restrictive international sanctions imposed on the Syrian government and its leadership, al-Assad had to partner with specialized international enablers to get his product to the target market (EU, GCC). The primary enablers of the Syrian narcotics trade are:
1. Hezbollah: At the start of the Syrian civil war, Hezbollah was one of the first Syrian government allies to provide military assistance in support of the struggling Syrian government. The problem, however, was that the Syrian government could not afford paying for the services provided by Hezbollah with cash, and therefore had to provide alternative reimbursement concessions to enable Hezbollah to fund its activities in Syria. These concessions came in the form of illicit trade activities relating to the trafficking of arms, narcotics, and people. Hezbollah, also being a subject of Western sanctions, had extensive experience in smuggling operations, basically controlling the whole territory along the Lebanon-Syria border. Al-Assad required the knowledge of Hezbollah which gained experience in the production and distribution of various types of narcotics in demand by both European- and neighboring Israeli consumer markets from its stronghold in the Beqaa Valley in the south of Lebanon. This is also the primary reason why the four main Captagon factories are located in the regime-controlled areas of Latakia, Homs, Daraa, and Aleppo which are located close to the Syria-Lebanese border. For Syria’s al-Assad all was fair in war, and Hezbollah was already established in serving the Syrian regime’s perceived enemies (the EU and Israel), why the weaponization of drug trade to target its prime perceived ‘enemies’ while earning money from it made total sense without any moral objections. Therefore, Hezbollah became one of the primary distributors of Syrian Captagon in return for military assistance to the Syrian government in maintaining control over Syrian government-controlled territory. Hezbollah also has a long tradition of association with the 4th Armored Division, Syrian Army, and its leader Maher al-Assad, via his right-hand man, General Ghassan Bilal, who acts as the middleman between al-Assad and Hezbollah. Hezbollah, on the other hand (as a non-state actor), acts as a regional agent for Iran within the Arab peninsula, receiving around US$ 700 million in funding from Tehran annually. In return Hezbollah’s actions relating to narcotics trade with Iran’s primary enemies are legitimized, which further ensures that the political crisis in Lebanon is maintained as a measure to erode state power (because within irregular warfare doctrine, political instability erodes state power which increases vulnerability to unopposed illicit activities). Basically, the role of Hezbollah is nothing more than a ‘guns-for-hire’ arrangement paid for by wholesale narcotics distribution rights.
2. Russian Organized Criminal Groups (Europe): The arrival of Russian military forces also brings along the arrival of Russian intelligence services (GRU), and Russian organized criminal groups. At present, Russian organized criminal groups dominate the covert wholesale narcotics trade in the European Union, with well-established infrastructure to enable retail distribution of Syria’s Captagon directly to European tourist consumers in areas already dominated by the Russian organized criminal groups posing as business oligarchs (Spain, Greece, Italy). The advantage which Russian organized criminal groups have over any other non-Russian affiliated organized criminal groups in Europe are as follows:
Dual Russian/EU citizenship: The majority (if not all) Russian organized crime members have both Russian- and host nation EU citizenship;
Russian Intelligence Services: Russian organized criminal groups operate in cooperation with Russian state intelligence services (GRU, FSB, etc). The relationship basically allows for the Russian state intelligence community to utilize the infrastructure and protection of the Russian organized criminal groups in exchange for intelligence relating to adversaries/competitors to Russian organized criminal group interests. The Russian organized criminal groups also provide ad hoc services to the Russian intelligence services that includes coercion, extortion, assassinations, and targeted theft (of information or industrial espionage).
Russian Diplomatic Support: Various senior members of the Russian Organized Criminal Groups with links to the current Russian government leadership are known to travel as members of the Russian diplomatic corps with appropriate diplomatic immunity. This allows senior Russian organized crime figures to travel between diplomatic missions without legal consequences. Russian organized crime functions as a tool for Russian expansionism through a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Influences within Interpol: Not to discredit all activities by Interpol, but the international law enforcement institution has been exposed for various instances of corruption in the past, which includes being compromised in terms of Russian influence and abuse of its respective membership with the organization. Common abuses of jurisdiction by the Russian collective includes targeting of foreign political adversaries using false arrest warrants, the leaking of sensitive information to suspects connected to Russian organized criminal group activities, and suppressing investigations relating to exposed Russian intelligence services operatives by other Interpol member states. It is mainly due to this reason why the EU established Europol as its main law enforcement cooperation to counter organized crime in Europe independent from Interpol.
Existing Infrastructure: Russian organized criminal groups maintain large investments in both the illicit- and regular economies within major European tourist destinations (Spain, Greece, etc), and therefore already have access to the desired target markets via its existing infrastructure. The current Russian military deployment in Syria also allows senior criminal group members direct access to the al-Assad regime.
Basically, if the Russians fail to control the distribution of Captagon in Europe, its major competitors will. This was clearly illustrated on November 15, 2022, when Bruno Carbone, one of the primary narcotics suppliers to the Naples’ Camorra Mafia, was arrested in Syria by the pro-Western anti-Syrian government militant group, Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, while travelling through liberated territory from Turkiye to meet directly with the Syrian government producers of Captagon. He was travelling on a fake Mexican passport at the time of arrest, but positively identified by the liberation forces with access to Western law enforcement data bases as being a wanted fugitive in Europe. He was deported to Italy, and immediately arrested by Italian authorities upon arrival in Rome. Carbone tried to sideline the Russian dominance of Syrian Captagon supplies in Europe, and in the process got arrested by underestimating the level of organization of the pro-Western liberated territories in Syria. Captagon is now the most sought-after narcotics in the Mediterranean region.
3. Islamic State (Daesh): On July 01, 2020, Italian authorities seized 14 tons (84 million tablets) of amphetamines labelled as Captagon smuggled from Syria to the southern Italian port of Salerno, and originally hypothesized as manufactured by ISIS/ISIL. However, what this incident later confirmed was the influx of Syrian manufactured Captagon into Europe, but it exposed Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) involvement in the Syrian narcotics smuggling operations to Europe. This was a convenient arrangement for both Syria and ISIS simply because the Islamic State network in Europe was extensive, and smuggling narcotics to Europe was considered a justifiable act as a means of warfare against its enemies in the West (which includes Europe). For ISIS it was another revenue stream in addition to unregulated oil- and grain sales to support its Islamic Caliphate ambitions in both Syria and Iraq, and to finance its various international alliances to remain relevant as a global terror group.
These three stakeholders illustrate how the Syrian government weaponized international narcotics trade to support its ongoing war effort, and it also illustrates how the al-Assad regime privatized major components of its war fighting capabilities to compensate for lack of capacity in terms of the government’s armed forces. To put this into perspective in financial terms, a single Captagon tablet is purchased in Syria for USD 1 directly from the production facilities controlled by the Syrian Army 4th Armored Division. These tablets are then retailed for USD 14 each in Europe, or US$ 20 each in Saudi Arabia. This is the value of maintaining the Syrian civil war to Russia and its allies, and why it is even within the current al-Assad controlled Syrian government to ensure that Syria remains politically unstable. Why would Russia, Hezbollah, Daesh (Islamic State), and even the Syrian government desire an end to the conflict in Syria while the leadership of all the current warring parties gain such high returns on investment. Following the 2008 Russo-Georgia War, Syria serves as another reminder of European (Western) failure to effectively address regional problems that are in fact eroding Western society’s centre of gravity to the benefit of a belligerent Russia, Iran, and all their respective non-state actor mechanisms.
The Syrian Government Partnership with Islamic State/ISIL:
The relationship between Syria and the Islamic State is one of the most common misunderstood alliances in the present Syrian conflict. Fact is, the Syrian government has been a supporter and enabler of the Islamic State movement since the days of its predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), when Syria was actively supporting Sunni jihadists to train and transit to Iraq to fight an insurgency against the United States and its allies. The Islamic State movement first started when senior Ba’athist intelligence officers and military leaders were unseated from their positions in the Iraq government following the United States led invasion of Iraq in 2003. These members immediately fled to neighboring Syria where they found refuge from a fellow Ba’athist, namely, Bashar al-Assad, the President of the Syrian regime. Shortly after the US occupation of Iraq, the al-Qaeda insurgency expanded in Iraq targeting the US alliance. This operation was done with the knowledge and assistance of the Syrian government and Syrian intelligence services. In 2008 the US Treasury Department exposed Badran Turki al-Hishan al-Mazidih, aka Abu Ghadiyah, and his Abu Ghadiyah Network as the main source of supply of al-Qaeda fighters to Iraq. US General David Petraeus also confirmed in a meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister that “Bashar al-Assad was well aware that his brother-in-law Asif Shawqat, Director of Syrian Military Intelligence, had detailed knowledge of the activities of AQI facilitator Abu Ghadiyah, who was using Syrian territory to bring foreign fighter and suicide bmbers into Iraq.”
However, in 2011 at the outset of the Syrian revolution, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad considered the Arab Spring as a “Western influenced” destabilization effort against his regime (instead of acknowledging the fact that the Syrian population in fact reached a tipping point in accepting the a-Assad heritage of government abuse. To survive the challenge against his authority, he established the CCMC (Central Crisis Management Cell). Based on the recommendations from all members of the CCMC, having observed the Arab Spring trends in other MENA countries, along with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the conclusion was not to counter hostility in Syria, but rather to intentionally destabilize Syria to the point where the West (NATO alliance) would hesitate to get involved directly. The original protests in Syria started off peacefully, but it was through the enablement of the al-Assad regime that Syria rapidly expanded into hostility. As a first step of enablement, the Syrian government released all jihadists and hardline Islamist terrorists by a series of government amnesties. Decree No. 61 issued in May 2011, for instance, released “all members belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and other detainees belonging to political movements”. Most of the prisoners released then joined what became known as the ‘Islamic State’. One of the prominent Islamic State leaders released from prison was Amr Abu Atheer al-Absi, a kidnapper and recruiter of European jihadists. Another character is Ali Musa al-Shawakh, aka Abu Luqman, who was arrested by the Syrian regime in 2010 for sedition based on his ties to al Qaeda Iraq but was released in 2011 in the context of the Syrian Civil War. Abu luqman was responsible for ordering the beheadings of two Islamic state hostages, and later rose to become the Islamic State Director of Security and Intelligence Service (Emni). A Syrian intelligence officer later revealed that the Syrian government did not just release the prisoners to go their own ways, but in fact facilitated them to organize into armed brigades. Also, a consequence of the Syrian government having housed all jihadist in the same prison (Sednaya prison), the regime effectively networked all the jihadists into a single group. In 2014, another Syrian military intelligence officer confirmed that the orders were issued by the Military Intelligence headquarters in Damascus (headed by Asif Shawqat, the President’s brother-in-law), and when some concerned intelligence officials raised the concerns of the prisoners organizing into armed groups, their superiors responded as if it was part of the plan.
Basically, the Syrian government CCMC plan was to destabilize Syria to the point where it would deter any Western (NATO) involvement by allowing and enabling the establishment of the Islamic State group to occupy as much Syrian territories as possible simply because the rapid expansion of Islamic State influence over Syrian territories in fact protected the al-Assad regime in Damascus, which under other circumstances would have been more vulnerable. At that point, maintaining total government control over all Syrian territory was not the primary objective. The primary objective was to establish a protectorate around Damascus to safeguard the al-Assad regime against losing power, and only when they achieved that, to expand military operations to gradually conquer back lost territories after reorganizing its military and government funding mechanisms (through the wholesale sale of narcotics). The Syrian government then took it further by enabling the Islamic State to expand into Iraq from its Syrian base to ensure that the United States would remain focused on fighting the Islamic State threat in Iraq away from Syrian territory. This plan originally worked well until the US supported liberation forces in Syria started making gains in Syria. Also, as the Islamic State movement rapidly grew stronger, along with the influx of experienced foreign fighters (such as the Russian Chechen veterans of the Second Chenchen War), the Islamic State started challenging the Syrian government in government-controlled territories. This forced the Syrian military to retaliate against Islamic State targets, but by 2013 when the Islamic State gained control over significant Syrian territory (including Raqqa), the Syrian government backed down on targeting the Islamic State. At this point, the Syrian government and the Islamic State reached an agreement to cooperate rather than fight each other (since they were in fact fighting the same enemies), which resulted in Damascus purchasing oil and grain from the Islamic State. By 2014, Syrian government forces and Islamic Sates forces started conducting joint military operations in support of another, to include Syrian Air Force sorties in support of Islamic State ground operations while fighting pro-Western liberation forces. By September 2014, the Islamic State controlled around 60% of Syria’s oil fields, and it was earning around US$ 3 million per day from oil revenues alone while pumping around 56,000 barrels per day (selling at US$ 53 / barrel compared to the international spot price of US$ 97 / barrel at the time, creating in return much wealth for oil traders in Damascus and Russia). In addition to revenues earned from oil and agriculture, the Islamic State expanded into illicit activities to include extortion, kidnapping of foreigners, and international narcotics trade via its predominant European network, to include the smuggling of Syrian Captagon. However, Damascus was the Islamic State’s largest customer in terms of oil sales for the simple reason that the Islamic State was supplying the Syrian government with oil at a cheaper rate than it produced itself (free from royalties, high labor costs, etc). Payment was not always in cash, but offset by the supply of weapons, ammunition, and wholesale narcotics of equal value in return.
By 2014, the United States launched Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria to counter the Islamic State within Syrian territory 5-days after the Islamic State launched its offensive in Mosul, Iraq. The multinational NATO mission also armed the Syrian Democratic Forces to oppose the Islamic State territorial gains in Syria. As the Islamic State started losing territory in both Syria and Iraq, the al-Assad regime feared a US led NATO overthrow of the Syrian government which prompted al-Assad to request Russian military assistance. When Russian forces initially arrived in Syria in September 2015, in addition to safeguarding the al-Assad regime in Damascus, its actual mandate was to counter the Islamic State and specifically to ensure that the large number of Russian Chechens of around 5,000 in strength serving as combatants with both ISIS/ISIL and the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), did not return to Russia alive fearing domestic terrorism and escalation in the Islamic caliphate ambitions within the North Caucasus region. However, upon arrival in Damascus, the Russians realized that the Islamic State was in fact an ally to the Damascus government, and therefore the Islamic State could not be pursued. However, one of the reasons why al-Assad enabled the establishment of the Islamic State in Syria was to distinguish all other militant groups as ‘anti-government’ forces which basically included all groups associated with the NATO supported Syrian Democratic Forces, which also included Chechen fighters who opposed both the Russian government, and its proxy 'Kadyvorite' Chechen Republic government under leadership of Putin-loyalist Ramzan Kadyrov. That was the reason why the Russian campaign targeted militant groups not affiliated with the Islamic State, but still referring to these groups as “terrorists” knowing well that the majority ignorant and poorly informed global audience would just assume that Russia was fighting “ISIS”. However, as the relations between the Islamic State and the Russian forces in Syria developed into a silent mutual beneficial cooperation (mainly enabled by the Russian GRU and Syrian military intelligence since they were actually fighting the same perceived enemies), Moscow realized the potential that the Islamic State offered in enabling Russian expansionism at the strategic level with plausible deniability, which at the same time solved the problem of keeping the Russian Chechens busy (outside of Russia), supporting Russian strategic goals. That is also one of the reasons why Russia deployed more Chechen regular soldiers serving the Chechen Republic loyal to the Head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, to Syria instead of ethnic Russians. The Chechens loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov were deployed to Syria on similar terms applicable to Wagner PMC, namely, it was a commercial contract (guns-for-hire arrangement). However, the key to understanding the Russian link with the Islamic State is via the Chechen network. In Syria, the Chechens were divided into three main groups, namely:
Islamic State: Russian national Chechen militants who were veterans of the Second Chechen War in Chechnya, Russia, who are anti-Russian and anti-Kadyrov, but supportive of the al-Assad Syrian regime in Damascus. The survivors of ISIS either returned back to the North Caucasus region of Russia, or serve within an international capacity supporting the present-day Islamic State global network of affiliates.
Russian Forces: Russian national Chechen regular military forces loyal to the pro-Putin Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, acting within the capacity as Russian armed forces. These Chechens are commonly referred to as 'Kadyvorites' who are the same group currently supporting the Russian armed forces in its war in Ukraine.
Syrian Democratic Forces: Russian national Chechen militants and Chechen diaspora who oppose the governments of Vladimir Putin (Russian Federation), Ramzan Kadyrov (Russian Republic of Chechnya), Bashar al-Assad (Syrian Regime in Damascus), and the Islamic State (Daesh). These Chechens were beneficiaries of Western (NATO) support in Syria in its fight against both the Syrian al-Assad regime, and the Islamic State. Many of these veterans are now serving with the Ukraine armed forces resisting the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
However (where this becomes more complicated), is that all three these groups of Chechens support the same ideology (which includes Ramzan Kadyrov), namely, they all wish for a Chechen Republic which is sovereign independent from the Russian Federation, which is also the link keeping them all bonded ideologically, and also the reason why they are fighting each other simply because they disagree about who they consider as legitimate leadership of the Chechen people while Ramzan Kadyrov considers himself as the only rightful leader of all Chechens. These simultaneous shared and opposing ideologies are further complicated in Chechen society back home through family relations and tribal alliances within the Chechen dominated regions of Russia (North Causasus, Dagestan, Chechnya), why some Chechen figures are sometimes perceived as friends, and sometimes perceived as enemies. Syria offered an opportunity to Ramzan Kadyrov to target his greatest opponents serving within the ranks of the Islamic State, which failed to realize due to the Syrian regime's hands-off policy in terms of the Islamic State as its 'ally'. In January 2017, two Members of Parliament from the Russian Republic of Chechnya attended an official visit to Maher al-Assad, the brother of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as representatives of the Chechen Government on behalf of the Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov. The reason for this visit? Maher al-Assad is the commander of the 4th Armored Division, Syrian Army, and responsible for controlling Syria's Captagon program.
The 'terrorists' from a Russian and Kadyrovite perspective referred to the Chechens serving with the NATO supported Syrian Democratic Forces, which then also became the basis for Russian disinformation operations implying that the 'Islamic State' was a creation of the US intelligence services, the reason why so many misinformed people globally still believe that the Islamic State is of Western creation. In reality, what needs to be understood clearly is that the Islamic State (Daesh) is not a Russian dominated asset, but rather a business arrangement supporting mutually beneficial strategic objectives. In the present, Islamic State and its so-called global affiliates are nothing more than Islamist guns-for-hire with the occasional Russian technical support to coordinate operations, target priorities, and desired mission objectives in line with the Russian desired end state. However, this doctrine was not a product of Russian genius, but rather an adaptation of the CIA doctrine applied against the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan when the United States supported the Afghan Mujahideen.
As the Russian military operation progressed in Syria, Russian organized criminal groups became involved with the wholesale Captagon smuggling operation into Europe and Wagner Group saw opportunities in gaining control over oil fields which used to be controlled by the Islamic State, but which were lost to Syrian Democratic Forces as the Islamic State control over Syrian territory declined due to US military operations (Yes, the United States was in fact unknowingly doing the dirty work for Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime government in Damascus). In 2021, Wagner Group secured its oil and gas leases with Damascus in exchange for its permanent presence in Syria (or for as long as the al-Assad regime remains in control of the Damascus government). What both Ukraine and Syria has proven (and what Russia’s expanding footprint in Africa will support), is that Russian expansionism is driven by financial rewards derived from the control of resources. Not to the benefit of the Russian nation, but to the benefit of a few people who label themselves as the ‘political elite’ of Russia, the so-called ‘oligarchs’.
2015, October 01: The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine comes into effect as a campaign promise by Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, as a means to implement stricter anti-corruption mechanisms to reduce government corruption as demanded by the IMF. Since its inception, 189 cases were sent to court, but with no major convictions. It was later exposed that suspects were coached by the head of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office on how to avoid corruption charges. Poroshenko’s involvement in this practice is not verified, although he failed to address the lack of convictions when confronted by independent oversight groups.
2015, October 31: A Russian chartered flight, Metrojet Flight 9268 on route to St Petersburg, crashes in the Sinai Peninsula after being brought down by an explosive device supposedly loaded onboard the aircraft at Sharm El Shaik International Airport, Egypt. All 224 passengers and crew die because of the incident. 212 Passengers on board were Russian nationals. The attack was claimed to be the work of ISIS/ISIL based on an article published by ISIL in its online magazine Dabiq on November 18, 2015. A mechanic employed at Sharm El Shaik International Airport was later arrested for placing the explosive device which he supposedly received from his cousin who was a member of the Islamic State branch in Sinai.
On November 14, 2015, Russian media personality and propagandist, Dmitry Kiselyov, blamed the attack on the United States being in a “secret pact with ISIL” in its fight against Russia. Russian intelligence capitalized on this incident by creating the false narrative that the United States maintained special relations with the Islamic State. Although the US failed to take it serious by disregarding the possible effects of Kiselyov’s statement as disinformation and speculation, the message stuck in the heads of a majority Russian audience and global followers who are still under the impression that the US was responsible for the enablement of the global Islamic State movement. This incident again highlights how the Russian regime follows the Bolshevik Code to the letter to exploit every opportunity to its favor in its silent war with the United States.
2015, December 07: Former President Viktor Yanukovych, while in exile in Russia, confirms his interest to return to Ukrainian politics.
2016, April 03: Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk states that a “strict policy against any aggressor country which in this case means the Russian Federation is needed. No deals and compromise at the expense of Ukraine. The restoration of the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state. The return of Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea, and the extension of sanctions against the Russian Federation until Ukraine has restored its territorial sovereignty.
2016, June 13: Konstantin Kilimnik, within the capacity as an associate of American Paul Manafort, leaves Ukraine for Russia permanently. Kilimnik left Ukraine after being tipped off by former Ukraine Prosecutor-General Yuri Lutsenko after a US Federal Grand Jury charged Kilimnik for obstruction of justice.
2016, July 31: In a video published on YouTube, a person supposedly representing the Islamic States calls onto its supporters in Russia to carry out attacks in Russia.
This publication was different from normal Islamic State publications because it was released on a medium addressing a predominantly Western audience. Upon closer evaluation it is suspected to be a staged production with the purpose of diverting growing concerns about Russian collaboration with Daesh (Islamic State), especially as US officials raise concerns about Russia’s unwillingness to engage ISIS targets in Syria.
2016, August 02: Russian GRU agent Konstantin Kilimnik meets with American political consultants Paul Manafort and Richard Gates at 666th Fifth Avenue. Based on various witness statements to the FBI, Kilimnik was responsible for communicating Trump campaign information to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire and close ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kilimnik was confirmed to be an employee of the Russian GRU at the time. In statements provided to the FBI during investigations to follow years later, Manafort confirmed that he had also discussed the activities relating to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and leaking of e-mails by Russian hacker groups ‘Cozy Bear’ and ‘Fancy Bear’. Trump election campaign data also had to be passed onto Russian-linked Ukrainians Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov based on witness statements given to the FBI.
2016, November 08: A new law is implemented in Ukraine requiring a quota of at least 60% of all radio and television content to be aired in Ukrainian language. Up until the implementation of this law, the majority television and radio content were broadcast in Russian, which is in fact a minority language in Ukraine.
2016, December 02: Ukrainian MP and pro-Russian politician, Oleksandr Onyshchenko, confirms in a public statement that he had organized and funded a defamation campaign against former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his government (under the Yanukovych administration) with “US$ 30 million of unclear origin” (his own words), on behalf of Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko with the aim of enhancing his own political career.
2017, January 20: Donald Trump is inaugurated at the 45th President of the United States of America. In attendance of President Donald Trump’s inauguration as a ticket holding guest was Russian GRU agent and fugitive Konstantin Kilimnik. The ticket purchase was facilitated by American lobbyist, Samuel Patten, at a cost of US$ 50,000 per ticket for four tickets.
2017, February 22: Konstantin Kilimnik, and Russian/Ukrainian political consultant, confirms the existence of a peace effort between Russia and Ukraine referred to as the ‘Mariupol Plan’, whereby Viktor Yanukovych would return to serve as the President of the Russian occupied territories in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. This plan is supposedly the product of a Ukrainian politician, MP and businessman, Andrii Artemenko.
Andrii Artemenko, although less obvious than Yanukovych, was later identified as a major contributor to facilitating a pro-Russian Ukraine. When his activities were later exposed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, he was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship during 2017. Andrii Artemenko was introduced to Michael Cohen, former US President Donald Trump’s lawyer (2006 – 2018) via a powerful Ukrainian oligarch Alex Oronov (who’s daughter Oxana was married to Michael Cohen’s brother, Bryan Cohen). Artemenko worked with Cohen to develop a Ukraine peace plan, although the Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States confirmed that Artemenko was not authorized by the Ukrainian government to propose any peace plan to any country, including the United States. During 2016, Andrii Artemenko, still an MP in the Ukrainian parliament, was the only Ukrainian politician to openly support the election of Donald Trump as US President, also demanding that the Poroshenko government in Ukraine change their foreign policies to support the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, instead of the Democrats Presidential nominee. On April 29, 2017, Artemenko was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship by the Poroshenko government. On February 19, 2017, Artemenko was exposed as the back channel link between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. As a result of poor publicity as a result of his relationship with Russia, he changed his name to Andy Victor Kuchma during 2017 (assuming his wife’s maiden name as his last name). He also maintained close relations with the American lobbyist Paul Manafort. After he lost his Ukrainian citizenship, he resumed life on his Canadian citizenship acquired voluntarily during 2005. He now lives in Washington DC. During 2020 he unsuccessfully petitioned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to reinstate his Ukrainian citizenship without success. Andrii Artemenko (aka Andy Victor Kuchma) is currently involved in the following ventures:
1. Co-owner and Executive Chairman of Airtrans LLC, alongside Blackwater founder, Erik Prince, a long-time Republican donor and Trump supporter, and founder of Frontier Resource Group, who also attempted to offer a US$ 10 Billion private military services proposal to the Ukrainian government during 2020 without success.
2. Co-owner of Global Assets Inc, which is managed by Skyway International, a suspected gambling and money laundering operation from Unit 63A, Trump Tower, New York.
3. Co-owner and President of American Industrial Group Inc, which manufactures disinfectant and PPE for the COVID-19 pandemic.
4. Executive Chairman of Global Management Association Corporation, registered as a lobbying firm in the US Lobbyist Register. The firm is under scrutiny by the FBI for its connections with influential Russian politicians connected to Vladimir Putin, especially after evidence was exposed regarding their efforts to fabricate incriminating evidence against the Bidens. The investigation is still ongoing.
5. Owner and President of IT company, Alphanet Technologies Inc, which is developing a blockchain based COVID-19 immunity passport project (NewNorm).
2017, March 14: Former President Viktor Yanukovych is charged with the encroachment of the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine, high treason, and complicity in aggressive warfare by Russian Federation aimed at altering Ukraine’s state borders. The trial continues until January 24, 2019, via video link with Yanukovych still in exile in Russia.
2017, March 31: Visa-free travel is introduced between Russia and South Africa.
This arrangement was facilitated between South African President Jacob Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and had little value to the expansion of the South Africa economy. Instead, the Zuma Administration facilitated visa free travel to enable greater Russian participation in the unregulated economy (underworld) in South Africa to establish expanded revenue streams to the ruling party funding mechanisms derived from indirect involvement (not subject to any oversight mechanisms) in the unregulated (criminal) economy. Since the implementation of visa-free travel between South Africa and Russia, South Africa has experienced a greater outflow of undeclared foreign currency and precious metals, and a rapid increase in domestic instability and violent crime upon the arrival of the Russian Mafia a day later. However, the major value of a visa-free travel arrangement between Russia and South Africa now is that Russia has access to a friendly proxy state still connected to the Western business world to circumvent sanctions being enforced against Russia and key oligarchs since its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. It is for this reason why various Russian oligarchs moved their high value assets (yachts, private jets) to their residences in South Africa, predominantly in Cape Town, while being protected by the local Russian organized criminal group.
2017, April 01: One day after the implementation of visa-free travel between South Africa and Russia, dominant nightclubs in the major cities of South Africa experience a coordinated hostile take-over of club security by predominantly Russian speaking men, with some originating from Serbia and Ukraine.
Control over nightclubs is essential to control the supply of narcotics, prostitutes, and illegal weapons (the three top organized criminal activities in South Africa). During the first two weeks after the implementation of visa-free travel, South African cities were engaged in ‘gang wars’ erupting between the historical club ‘security’ scene, and the incoming Russian Mafia. Eventually, the underworld in South Africa was taken over by the Russians, and the South African Police Services did little to change it due to high-level political interference from the ruling party in government. In fact, any arm of government who intended to counter the Russian underworld would be influenced to do otherwise by the political arm of government. The significance of the international Russian Mafia mechanism from the Russian state mindset is that it serves the function of a covert expeditionary force for the Russian oligarchs (who conduct foreign business in close relationship with the Russian Mafia that provides protection to these high-value individuals), and it also establishes a support network for the Russian Military Intelligence services, GRU. Wagner Group, and both the FSB and GRU have established bases in South Africa (protected by the Russian Mafia network), from where it conducts operations throughout Africa. By now it is no secret that South Africa’s state mechanisms are captured and controlled by foreign forces, especially by the Russian faction controlling the Russian government. Looking even deeper into the extent of Russian influence in South Africa, we find Russian support behind the CapeXit movement campaigning for Cape independence from the Republic of South Africa (following similar tactics to the Catalonia independence movement), as well as technical support to former President Jacob Zuma in the planning and coordinated execution of the violent protests that hit Kwa-Zulu Natal province during July 2021, to include the hacking of various government websites and digital infrastructure, targeting mostly Western associated brands in response to corruption charges against him relating to his involvement in the facilitation of illicit activities to his personal benefit while serving as the President.
2017, April 28: Russia’s National Bureau of Interpol request that former Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk be placed on the Interpol wanted list based on false charges alleging his involvement in attacks on Russian servicemen between 1994 - 1995 and 2000, in Russia’s North Caucasian republic of Chechnya. The charges also alleged that Yatsenyuk was part of an armed group, and participated in attempted murder. No details relating to the charges were provided. Interpol officially dismissed the request due to a lack of evidence. Yatsenyuk responded to the Russian charges as absurd, and he considered it an attempt to discredit his reputation. It was later confirmed that the charges were part of a defamation campaign against Yatsenyuk by political rival Petro Poroshenko.
2017, July 26: Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko issues a decree stripping Mikheil Saakashvili, the former President of Georgia, and Governor of Odessa Regional State Administration. No official reasons were provided, but the decision was most likely based on Saakashvili’s decision to start his own political party, Movement of New Forces, to contest the next Presidential elections against Poroshenko.
2017, September 25: Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko signs a new law on education stating that Ukrainian would be the language at all levels of education, except for subjects that were other language specific (such as language subjects, etc), including any of the other recognized languages in Ukraine. A 3 year implementation period was allowed ending in 2023. Hungary, Romania, and Russia opposed the implementation of the new laws, demanding that indigenous minorities should be allowed to be educated in their indigenous language by choice from basic education level.
2017, October 27: The Parliament of Catalonia pass a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Spain to form an independent Republic of Catalonia.
The Spanish government immediately rejected the declaration of independence and arrested all the leaders of the Catalonian Independence Movement. Carles Puigdemond, leader of the independence movement, who also declared himself President of Catalonia, fled to Belgium in a self-imposed exile to avoid prosecution by Spanish authorities for rebellion, sedition, and embezzlement. During a thorough investigation into the organizers of the independence movement, it was determined that Russia had provided funding to Puigdemond’s efforts to facilitate Catalonian independence. There were also evidence suggesting Russia’s willingness to pay off all Catalonia’s sovereign debt, and to deploy 10,000 Russian soldiers to Catalonia if the movement succeeded in becoming independent from Spain. During later events, Josep Lluis Alay, an advisor to Carles Puigdemond, had met with Russian intelligence officers in Moscow during various visit in 2019 to discuss means of severing Catalonia from Spain. In attendance of these meeting were various serving officers in the Russian FSB, including Andrei Bezrukov (Russian KGB officer who served as an ‘illegal’ in the US), Sergei Sumin (then a Colonel in the FSB), and Artyom Lukoyanov (who was also involved with supporting the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine), and Russian businessman Alexander Dmitrenko. Shortly after Alay’s return to Catalonia from Russia, the ‘Tsunami Democratic’ protest movement was established in Spain to seek Catalonian independence. The group was responsible for organizing rots at Barcelona airport and disrupting up to 150 international flights departing from the airport. Intelligence reports also found Russian GRU agent, Denis Sergeev (aka Sergey Fedotov), one of the agents involved with the 2018 near-fatal poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in England, was a regular traveler to Catalonia up until the evening before the declaration of independence.
The UDI was rejected by the US and the EU in support of the Spanish government, and by the majority of the world. Africa, being majority pro-Russian aligned, failed to condemn nor support the Catalonian declaration of independence, nor did it support Spain in the matter. Russia chose to maintain a ‘neutral’ stance (just as BRICS member South Africa abstained from providing any response), although the break-away [Russian supported] Republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, and the Republic of Artsakh (officially still a recognized part of Azerbaijan), supported the Catalonian declaration of independence.
2017, December 05: Ukraine’s Security Service detains Mikheil Saakashvili, former President of Georgia, and former Governor of Odessa Regional State Administration, for protesting against the Poroshenko government. He was freed from police custody by a large group of protesters.
2018, February 07: Around 500 pro-government fighters supporting the Syrian Government, with Russian Wagner Group in support, launches an attack on US backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near the town of Khasham, Syria. In the SDF headquarters base was a detachment of US special operations forces. The pro-government forces commenced the attack on the base with mortars, artillery, and rockets, with T-72 and T-55 tanks in support. The US military detachment calls in an airstrike after the official Russian military liaison confirmed no Russians were present in the attacking force. US air assets engage the attacking force, killing around 200 of the attackers. Around 14 members of the accompanying Wagner Group died during the attack.
Based on previous near-similar incidents a few days prior, some observers believe that Russia was intentionally testing the US willingness and capabilities to engage its forces. This incident, including various other incidents involving Russian supported activities in Syria, forced the US to conduct a nuclear posture review based on comments by outgoing US CIA director, Mike Pompeo, on April 12, 2018. At this stage in time, the US was aware of Russia’s motives and global strategic objectives, why it wa