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Ukrainian spies vow to stab Russia ‘with a needle in the heart’

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KYIV — Ukraine’s spies aim to intensify intelligence operations and conduct sabotage strikes deep in Russian-controlled territory next year to bring the war as close to the Kremlin as possible, the head of Ukraine’s SBU security service told POLITICO.

“We cannot disclose our plans. They should remain a shocker for the enemy. We prepare surprises,” Major General Vasyl Malyuk said in written responses to questions. “The occupiers must understand that it will not be possible to hide. We will find the enemy everywhere.”

While he dodged specifics, Malyuk did give some hints. Logistics targets and military assets in occupied Ukrainian territory are likely to continue to be a focus. And then there are strikes that hit the enemy across the border.

“We are always looking for new solutions. So, cotton will continue to burn,” Malyuk joked.

Ukrainians use the word “cotton” to describe explosions in Russia and the occupied territories of Ukraine organized by Ukrainian special services. It came from Russian media and officials describing the growing number of such incidents with the word khlopok, which means both “blast” and “cotton” in Russian.

With combat along hundreds of kilometers of front lines essentially stalled for much of this year, the exploits of the SBU both boost Ukrainian morale and also hurt Russia’s war fighting abilities.

“The SBU carries out targeted point strikes. We stab the enemy with a needle right in the heart. Each of our special operations pursues a specific goal and gives its result. All this in a complex complicates the capabilities of the Russian Federation for waging war and brings our victory closer,” Malyuk said.

One area of focus will be Crimea and the Black Sea, building on this year’s operations.

Malyuk’s pet project is the Sea Baby drone, called malyuk in Ukrainian, which means “little guy.” The drone carries about 850 kilograms of explosives and is able to operate in stormy conditions, making it difficult to detect.

“With the help of those little guys we are gradually pushing the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation out of Crimea,” Malyuk said.

It’s been used to attack the Kerch Bridge that links occupied Crimea to mainland Russia in July as well as to hammer Russian ships.

In October 2022 the SBU’s marine drones attacked Sevastopol Bay damaging four Russian warships. This year, the drones hit two missile carriers, a tanker, an amphibious assault ship and also damaged a large military tugboat and Russia’s newest reconnaissance and hydrographic ship.

Malyuk’s pet project is the Sea Baby drone, called malyuk in Ukrainian, which means “little guy.” The drone carries about 850 kilograms of explosives and is able to operate in stormy conditions, making it difficult to detect | Courtesy of the Security Service of Ukraine

That forced Moscow to shift much of the fleet away from its base in occupied Sevastopol in Crimea, leaving the west of the sea free of Russian vessels and allowing Ukraine to resume use of its ports for shipping.

The Kerch Bridge is still standing after a 2022 truck bomb attack and this year’s strike, but is only partially open, Malyuk said.

“It is a legitimate target for us, according to international law and the rules of war. Ukrainian law also allows us to attack this object. And we have to destroy the logistics of our enemy,” Malyuk added.

Malyuk said that Kyiv carefully considers its targets before striking — an effort to stay within the rules of war in contrast with Russia, which has fired missiles, artillery and drones at both military and civilian targets.

“When planning and preparing its special operations, the SBU carefully selects its targets. We work on military facilities or on those that the enemy uses to carry out their military tasks. We act fully by the norms of international law,” Malyuk said.

The SBU conducts most of its operations on Ukraine’s territory — in Donbas, Crimea and the Black Sea.

“This is our land and we will use all possible methods to free it from the occupiers,” Malyuk said.

When it comes to planning something in Russia, SBU says it focuses only on targets used for military purposes like logistical corridors for supplying weapons — like the rail tunnel in Siberia hit with two explosions (the SBU hasn’t claimed responsibility) as well as warships, military bases and similar targets.

“All SBU operations you hear about are exclusively our work and our unique technical development,” Malyuk said. “These operations became possible, in particular, because we develop and implement our technical solutions.”

Russia should prepare to be hit.

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