Kyiv, Ukraine – Ukraine also announces a plan counterattack In the spring, the head of the country’s Main Intelligence Directorate, Major General Kirillo Budanov, predicts that the upcoming battles will be “decisive.”
This is not the first prediction made by the general, who was professionally brought up in the ranks of military intelligence. He is one of the few members of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inner circle who – just over a year ago – could not believe that Russia was simply ‘training’ forces that were massing along the Ukrainian border, as Moscow falsely claimed. Budanov was one of the few who warned President Zelensky that Russia was preparing an invasion.
“I was just relying on the facts,” he said, speaking from the heavily fortified headquarters he now calls both office and home near the Ukrainian capital. “All the information we had, all the data available, was pointing to an invasion.”
A year later, while the media speculated about a new Russian offensive that could give President Vladimir Putin a much-needed victory to celebrate the anniversary of the invasion, Budanov dismissed the idea of a “legendary Russian offensive”.
“The so-called Russian offensive is already underway,” he told Cipher Briefing in mid-February, before some of the last, fiercest fighting began. It is happening now in the Donetsk Oblast and, in principle, there is nothing new in it. It will continue as it is now. But this differs greatly from what the media says. People are waiting for a legendary date when a thousand tanks will move forward, and 400 aircraft will advance at 4 in the morning, and it will not happen that way.
If Budanov seems to have seen this war through a no-nonsense filter, it may be because he did it. It is located deep in a fortified complex on an island surrounded by armed guards, concrete blocks and barbed wire fencing. In the hallway outside his office, visitors who enter the dimly lit drawing room are greeted with suspicion by armed guards. It may be, in part, due to the many reported assassination attempts against him, something the general ignores.
“I’ve been through a certain number of them,” he says, “so it doesn’t surprise me at all. When people go into work like this, they have to realize that this is basically an integral part of their future life.”
On the day of The Cipher Brief’s visit, Budanov’s assistant sat behind a large wooden desk near the door to the main office. Two men, in suits and ties, looked uncomfortably out of place, shifting their weight from one foot to the other, standing almost in the shadows. The only light in the room came from a large screen TV that was showing the movie Shrek with the volume turned down. “Who are the men in the suits?” our interpreter asked. “Maybe he’s trying to sell something here,” he whispered again.
Ukraine is certainly in the market for military technology that can push this war to a faster end by ensuring Russia’s defeat. So far, aid has come from Western countries at a slower pace than it does on the battlefield. It’s no secret that President Zelensky has used his charisma on the world stage in every forum imaginable to order more equipment, including tanks and F-16 fighter jets. Budanov says that Kiev also needs artillery systems because, at the moment, there is a shortage of artillery barrels. He tells us that attack helicopters will also be useful.
“Keeping in mind that we are preparing to recapture temporarily occupied territories, we need more capabilities to conduct offensive actions,” he says. “Air defense allows us to provide cover for operations like this.”
Officials in Kiev have also been calling for the Army’s Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) capable of reaching deep into Crimea, where Iranian drones are routinely launched to support the Russian invasion (the drones were caught flying around the capital one night. It was a brief Cipher there).
“While we are preparing to regain control of temporarily uncontrolled areas, we need everything possible to conduct an offensive operation,” says Budanov. “We need air defense equipment to cover our forces as they advance and to cover important installations throughout other parts of Ukraine.”
Budanov also says that alliances with Western intelligence agencies have proven very effective in this war, though, he says, at times, his forces need quicker access to satellite imagery because of the speed at which things are moving on the battlefront.
“Cooperation with the military intelligence community and with the United States of America is a top priority for us,” he says. This may come as a bit of a surprise, but we don’t just get intelligence. They also receive data from us. This is indeed a true alliance.”
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Budanov says that intelligence sharing and cooperation have only increased since the start of the war, particularly in the areas of early warning, giving him and his senior commanders a more comprehensive picture of what is happening in the air and space over Ukraine and parts of Russia. .
“This is very important to us,” he says, “because let’s just say, from the moment the missile is prepared and launched, until its actual arrival at the target, a little bit of time passes. Sometimes we see it, sometimes we don’t, and our partners help complete this picture even We have time to prepare and take action.”
Budanov spoke with The Cipher Brief from his office, the windows stacked with sandbags. It gets high enough to keep out most of the light, which seems to be a comfortable environment for the general public.
While he was talking about what his country needed to win this war, two frogs in an aquarium in the dark corner tried, in vain, to climb the slippery walls. When the war began, Budanov and his wife made the decision to move into the compound for the duration of the war and brought the frogs with them because, as he explained, he couldn’t leave them behind.
On the other side of his huge desk, another large screen hangs on the wall – this one full of maps and what appears to be satellite images. And in another corner, there is a cage with two chirping birds.
“It’s a living detector of toxic substances,” he explains. These birds are very sensitive. If they detect the slightest concentration of a toxic substance, they will die instantly.”
Budanov, at 37, is one of the country’s youngest and perhaps most selective leaders. He seems to take pride in doing things the old-fashioned way. For example, most of the intelligence that crosses his desk comes on a piece of paper.
“We do this to avoid leaks,” he says. “Everything only comes in paper form. Paper reports can’t be obtained, shall we say, if you get them physically, and in that way, interception is almost impossible.”
Some of the intelligence reporting the general has focused on over the past year has been about the composition of Russia’s fighting force, with much of the intelligence coming from captured Russian forces on the battlefield. Recently captured Russian soldiers from the Russian Navy’s 155th unit, Budanov saidy Marine Infantry Brigade. The brigade reportedly suffered devastating losses during the final three-week offensive in Vohlidar, a mining town along the Ukraine-Russia border that has been devastated by heavy fighting. The Russian unit lost there was described by media reports as an “elite brigade,” but Budanov says this is inconsistent with his intelligence.
“The vast majority of people captured during these hostilities are just Marines,” he says. “Ninety percent of them are crew members taken directly from the ships. These are engineers, mechanics, and crews of conventional warships. But since the Russian Federation has huge problems with staffing and training, it simply lacks people. Therefore, they were simply transferred to the brigade 155 And they were told that from this day on, you are now a Marine, and the next day, relatively speaking, they go into battle.”
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While Russia is believed to be sending additional forces to replace those it has lost in places like Voldhar, Budanov does not believe Moscow has reserves of well-trained fighters to draw from, which leads him to make another prediction.
“I’m sure it will be over in a fairly short time.” He says. I do not share the opinion that this conflict will continue for a long time for one simple reason, Russia understands that it cannot prolong it for a long time. With all their actions, they are trying to show that they are ready for a protracted struggle, but in reality the opposite is true.
Budanov predicts that the coming months will witness decisive battles that will greatly affect how this war ends. His prediction about the end goes back to Crimea, the Ukrainian region captured by Russian power in 2014, at no real cost to the rest of the world.
“It all began there, and it will end there, with the return of Crimea,” he told The Cipher Brief. Because in any other case, we would just postpone conflict for the future and I don’t think anyone would allow that. What forms and methods will we use to achieve this goal? The answer is that any option that allows us to take back control is acceptable to us. This means strength and diplomacy. The war in Crimea did not start only for me. This is where it began for our whole country, and for the Russian Federation too. And this is where it will end.”
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