18 April 2024

The Spy Battle: How the C.I.A. Secretly Helps Ukraine Struggle Putin

Nestled in a dense forest, the Ukrainian navy base seems deserted and destroyed, its command heart a burned-out husk, a casualty of a Russian missile barrage early within the battle.

However that’s above floor.

Not distant, a discreet passageway descends to a subterranean bunker the place groups of Ukrainian troopers observe Russian spy satellites and listen in on conversations between Russian commanders. On one display, a crimson line adopted the route of an explosive drone threading by means of Russian air defenses from a degree in central Ukraine to a goal within the Russian metropolis of Rostov.

The underground bunker, constructed to switch the destroyed command heart within the months after Russia’s invasion, is a secret nerve heart of Ukraine’s navy.

There’s additionally yet one more secret: The bottom is sort of totally financed, and partly geared up, by the C.I.A.

“100 and ten p.c,” Gen. Serhii Dvoretskiy, a high intelligence commander, stated in an interview on the base.

Now getting into the third 12 months of a battle that has claimed tons of of hundreds of lives, the intelligence partnership between Washington and Kyiv is a linchpin of Ukraine’s potential to defend itself. The C.I.A. and different American intelligence companies present intelligence for focused missile strikes, observe Russian troop actions and assist assist spy networks.

However the partnership is not any wartime creation, neither is Ukraine the one beneficiary.

It took root a decade in the past, coming collectively in suits and begins underneath three very totally different U.S. presidents, pushed ahead by key people who usually took daring dangers. It has remodeled Ukraine, whose intelligence companies have been lengthy seen as totally compromised by Russia, into considered one of Washington’s most essential intelligence companions in opposition to the Kremlin as we speak.

The listening put up within the Ukrainian forest is a part of a C.I.A.-supported community of spy bases constructed prior to now eight years that features 12 secret places alongside the Russian border. Earlier than the battle, the Ukrainians proved themselves to the Individuals by accumulating intercepts that helped show Russia’s involvement within the 2014 downing of a business jetliner, Malaysia Airways Flight 17. The Ukrainians additionally helped the Individuals go after the Russian operatives who meddled within the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Round 2016, the C.I.A. started coaching an elite Ukrainian commando pressure — referred to as Unit 2245 — which captured Russian drones and communications gear in order that C.I.A. technicians might reverse-engineer them and crack Moscow’s encryption techniques. (One officer within the unit was Kyrylo Budanov, now the final main Ukraine’s navy intelligence.)

And the C.I.A. additionally helped practice a brand new technology of Ukrainian spies who operated inside Russia, throughout Europe, and in Cuba and different locations the place the Russians have a big presence.

The connection is so ingrained that C.I.A. officers remained at a distant location in western Ukraine when the Biden administration evacuated U.S. personnel within the weeks earlier than Russia invaded in February 2022. In the course of the invasion, the officers relayed important intelligence, together with the place Russia was planning strikes and which weapons techniques they’d use.

“With out them, there would have been no means for us to withstand the Russians, or to beat them,” stated Ivan Bakanov, who was then head of Ukraine’s home intelligence company, the S.B.U.

The small print of this intelligence partnership, a lot of that are being disclosed by The New York Instances for the primary time, have been a intently guarded secret for a decade.

In additional than 200 interviews, present and former officers in Ukraine, america and Europe described a partnership that just about foundered from mutual mistrust earlier than it steadily expanded, turning Ukraine into an intelligence-gathering hub that intercepted extra Russian communications than the C.I.A. station in Kyiv might initially deal with. Lots of the officers spoke on situation of anonymity to debate intelligence and issues of delicate diplomacy.

Now these intelligence networks are extra essential than ever, as Russia is on the offensive and Ukraine is extra depending on sabotage and long-range missile strikes that require spies far behind enemy strains. And they’re more and more in danger: If Republicans in Congress finish navy funding to Kyiv, the C.I.A. might need to reduce.

To attempt to reassure Ukrainian leaders, William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, made a secret go to to Ukraine final Thursday, his tenth go to for the reason that invasion.

From the outset, a shared adversary — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia — introduced the C.I.A. and its Ukrainian companions collectively. Obsessive about “shedding” Ukraine to the West, Mr. Putin had frequently interfered in Ukraine’s political system, handpicking leaders he believed would hold Ukraine inside Russia’s orbit, but every time it backfired, driving protesters into the streets.

Mr. Putin has lengthy blamed Western intelligence companies for manipulating Kyiv and sowing anti-Russia sentiment in Ukraine.

Towards the tip of 2021, in accordance with a senior European official, Mr. Putin was weighing whether or not to launch his full-scale invasion when he met with the top of considered one of Russia’s fundamental spy providers, who advised him that the C.I.A., along with Britain’s MI6, have been controlling Ukraine and turning it right into a beachhead for operations in opposition to Moscow.

However the Instances investigation discovered that Mr. Putin and his advisers misinterpret a important dynamic. The C.I.A. didn’t push its means into Ukraine. U.S. officers have been usually reluctant to totally have interaction, fearing that Ukrainian officers couldn’t be trusted, and worrying about scary the Kremlin.

But a decent circle of Ukrainian intelligence officers assiduously courted the C.I.A. and progressively made themselves very important to the Individuals. In 2015, Gen. Valeriy Kondratiuk, then Ukraine’s head of navy intelligence, arrived at a gathering with the C.I.A.’s deputy station chief and with out warning handed over a stack of top-secret information.

That preliminary tranche contained secrets and techniques concerning the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet, together with detailed details about the newest Russian nuclear submarine designs. Earlier than lengthy, groups of C.I.A. officers have been frequently leaving his workplace with backpacks stuffed with paperwork.

“We understood that we would have liked to create the situations of belief,” Basic Kondratiuk stated.

Because the partnership deepened after 2016, the Ukrainians turned impatient with what they thought of Washington’s undue warning, and started staging assassinations and different deadly operations, which violated the phrases the White Home thought the Ukrainians had agreed to. Infuriated, officers in Washington threatened to chop off assist, however they by no means did.

“The relationships solely received stronger and stronger as a result of each side noticed worth in it, and the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv — our station there, the operation out of Ukraine — turned the very best supply of data, indicators and all the things else, on Russia,” stated a former senior American official. “We couldn’t get sufficient of it.”

That is the untold story of the way it all occurred.

The C.I.A.’s partnership in Ukraine could be traced again to 2 telephone calls on the evening of Feb. 24, 2014, eight years to the day earlier than Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians had simply overrun the nation’s pro-Kremlin authorities and the president, Viktor Yanukovych, and his spy chiefs had fled to Russia. Within the tumult, a fragile pro-Western authorities shortly took energy.

The federal government’s new spy chief, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, arrived on the headquarters of the home intelligence company and located a pile of smoldering paperwork within the courtyard. Inside, lots of the computer systems had been wiped or have been contaminated with Russian malware.

“It was empty. No lights. No management. No person was there,” Mr. Nalyvaichenko stated in an interview.

He went to an workplace and referred to as the C.I.A. station chief and the native head of MI6. It was close to midnight however he summoned them to the constructing, requested for assist in rebuilding the company from the bottom up, and proposed a three-way partnership. “That’s how it began,” Mr. Nalyvaichenko stated.

The state of affairs shortly turned extra harmful. Mr. Putin seized Crimea. His brokers fomented separatist rebellions that will turn into a battle within the nation’s east. Ukraine was on battle footing, and Mr. Nalyvaichenko appealed to the C.I.A. for overhead imagery and different intelligence to assist defend its territory.

With violence escalating, an unmarked U.S. authorities aircraft touched down at an airport in Kyiv carrying John O. Brennan, then the director of the C.I.A. He advised Mr. Nalyvaichenko that the C.I.A. was enthusiastic about creating a relationship however solely at a tempo the company was comfy with, in accordance with U.S. and Ukrainian officers.

To the C.I.A., the unknown query was how lengthy Mr. Nalyvaichenko and the pro-Western authorities could be round. The C.I.A. had been burned earlier than in Ukraine.

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine gained independence after which veered between competing political forces: people who wished to stay near Moscow and people who wished to align with the West. Throughout a earlier stint as spy chief, Mr. Nalyvaichenko began an identical partnership with the C.I.A., which dissolved when the nation swung again towards Russia.

Now Mr. Brennan defined that to unlock C.I.A. help the Ukrainians needed to show that they might present intelligence of worth to the Individuals. In addition they wanted to purge Russian spies; the home spy company, the S.B.U., was riddled with them. (Working example: The Russians shortly realized about Mr. Brennan’s supposedly secret go to. The Kremlin’s propaganda retailers printed a photoshopped picture of the C.I.A. director sporting a clown wig and make-up.)

Mr. Brennan returned to Washington, the place advisers to President Barack Obama have been deeply involved about scary Moscow. The White Home crafted secret guidelines that infuriated the Ukrainians and that some contained in the C.I.A. considered handcuffs. The principles barred intelligence companies from offering any assist to Ukraine that could possibly be “fairly anticipated” to have deadly penalties.

The outcome was a fragile balancing act. The C.I.A. was imagined to strengthen Ukraine’s intelligence companies with out scary the Russians. The crimson strains have been by no means exactly clear, which created a persistent stress within the partnership.

In Kyiv, Mr. Nalyvaichenko picked a longtime aide, Basic Kondratiuk, to function head of counterintelligence, and so they created a brand new paramilitary unit that was deployed behind enemy strains to conduct operations and collect intelligence that the C.I.A. or MI6 wouldn’t present to them.

Referred to as the Fifth Directorate, this unit could be stuffed with officers born after Ukraine gained independence.

“They’d no reference to Russia,” Basic Kondratiuk stated. “They didn’t even know what the Soviet Union was.”

That summer time, Malaysia Airways Flight 17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, blew up in midair and crashed in jap Ukraine, killing practically 300 passengers and crew. The Fifth Directorate produced phone intercepts and different intelligence inside hours of the crash that shortly positioned accountability on Russian-backed separatists.

The C.I.A. was impressed, and made its first significant dedication by offering safe communications gear and specialised coaching to members of the Fifth Directorate and two different elite models.

“The Ukrainians wished fish and we, for coverage causes, couldn’t ship that fish,” stated a former U.S. official, referring to intelligence that might assist them battle the Russians. “However we have been completely happy to show them learn how to fish and ship fly-fishing gear.”

In the summertime of 2015, Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, shook up the home service and put in an ally to switch Mr. Nalyvaichenko, the C.I.A.’s trusted companion. However the change created a chance elsewhere.

Within the reshuffle, Basic Kondratiuk was appointed as the top of the nation’s navy intelligence company, referred to as the HUR, the place years earlier he had began his profession. It could be an early instance of how private ties, greater than coverage shifts, would deepen the C.I.A.’s involvement in Ukraine.

In contrast to the home company, the HUR had the authority to gather intelligence exterior the nation, together with in Russia. However the Individuals had seen little worth in cultivating the company as a result of it wasn’t producing any intelligence of worth on the Russians — and since it was seen as a bastion of Russian sympathizers.

Attempting to construct belief, Basic Kondratiuk organized a gathering along with his American counterpart on the Protection Intelligence Company and handed over a stack of secret Russian paperwork. However senior D.I.A. officers have been suspicious and discouraged constructing nearer ties.

The final wanted to discover a extra keen companion.

Months earlier, whereas nonetheless with the home company, Basic Kondratiuk visited the C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va. In these conferences, he met a C.I.A. officer with a jolly demeanor and a bushy beard who had been tapped to turn into the subsequent station chief in Kyiv.

After a protracted day of conferences, the C.I.A. took Basic Kondratiuk to a Washington Capitals hockey match, the place he and the incoming station chief sat in a luxurious field and loudly booed Alex Ovechkin, the staff’s star participant from Russia.

The station chief had not but arrived when Basic Kondratiuk handed over to the C.I.A. the key paperwork concerning the Russian Navy. “There’s extra the place this got here from,” he promised, and the paperwork have been despatched off to analysts in Langley.

The analysts concluded the paperwork have been genuine, and after the station chief arrived in Kyiv, the C.I.A. turned Basic Kondratiuk’s main companion.

Basic Kondratiuk knew he wanted the C.I.A. to strengthen his personal company. The C.I.A. thought the final may be capable of assist Langley, too. It struggled to recruit spies inside Russia as a result of its case officers have been underneath heavy surveillance.

“For a Russian, permitting oneself to be recruited by an American is to commit absolutely the, final in treachery and treason,” Basic Kondratiuk stated. “However for a Russian to be recruited by a Ukrainian, it’s simply associates speaking over a beer.”

The brand new station chief started frequently visiting Basic Kondratiuk, whose workplace was adorned with an aquarium the place yellow and blue fish — the nationwide colours of Ukraine — swam circles round a mannequin of a sunken Russian submarine. The 2 males turned shut, which drove the connection between the 2 companies, and the Ukrainians gave the brand new station chief an affectionate nickname: Santa Claus.

In January 2016, Basic Kondratiuk flew to Washington for conferences at Scattergood, an property on the C.I.A. campus in Virginia the place the company usually fetes visiting dignitaries. The company agreed to assist the HUR modernize, and to enhance its potential to intercept Russian navy communications. In change, Basic Kondratiuk agreed to share the entire uncooked intelligence with the Individuals.

Now the partnership was actual.

As we speak, the slim highway resulting in the key base is framed by minefields, seeded as a line of protection within the weeks after Russia’s invasion. The Russian missiles that hit the bottom had seemingly shut it down, however simply weeks later the Ukrainians returned.

With cash and gear offered by the C.I.A., crews underneath Basic Dvoretskiy’s command started to rebuild, however underground. To keep away from detection, they solely labored at evening and when Russian spy satellites weren’t overhead. Employees additionally parked their automobiles a distance away from the development web site.

Within the bunker, Basic Dvoretskiy pointed to communications gear and huge laptop servers, a few of which have been financed by the C.I.A. He stated his groups have been utilizing the bottom to hack into the Russian navy’s safe communications networks.

“That is the factor that breaks into satellites and decodes secret conversations,” Basic Dvoretskiy advised a Instances journalist on a tour, including that they have been hacking into spy satellites from China and Belarus, too.

One other officer positioned two lately produced maps on a desk, as proof of how Ukraine is monitoring Russian exercise around the globe.

The primary confirmed the overhead routes of Russian spy satellites touring over central Ukraine. The second confirmed how Russian spy satellites are passing over strategic navy installations — together with a nuclear weapons facility — within the jap and central United States.

The C.I.A. started sending gear in 2016, after the pivotal assembly at Scattergood, Basic Dvoretskiy stated, offering encrypted radios and gadgets for intercepting secret enemy communications.

Past the bottom, the C.I.A. additionally oversaw a coaching program, carried out in two European cities, to show Ukrainian intelligence officers learn how to convincingly assume faux personas and steal secrets and techniques in Russia and different international locations which might be adept at rooting out spies. This system was referred to as Operation Goldfish, which derived from a joke a few Russian-speaking goldfish who gives two Estonians needs in change for its freedom.

The punchline was that one of many Estonians bashed the fish’s head with a rock, explaining that something talking Russian couldn’t be trusted.

The Operation Goldfish officers have been quickly deployed to 12 newly-built, ahead working bases constructed alongside the Russian border. From every base, Basic Kondratiuk stated, the Ukrainian officers ran networks of brokers who gathered intelligence inside Russia.

C.I.A. officers put in gear on the bases to assist collect intelligence and in addition recognized among the most expert Ukrainian graduates of the Operation Goldfish program, working with them to method potential Russian sources. These graduates then educated sleeper brokers on Ukrainian territory meant to launch guerrilla operations in case of occupation.

It could possibly usually take years for the C.I.A. to develop sufficient belief in a international company to start conducting joint operations. With the Ukrainians it had taken lower than six months. The brand new partnership began producing a lot uncooked intelligence about Russia that it needed to be shipped to Langley for processing.

However the C.I.A. did have crimson strains. It wouldn’t assist the Ukrainians conduct offensive deadly operations.

“We made a distinction between intelligence assortment operations and issues that go growth,” a former senior U.S. official stated.

It was a distinction that grated on the Ukrainians.

First, Basic Kondratiuk was aggravated when the Individuals refused to offer satellite tv for pc photos from inside Russia. Quickly after, he requested C.I.A. help in planning a clandestine mission to ship HUR commandos into Russia to plant explosive gadgets at practice depots utilized by the Russian navy. If the Russian navy sought to take extra Ukrainian territory, Ukrainians might detonate the explosives to gradual the Russian advance.

When the station chief briefed his superiors, they “misplaced their minds,” as one former official put it. Mr. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, referred to as Basic Kondratiuk to make sure that mission was canceled and that Ukraine abided by the crimson strains forbidding deadly operations.

Basic Kondratiuk canceled the mission, however he additionally took a unique lesson. “Going ahead, we labored to not have discussions about this stuff together with your guys,” he stated.

Late that summer time, Ukrainian spies found that Russian forces have been deploying assault helicopters at an airfield on the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, presumably to stage a shock assault.

Basic Kondratiuk determined to ship a staff into Crimea to plant explosives on the airfield so that they could possibly be detonated if Russia moved to assault.

This time, he didn’t ask the C.I.A. for permission. He turned to Unit 2245, the commando pressure that acquired specialised navy coaching from the C.I.A.’s elite paramilitary group, referred to as the Floor Division. The intent of the coaching was to show defensive strategies, however C.I.A. officers understood that with out their information the Ukrainians might use the identical strategies in offensive deadly operations.

On the time, the longer term head of Ukraine’s navy intelligence company, Basic Budanov, was a rising star in Unit 2245. He was identified for daring operations behind enemy strains and had deep ties to the C.I.A. The company had educated him and in addition taken the extraordinary step of sending him for rehabilitation to Walter Reed Nationwide Army Medical Middle in Maryland after he was shot in the precise arm throughout preventing within the Donbas.

Disguised in Russian uniforms, then-Lt. Col. Budanov led commandos throughout a slim gulf in inflatable speedboats, touchdown at evening in Crimea.

However an elite Russian commando unit was ready for them. The Ukrainians fought again, killing a number of Russian fighters, together with the son of a normal, earlier than retreating to the shoreline, plunging into the ocean and swimming for hours to Ukrainian-controlled territory.

It was a catastrophe. In a public handle, President Putin accused the Ukrainians of plotting a terrorist assault and promised to avenge the deaths of the Russian fighters.

“There isn’t a doubt that we’ll not let this stuff move,” he stated.

In Washington, the Obama White Home was furious. Joseph R. Biden Jr., then the vp and a champion of help to Ukraine, referred to as Ukraine’s president to angrily complain.

“It causes a big drawback,” Mr. Biden stated within the name, a recording of which was leaked and printed on-line. “All I’m telling you as a buddy is that my making arguments here’s a hell of quite a bit tougher now.”

A few of Mr. Obama’s advisers wished to close the C.I.A. program down, however Mr. Brennan persuaded them that doing so could be self-defeating, given the connection was beginning to produce intelligence on the Russians because the C.I.A. was investigating Russian election meddling.

Mr. Brennan received on the telephone with Basic Kondratiuk to once more emphasize the crimson strains.

The final was upset. “That is our nation,” he responded, in accordance with a colleague. “It’s our battle, and we’ve received to struggle.”

The blowback from Washington value Basic Kondratiuk his job. However Ukraine didn’t again down.

At some point after Basic Kondratiuk was eliminated, a mysterious explosion within the Russian-occupied metropolis of Donetsk, in jap Ukraine, ripped by means of an elevator carrying a senior Russian separatist commander named Arsen Pavlov, identified by his nom de guerre, Motorola.

The C.I.A. quickly realized that the assassins have been members of the Fifth Directorate, the spy group that acquired C.I.A. coaching. Ukraine’s home intelligence company had even handed out commemorative patches to these concerned, each stitched with the phrase “Carry,” the British time period for an elevator.

Once more, a few of Mr. Obama’s advisers have been livid, however they have been lame geese — the presidential election pitting Donald J. Trump in opposition to Hillary Rodham Clinton was three weeks away — and the assassinations continued.

A staff of Ukrainian brokers arrange an unmanned, shoulder-fired rocket launcher in a constructing within the occupied territories. It was instantly throughout from the workplace of a insurgent commander named Mikhail Tolstykh, higher referred to as Givi. Utilizing a distant set off, they fired the launcher as quickly as Givi entered his workplace, killing him, in accordance with U.S. and Ukrainian officers.

A shadow battle was now in overdrive. The Russians used a automotive bomb to assassinate the top of Unit 2245, the elite Ukrainian commando pressure. The commander, Col. Maksim Shapoval, was on his option to assembly with C.I.A. officers in Kyiv when his automotive exploded.

On the colonel’s wake, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, stood in mourning beside the C.I.A. station chief. Later, C.I.A. officers and their Ukrainian counterparts toasted Colonel Shapoval with whiskey pictures.

“For all of us,” Basic Kondratiuk stated, “it was a blow.”

The election of Mr. Trump in November 2016 put the Ukrainians and their C.I.A. companions on edge.

Mr. Trump praised Mr. Putin and dismissed Russia’s function in election interference. He was suspicious of Ukraine and later tried to stress its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to analyze his Democratic rival, Mr. Biden, leading to Mr. Trump’s first impeachment.

However no matter Mr. Trump stated and did, his administration usually went within the different route. It is because Mr. Trump had put Russia hawks in key positions, together with Mike Pompeo as C.I.A. director and John Bolton as nationwide safety adviser. They visited Kyiv to underline their full assist for the key partnership, which expanded to incorporate extra specialised coaching packages and the constructing of extra secret bases.

The bottom within the forest grew to incorporate a brand new command heart and barracks, and swelled from 80 to 800 Ukrainian intelligence officers. Stopping Russia from interfering in future U.S. elections was a high C.I.A. precedence throughout this era, and Ukrainian and American intelligence officers joined forces to probe the pc techniques of Russia’s intelligence companies to determine operatives attempting to control voters.

In a single joint operation, a HUR staff duped an officer from Russia’s navy intelligence service into offering data that allowed the C.I.A. to attach Russia’s authorities to the so-called Fancy Bear hacking group, which had been linked to election interference efforts in numerous international locations.

Basic Budanov, whom Mr. Zelensky tapped to guide the HUR in 2020, stated of the partnership: “It solely strengthened. It grew systematically. The cooperation expanded to extra spheres and have become extra large-scale.”

The connection was so profitable that the C.I.A. wished to duplicate it with different European intelligence providers that shared a spotlight in countering Russia.

The pinnacle of Russia Home, the C.I.A. division overseeing operations in opposition to Russia, organized a secret assembly at The Hague. There, representatives from the C.I.A., Britain’s MI6, the HUR, the Dutch service (a important intelligence ally) and different companies agreed to begin pooling collectively extra of their intelligence on Russia.

The outcome was a secret coalition in opposition to Russia — and the Ukrainians have been very important members of it.

In March 2021, the Russian navy began massing troops alongside the border with Ukraine. Because the months handed, and extra troops encircled the nation, the query was whether or not Mr. Putin was making a feint or getting ready for battle.

That November, and within the weeks that adopted, the C.I.A. and MI6 delivered a unified message to their Ukrainian companions: Russia was getting ready for a full-scale invasion to decapitate the federal government and set up a puppet in Kyiv who would do the Kremlin’s bidding.

U.S. and British intelligence companies had intercepts that Ukrainian intelligence companies didn’t have entry to, in accordance with U.S. officers. The brand new intelligence listed the names of Ukrainian officers whom the Russians have been planning to kill or seize, in addition to the Ukrainians the Kremlin hoped to put in in energy.

President Zelensky and a few of his high advisers appeared unconvinced, even after Mr. Burns, the C.I.A. director, rushed to Kyiv in January 2022 to temporary them.

Because the Russian invasion neared, C.I.A. and MI6 officers made closing visits in Kyiv with their Ukrainian friends. One of many MI6 officers teared up in entrance of the Ukrainians, out of concern that the Russians would kill them.

At Mr. Burns’s urging, a small group of C.I.A. officers have been exempted from the broader U.S. evacuation and have been relocated to a lodge complicated in western Ukraine. They didn’t wish to desert their companions.

After Mr. Putin launched the invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, the C.I.A. officers on the lodge have been the one U.S. authorities presence on the bottom. Daily on the lodge, they met with their Ukrainian contacts to move data. The outdated handcuffs have been off, and the Biden White Home licensed spy companies to offer intelligence assist for deadly operations in opposition to Russian forces on Ukrainian soil.

Typically, the C.I.A. briefings contained shockingly particular particulars.

On March 3, 2022 — the eighth day of the battle — the C.I.A. staff gave a exact overview of Russian plans for the approaching two weeks. The Russians would open a humanitarian hall out of the besieged metropolis of Mariupol that very same day, after which open hearth on the Ukrainians who used it.

The Russians deliberate to encircle the strategic port metropolis of Odesa, in accordance with the C.I.A., however a storm delayed the assault and the Russians by no means took the town. Then, on March 10, the Russians meant to bombard six Ukrainian cities, and had already entered coordinates into cruise missiles for these strikes.

The Russians additionally have been attempting to assassinate high Ukrainian officers, together with Mr. Zelensky. In a minimum of one case, the C.I.A. shared intelligence with Ukraine’s home company that helped disrupt a plot in opposition to the president, in accordance with a senior Ukrainian official.

When the Russian assault on Kyiv had stalled, the C.I.A. station chief rejoiced and advised his Ukrainian counterparts that they have been “punching the Russians within the face,” in accordance with a Ukrainian officer who was within the room.

Inside weeks, the C.I.A. had returned to Kyiv, and the company despatched in scores of latest officers to assist the Ukrainians. A senior U.S. official stated of the C.I.A.’s sizable presence, “Are they pulling triggers? No. Are they serving to with focusing on? Completely.”

A few of the C.I.A. officers have been deployed to Ukrainian bases. They reviewed lists of potential Russian targets that the Ukrainians have been getting ready to strike, evaluating the knowledge that the Ukrainians had with U.S. intelligence to make sure that it was correct.

Earlier than the invasion, the C.I.A. and MI6 had educated their Ukrainian counterparts on recruiting sources, and constructing clandestine and partisan networks. Within the southern Kherson area, which was occupied by Russia within the first weeks of the battle, these partisan networks sprang into motion, in accordance with Basic Kondratiuk, assassinating native collaborators and serving to Ukrainian forces goal Russian positions.

In July 2022, Ukrainian spies noticed Russian convoys getting ready to cross a strategic bridge throughout the Dnipro river and notified MI6. British and American intelligence officers then shortly verified the Ukrainian intelligence, utilizing real-time satellite tv for pc imagery. MI6 relayed the affirmation, and the Ukrainian navy opened hearth with rockets, destroying the convoys.

On the underground bunker, Basic Dvoretskiy stated a German antiaircraft system now defends in opposition to Russian assaults. An air-filtration system guards in opposition to chemical weapons and a devoted energy system is on the market, if the facility grid goes down.

The query that some Ukrainian intelligence officers at the moment are asking their American counterparts — as Republicans within the Home weigh whether or not to chop off billions of {dollars} in support — is whether or not the C.I.A. will abandon them. “It occurred in Afghanistan earlier than and now it’s going to occur in Ukraine,” a senior Ukrainian officer stated.

Referring to Mr. Burns’s go to to Kyiv final week, a C.I.A. official stated, “We have now demonstrated a transparent dedication to Ukraine over a few years and this go to was one other sturdy sign that the U.S. dedication will proceed.”

The C.I.A. and the HUR have constructed two different secret bases to intercept Russian communications, and mixed with the 12 ahead working bases, which Basic Kondratiuk says are nonetheless operational, the HUR now collects and produces extra intelligence than at any time within the battle — a lot of which it shares with the C.I.A.

“You may’t get data like this anyplace — besides right here, and now,” Basic Dvoretskiy stated.

Natalia Yermak and Christiaan Triebert contributed reporting.