10 Aug. — Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) published a statement in which it accused Ukraine of preparing terrorist acts in Crimea. Officials in Kiev call this claim part of information warfare.
Rumours about troubles at the border between Russia and Ukraine in Crimea started to emerge in the morning of 7 August. The media reported the closing of three border crossings while remaining silent about the reasons. At the same time, various versions were being discussed on social media of an attempt by members of the Right Sector paramilitary group to penetrate through the border or of an attack by unidentified persons on a military unit in the city of Armyansk in Northern Crimea. Deaths among Russian soldiers were also being reported.
Official information, however, was only published two days later. The FSB announced that terrorist acts against “critically important elements of the peninsula’s infrastructure and key facilities” had been thwarted. According to the statement, a group of saboteurs from Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate was planning to set off a series of explosions in order to “destabilize the socio-political situation in the region” on the eve of elections scheduled for early September.
Moreover, the FSB stated that on the night of 8 August groups of Ukrainian saboteurs supported by the military made two other attempts to break through.
Two persons on the Russian side were killed as a result of exchanges of fire. No deaths of Ukrainians have been reported. It is briefly mentioned in the statement that the alleged perpetrators and organisers of the attack have been captured.
Russian news agency Interfax later quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reaction. “Kiev does not seek paths for negotiation and moves on to terror,” it transmitted his words very briefly.
Ukrainian officials denied the statement. The Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Olexandr Turchynov called this “just another element of hybrid war”. Ukrainian General Staff spokesperson Vladislav Seleznev suggested that it is part of “FSB training exercises” but could not confirm or deny the details in the report, including the identity of one of those captured. The Ministry of Defense responded that the announcement “does not correspond to reality”. Irina Frieze, Head of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on State Information Systems’ Security, considered the report to be a “provocation and informational insinuation”.
Andreas Umland, an fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, and Ian Bond, Foreign Policy Director at the British Centre for European Reform, compared the story with Germany’s 1939 operation for the creation of a pretext to invade Poland.