To undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and identity and steal its military companies and nuclear power plants, the Russian government has divided Ukrainians into four groups to kill, intimidate, or coerce them into cooperating.
Wargames are also used to track down and kill Ukrainian activists. According to a new analysis by the RUSI Institute, Russia believed it could pull it off since they tested how the west would respond, but eventually, it failed.
Russia’s initial invasion plans revealed by RUSI Institute
Russia’s initial invasion plans were revealed in a report by the London-based Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a defense and security think tank. The report shows that Russia’s strategic goal was the subjugation of the Ukrainian state and that the plans were primarily developed by Russia’s special services and a small group of top figures headed by President Putin.
The report includes information about Russia’s invasion intentions “as outlined in captured copies of the orders sent to a range of Russian troops” in its opening chapter. It also discusses Ukraine’s strengths and weaknesses during the early stages of the war and the lessons that Kyiv and the West can learn.
Russia’s invasion objective is to destroy Ukrainian sovereignty and outlaw Ukrainian culture
According to the report, the Russian invasion had as its objectives “the destruction of national sovereignty and the prohibiting of Ukrainian identity and the destruction and outlawing of the Ukrainian army. Moscow also aimed at moving to Russia the Ukrainian defense industrial complex enterprises. The Russian invaders also planned, and made clear attempts, to capture Ukrainian nuclear power plants and hand them over to Rosatom’s direct management.”
The report’s authors, which included Oleksandr V. Danyliuk, a former adviser to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, Ukrainian Lieutenant-General Mykhaylo Zabrodskyi, and two RUSI analysts, had exclusive access to Ukrainian military data, including primary sources that are still not available to the public.
Russia’s military buildup near the borders in 2021 tested the reaction of the West
When more conventional troops were deployed to the existing forces along Ukraine’s borders in March 2021, Russia’s military buildup on its frontiers began as a test. In this way the Kremlin got “a chance to analyze the reaction of Ukraine’s Western allies.”
The partners of Ukraine, however, downplayed the threat presented by this buildup “because they failed to see the essential enablers deployed with the Russian troops nor the required political structuring of the information environment in Russia to promote an invasion.”
The Kremlin was then assured that it would conquer significant territories faster than military capabilities could be provided by Ukraine’s partners.
An “important motivation for launching the full-scale invasion” was the lack of discouragement from Ukraine’s allies since it assured the Kremlin that “it could invade Ukraine without considerable international response.”
Russia’s invasion plan was prepared by FSB
According to the source, the Russian Federal Security Service’s (FSB) 9th Section of the 5th Service was expanded into a directorate and given the responsibility of preparing for the invasion of Ukraine in July 2021. The FSB “relied on comprehensive surveys carried out in Ukraine” as part of the planning.
Russia’s invasion was driven by overconfidence bias
The FSB then engaged in industrial-scale confirmation bias, which is now commonplace in Russia’s political system. According to reports, the FSB’s surveys “presented an image of a mostly politically inactive Ukrainian public that distrusted its leaders, was mostly worried about the economy and thought an escalation of the war between Russia and Ukraine was unlikely.”
Moscow didn’t even think that these reports were erroneous.
Moscow overestimated its capabilities, and underestimated Ukraine’s resistance
Russian General Valery Gerasimov’s assertions that “I command the second most powerful Army in the world” were said to have influenced Putin’s continued confidence at the start of the war. Gerasimov informed his British counterparts in a different conversation that Russia “had achieved traditional warfare equality with the US.”
The authors of the report concluded that Russia’s planning was made of optimism, bias, and naivete. For instance, the claim made in Russian planning that Ukraine could only mobilize 40,000 more troops was based more on the “expected speed of the operation” than on the actual mobilization capabilities of Ukraine.
Putin expected that Ukrainian leadership would flee
Furthermore, due to the invasion’s rapidity, it “appears that the presumption was that Ukrainian leadership would either flee or be captured.”
But nothing like that happened. The Russian propaganda machine went into overdrive the day after the invasion, claiming that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had left the country. However, Zelenskyy later released his now-famous video from Kyiv, in which he said, “The President is here.”
Mobilization in Ukraine was fast and successful despite Moscow’s expectation
Additionally, Russia had “expected that shock would prevent the public from becoming immediately mobilized and that protests and other forms of civil resistance could be controlled through the deliberate breakdown of Ukrainian civil society.”
Instead, the declaration of general mobilization was warmly received by the majority of Ukrainians, who saw civilians from all walks of life take up arms to protect their country.
Moreover, facing Russian invading troops, unarmed ordinary Ukrainians launched large-scale demonstrations in Kherson and Melitopol, captured by Russians in the first weeks of the invasion. The resistance movement strengthened, growing to organized partisan groups waging a guerrilla war against the invading power.
The report reveals unsettling information about the FSB’s tasks during the invasion, comparable to what the Soviet-era communist NKVD forces, the FSB’s predecessor, did in Eastern Europe during the Second World War and the postwar period.
FSB split Ukrainians into four categories
In the Kremlin’s plan Ukrainians were split into four categories, and the FSB was responsible for apprehending local authorities.
Those whom they planned to kill off physically, those who had to be subjugated and intimidated, those who can be persuaded to cooperate, and those who were willing to cooperate.
The FSB had practiced kill-or-capture missions before the invasion, but “in many cases, the objective of capture was to put persons involved in the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution on trial to be killed,” according to the report.
Russia planned to set up filtration camps
Russia had intended to utilize filtration camps to “create counterintelligence files on huge segments of the people in the conquered territories” in a throwback to the repressions of the Stalinist era. These filtering camps would have been used to “set the framework for records to monitor and disrupt opposition networks and to assess whether Ukrainian citizens needed to be deported to Russia.”
Russian invasion aimed at eradicating Ukrainian culture
By sending “teachers and other authorities to engage in the re-education of Ukrainians,” Russia had intended to gradually destroy all traces of Ukrainian identity, culture, and history.
The goal was “the assassination of Ukraine’s executive branch and the seizure of Parliament.” At the same time, Russia would have concentrated its efforts on the “coerced collaboration of regional governors and municipal officials” at the regional level.
Moscow planned to leverage pro-Russian parties as “Movement for peace”
The pro-Russian parliamentary faction would have been urged to create a “Movement for peace” that other parties would have been forced to embrace with Parliament firmly controlled by Russian forces. In the meantime, the central bank’s financial restrictions and disruptions to energy and water would be utilized as pressure across dissident regions.
Russian invasion plans were kept in the strictest secret
According to reports, “a tiny group of officials” came up with the plans, and Putin “directed the intent,” while many “officials implemented parts of the preparations without being aware of the larger goal.”
Even Russian military commanders within the General Staff did not know that an invasion of Ukraine was planned until days before the attack. The “tactical military forces did not receive orders until hours before they entered Ukraine.”
All-out war plan was masterminded by a small group of officials
However, the “small pool of personnel engaged contributed to a range of incorrect assumptions that appear never to have been addressed,” although operational surprise was achieved thanks to the plans’ secrecy.
Russian leadership didn’t understand the actual context in Ukraine
Many of Russia’s early war failures indicate that it didn’t understand at all the actual context in Ukraine, Ukraine’s armed forces capabilities, or Ukrainians’ readiness to resist.
Putin based this plan on groundless intelligence data that reported false positives and wishful thinking rather than the actual situation. Russian leadership’s sobriety was muted by its own state propaganda and fakes.
Although the invasion strategy was theoretically conceivable, the RUSI report authors claim that there was “compounded optimism bias in each of its stages.” The analysis found “no evidence in the Russian planning that anybody in the Kremlin had questioned what would happen if any of its fundamental assumptions were wrong.”
Overconfidence, underestimation, blind belief in assumptions
Overconfidence, underestimation of Ukraine, and a blind belief in its own unverified assumptions. That made the aggressor state, who launched an all-out war in Europe in the 21st century, fail.