The invasion began with confusion within the Russian forces and a surprise for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. More than 200 days of dreaded uncertainty clouded Ukraine as Russia continued to press forward in critical regions like Donbas, Kherson, and Kharkiv. The other thing that pushed Ukrainians near the bring was how fast Russians were able to install quasi-regional leaders as Moscow tried to get way ahead of the situation in the war.

But, Kherson Oblast was a turning point. There had been classes within the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant that got the UN involved, but it was when Ukrainians reclaimed the Dnipro river that showed there’s a tiny bit of silver lining to look forward to.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, Russia started pulling out electrical lines, oil supply, and gas in Ukraine, but Kyiv was steadfast in its slow-paced approach. It was months and months of analysts trying to predict how Russia would push forward. Do they have a secret in their arsenal? Will they be able to withstand the economic losses of the war? How long will this last?

So, with the massive defeat the Russian experienced in Kharkiv, what did the Russian intelligence and spy network get wrong in their analysis?

#1: FSB Expanded Their Branch Just to Research Ukraine

Before the invasion, Moscow backed the growth of its Federal Security Service (FSB). The department was just made up of 30 people in 2019, but it grew to 160 just before February this year. The goal of the new hires: to find proof that they can successfully invade Ukraine. The audaciousness of their goal also limited FSB’s analyses to find actual warnings should they move forward with the invasion.

Meanwhile, the recruitment efforts also signaled Ukraine for a potential escalation of Russian efforts.

#2: Overconfidence from FSB Senior Officers

Federal Security Service building
The building of the FSB of Russia in the Ulyanovsk region in Ulyanovsk (Source: Vyacheslav Bukharov/Wikimedia)

It could be the staleness of “war” or simply ego that brought Russians to where we are today, but during the time when they were expanding their FSB team, also known as the Department of Operational Information, they were given the assignment to device plans on Ukraine’s decapitation and installation of their Russian loyalist leaders within the region.

In communication materials extracted by Ukrainians, it revealed that the FSB “bears enormous responsibility for the failed Russian war plan and the hubris that propelled it,” as Washington Post noted. The Russian spies and FBS reportedly worked on Ukraine for over a decade, trying to pull people to their side. They were paying off local officials and trying to implant propaganda within the region.