Against the backdrop of the Russian invasion, Ukraine’s intelligence agencies, such as the Foreign Intelligence Service (SZRU) and the Main Directorate of Intelligence (HUR MO), have stepped up efforts in liquidating challenging targets on the battlefield and inside Russia.

The attacks have grown more sophisticated each time, showing the growing capabilities of Ukraine’s intelligence bureau. Not only engaging in targeting and assassinations, but these intelligence branches have also now used Russia’s playbook against it—with psychological and strategic success.

The Ukrainian flag flies defiantly even as viewed from a destroyed building.

Growing a Sophisticated Intelligence Network

The SZRU, SBU, and HUR MO are Ukraine’s top intelligence bureaus, with the latter playing the most prominent role in the Ukraine War thus far. The HUR is led by Kyrylo Budanov, a highly capable and respected Major General in the Armed Forces.

Budanov has been long sought by Russian intelligence. He fought throughout the initial 2014 invasion and was wounded several times. In addition, Russian intelligence had attempted to assassinate him several times over the past nine years.

Using the resources at his disposal, Budanov has a vast network of informants and dissidents within Russia, which gives Kyiv the opportunity to hit critical targets, even when Russian military bloggers, officials, and high-ranking personnel feel safe.

Growing Numbers of Assassinations

Throughout the war, Ukrainian partisans, in collaboration with their intelligence bureau, assassinated dozens of collaborators who helped Russian Forces consolidate occupational control in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and the Donbas region.

Expanding their scope, the HUR moved to strategic targets, such as the Kerch Bridge and the strategic bomber base at Engels Airfield, deep inside Russia. The Kerch Bridge attack, which occurred on Vladimir Putin’s birthday, shocked Russian society enough that Major General Budanov was put on a warrant by the Moscow Court.