Vice captures a Ukrainian police station being overrun:
Maskirovka (which is rooted in the English word, mask) is designed to sow confusion and frustration among opponents by denying them basic information.
The anonymous troops in eastern Ukraine say only that they’re “Cossacks,” but Ukrainian and Western officials believe many of them are led by Russian special forces. Yet the murkiness of their origin and sponsors inflates their menace, and makes it more difficult to figure out how to deal with them. Snipping puppet strings between Ukraine and Moscow may be easier than controlling indigenous separatists operating independently. A combination of both complicates matters still further.
Patrick Tucker reports that Ukrainians are taking the matter of separating real protesters from Russian infiltrators into their own hands:
Anti-Russian grassroots organizations such as the website Ukraine Investigation have employed a crowd-sourcing technique similar to the Reddit thread “findbostonbombers” that sprouted up after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
Ukraine Investigation founder Andriy Nurzhynskyy said that in many of the reports and user-uploaded photos that cross his desk, the “protesters” are armed with rifles like the Kalashnikov 103, a firearm that is unavailable in Ukraine. Conversely, authentic separatist protesters usually carry sticks. While Nurzhynskyy maintains that his site and others have been able to positively identify a small number of Russian military leaders in Ukraine, he said, “We understand that there are many unidentified persons and our work is not [finished].”
If the maskirovka tactics are meant to sow doubt about the identity of the “protesters,” they are not fooling Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe:
- The pro-Russian “activists” in eastern Ukraine exhibit tell-tale military training and equipment and work together in a way that is consistent with troops who are part of a long-standing unit, not spontaneously stood up from a local militia.
- The weapon handling discipline and professional behavior of these forces is consistent with a trained military force. Rifle muzzles are pointed down, fingers not on triggers, but rather laid across trigger mechanisms.
- Coordinated use of tear gas and stun grenades against targeted buildings indicates a level of training that exceeds a recently formed militia.
- Video of these forces at checkpoints shows they are attentive, on their feet, focused on their security tasks, and under control of an apparent leader. This contrasts with typical militia or mob checkpoints, where it’s common to see people sitting, smoking, and so forth.
- The way these forces target government buildings, hit them in coordinated strikes and quickly secure the surrounding area with roadblocks and barricades is similar to what we’ve seen in Crimea. Again, indicative of a professional military force, acting under direction and leadership, not a spontaneous militia.
- Finally, the weapons and equipment they carry are primarily Russian army issue. This is not the kind of equipment that civilians would be likely to be able to get their hands on in large numbers.
Any one of the points above taken alone would not be enough to come to a conclusion on this issue, but taken in the aggregate, the story is clear.