Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia · Ukraine

Information Indicators Of A Russian Attack


Russia has historically displayed key indicators prior to offensive actions.  I will walk through a few of them, expanding on some.

Overall, the Russian government will use information warfare as a part of a national strategy of attacking and dividing Ukraine and forestalling Western alliances. Russian hybrid warfare will include a whole-of-nation attack on Ukraine, where every government organization, every Russian corporation, every Russian entity, and citizen is expected to support, reinforce, and amplify Russian attacks on Ukraine in every way possible.

We will see a huge increase in anti-Ukraine statements initially on Russian language sites, first, to get Russian citizens on board and supporting Russian government actions.

Caution: Russia has cycled through many, if not most of these, possibly for strategic deception.

World situation

  • US government shutdown
  • Holidays
  • Possible Russian staged CW attack on Donbas civilians to be blamed on Ukraine
  • Russia, China, Iran, North Korea cite Ukraine “war crimes”
  • Russia calls for UN statement damning Ukraine “war crimes”

Russian Key Leaders – Putin, Lavrov, Peskov, Zakharova

  • Key leaders disappear for one to three days, spokesperson blames holidays, vacation
  • Statements and speeches increasingly include “provocation”
  • “Russia is the victim” – mostly in Russian, “protect Russians”
  • “Western aggression”
  • “This cannot stand”, “we must respond”, “we have no choice”
  • “Directed by the US”, “US puppet”, “US stooge”
  • “NATO puppet”, “pushed by NATO”
  • “British puppet”

Russian Duma and Russian Representatives – Lawfare

  • Russian Duma members huge increase in inflammatory statements
  • Members push laws restricting and censuring Ukrainian leaders, government, soldiers, sailors, and citizens
  • ‘Vast Western conspiracy’
  • Russian representatives to NATO, EU, UN, and Interpol call for legal action to be taken against Ukraine
  • Russian Ambassadors, worldwide, issue statements damning Ukraine.
  • All official social media accounts call for Ukraine war crimes to be held accountable

Russia media, Russian proxies, pro-Russian sites – Vladislav Surkov, Dmitry Kiselyov 

  • Strategic pause in the one to two weeks prior
  • A vast increase in inflammatory statements without evidence
  • Widespread accusations of Ukraine “fascists”, “Nazi”, and “Banderites”
  • Previous statements without evidence are cited as accepted background
  • Heavy use of “It is well documented”, whereas there is none
  • Rumors spread of Azov Battalion “nazi” activities, including staged and fake photos and videos

Russian military – Shoigu

  • Open source reporting of very senior military commanders arriving
  • Large Russian cargo vessels capable of delivering T-80 tanks arrive in Crimea
  • Open source reporting of train convoys of T-80 tanks – perhaps one week prior or even simultaneous to T-62 and T-64 assaults
  • Spetsnaz teams detected in unoccupied Donbas, Crimean border areas, key bridges across Dnieper River, near airports
  • Russian T-62 and T-64 tanks cross Ukraine border en masse along key corridors

Cyber – GRU

  • Increased probing of Ukraine infrastructure
  • Increased phishing attacks on Ukraine infrastructure
  • Increased cyber attacks on Ukraine infrastructure

Drones – GRU

  • Increased sightings of drones near ammunition and explosive depots
  • Increased sightings of drones near key bridges across the Dnieper River
  • Increased sightings of drones near airports East of the Dnieper and near Kyiv

Unconventional warfare – GRU Spetsnaz

  • Sleeper nets activated
  • Low-level attacks on key installations, concentrating on ammunition and explosive depots
  • Low-level attacks on bridges crossing Dnieper river
  • Low-level attacks on airports and rail installations in Ukraine

Social Media – Russian Troll Farm

  • Large increase in Tweets blaming Ukraine for “war crimes” after CW attack by Russian trolls
  • Large increase in Russian trolls on Facebook blaming “war crimes”
  • Large increase in echo attacks, posting and amplifying links to anti-Ukraine articles on all social media sites

Russia is portraying the threat of a Ukrainian invasion, that is the picture they want to show to Ukraine while simultaneously looking peaceful to the rest of the world. Perhaps the threat of an invasion is intended to cause overwhelming anxiety inside Ukraine, perhaps it is intended to undermine the position of President Poroshenko’s reelection bid in March 2019, or perhaps it is intended to make Ukraine maintain a high state of readiness for too long and burn out Ukraine.

If Russia intends to use the holidays and the US government shutdown as strategic cover, the attack will launch within one week.  If not, we may see interminable delays.

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