Ukrainian officials have taken credit for a car bomb that killed a Russian-backed politician Wednesday, calling the act retribution.
Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense wrote on Telegram that “traitors to Ukraine and collaborators with terrorist Russia in temporarily occupied territories … will receive just retribution! The hunt continues!”
Andriy Cherniak of Ukraine’s Military Intelligence Directorate told Politico, “It was our operation.”
Telegram claimed that the members of the resistance on the occupied territories had helped kill Luhansk legislator Mikhail Filiponenko. Filiponenko survived an earlier car bombing, just days before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Filiponenko formerly led Moscow-backed separatist troops in Luhansk and represented the group in the cease-fire monitoring center in the region before the start of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion last year, Radio Free Europe reported.
The Directorate accused Filiponenko of participating in and organizing torture against civilians and prisoners of war, and called him “the Executioner.”
Rebekah Koffler, president of Doctrine and Strategy Consulting, and a former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer, said that Ukraine has turned to “targeted murders” because it failed to achieve the anticipated gains from its counteroffensive this year.
Koffler explained that “it’s a form of irregular warfare used by modern military forces when they cannot produce a clear victory using conventional approaches.”
This type of warfare is fought largely in shadows and involves the planned assassination by a government — its special forces — of specific individuals who belong to an opposing force, with the aim to gradually degrade, demoralize, and dissuade them,” she said. Its special forces assassinate specific members of the opposition forces in order to demoralize and gradually weaken them.
She added that “while this new strategy will not achieve Ukraine’s ultimate objective of driving Russian forces out of occupied territory, it will bring the Russia-Ukraine Conflict into a different state — a low intensity, prolonged phase which will turn it into a “frozen” conflict.”
The Moscow Times reported that since the Russian invasion began in February 2022 several “high-profile backers” have been attacked, but Ukraine rarely claims direct involvement.
Insiders have expressed concern that the shift from a full-scale offensive against Russia to targeted killings may indicate a lack of focus.
The Economist reported that a source with the Ukrainian domestic security agency, SBU, said the approach was “uncomfortable”, as the targets were “marginal figures.”
A former SBU officer from the fifth directorate told the outlet that some assassinations are carried out to impress Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He joked, “Clowns and prostitutes are always around the Russian government.”
He argued that if you kill one, another will take its place.