Information Troops of Ukraine: Structure, Composition, Activities

The mechanism of sabotage and psychological warfare

It is no secret that Ukraine, with direct US support and funding, is waging an active information war against Donbass. On its part, Donbass fights and is quite effective, although the forces, to put it mildly, are not equal. Over the years open sources have been able to collect data and analyse information received about the forces, means, and methods of Ukraine’s information warfare.

As of December 2019, a network of information and psychological operations centers (hereinafter IPOCs) supervised by US intelligence agencies has been established on the territory of Ukraine. Ukrainian IPOCs use their own and obtained media and Internet resources.

The main tasks of Ukrainian IPOCs are:

  • Reconnaissance/subversive activities;
  • Counter-intelligence actions;
  • Identification of potential opponents inside Ukraine through an inventory of the computer network of regional ISPs;
  • Precautionary and preventive activities designed to misinform the population;
  • Informational terrorism;
  • “Leaking” specific information;
  • Demoralisation of the civilian population and military personnel of Donbass;
  • Carrying out and supporting informational special operations;
  • Forming public opinion;
  • Creating and publishing “fake” information, photo/video materials.

Resources of Ukrainian IPOCs centers

In addition to official Ukrainian media, under the leadership of Ukrainian IPOCs forces there are several thousand resources on the Internet – information and news websites, “public pages” on social networks, and coordinated groups of social media users. Ukrainian IPSOs also interact with opposition resources in the Russian Federation and operate from their positions in Donbass. Also, with the support of foreign intelligence agencies, Ukrainian IPOCs forces use Western media.

Structure of Ukrainian IPOCs centres

The standard structure of Ukrainian IPOCs centers includes:

  • Analytical department;
  • Monitoring and Special Actions Department (as part of the Information Support Group and Special Actions Group);
  • Print Propaganda Department;
  • Information and Computer Technology Department;
  • Telecommunication networks Department.

IPOCs centers within Ukraine’s security forces

As part of the security forces of Ukraine, IPOCs centres exist in the following departments:

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The Special Operations Forces (SOF);

  • Within the framework of the press service of UAF brigades – units of the Ministry of Defence Ground Forces as part of the group of forces of the Operation of United Forces;
  • As a part of the Security Service of Ukraine.

IPOCs centres within the Special Operations Forces

The Special Operations Forces (SOF) has 4 IPOCs centres:

  • 16th IPOCs Center (А1182, Guiva, Zhytomyr region);
  • 72nd IPOCs Center (А4398, Brovary, Kiev region);
  • 74th IPOCs Center (А1277, Lvov);
  • 83rd IPOCs Center (А2455, Odessa).

At the same time, the number of personnel of the 72nd IPOCs is 146, all are officers of the junior and senior command personnel. Taking into account the salary of a UAF officer as of 2019 in the amount of 11,700 hryvnia (Lieutenant) and 15,600 hryvnia (Colonel), the expenses for the maintenance of the 72nd IPOCs amount to 1,708,200-2,277,600 hryvnia (or on average about 2 million hryvnia) per month.

Also, on the Internet members of hacker groups published data about the number of command personnel of the 74th IPOCs in the number of 14 and 22 commanders of units. Based on the standard organisational and staff structure of UAF military units, the number of personnel of the 74th IPOCs is also expected to be 140-150.

Data about the number of personnel of the 16th and 83rd IPOCs were not publicly available, but given the similar amount of work with the 74th and 72nd IPOCs, the number of these centers is also 140-150 in each.

Thus, the total number of employees of IPOCs centers in the Special Operations Forces of Ukraine is 560-600 people, the monetary content of which is no less than 7 million hryvnia per month.

In addition, during the period 2017-2019 a large number of applications from the aforementioned IPOCs with amounts for certain types of works were found on the Ukrainian “Prozorro” website of state tender procurement.

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For example, in 2017:

  • А4398 (72nd IPOCs) placed 25 applications in the amount of 8,968,000 hryvnia;
  • А1277 (74th IPOCs) placed 6 applications in the amount of 752,000 hryvnia;
  • А2455 (83rd IPOCs) placed 6 applications for the amount of 663,000 hryvnia.

I.e. In the past year alone, in addition to the salary of employees, the additional funding of IPOCs for awareness-raising activities (ARA) amounted to 10,383,000 hryvnia.

IPOCs centers within the Security Service of Ukraine

As a part of the SBU, IPOCs centres exist on the basis of:

  • Department for Counter-Intelligence (DCI);
  • Department for Operational and Technical Activities (DOTA);
  • Department for the Protection of National Statehood;
  • Department for Special Communication (DSC).

Within the structure of the SBU, informational actions on their territory and others are carried out by all existing operational units. In particular, in the structure of the SBU’s Department for the Protection of National Statehood, the functions of IPOCs are performed by:

  • Department of Counter-Intelligence for the Protection of the National Information Sphere;
  • Office of Electoral Security.

The SBU’s Department for the Protection of National Statehood includes the main departments under the regional SBU and the sectors under the inter-district departments. The structure of the Central Directorate of the SBU also has a specialised IPOCs division.

Also, after analysing open source information it became known that the employees of the IPOCs of the SBU’s Department for Counterintelligence closely interacts with the 8th regiment of special purpose of the Chief Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine. At the same time, a special department has been established in the SBU that is directly engaged in the organisation of sabotage-terrorist activities on the territory of the Republics – headed by the head of the SBU’s Department of Counterintelligence Colonel Anatoly Viktorovich Sandursky (call sign “Khutor”). At present, a consolidated unit of the 8th Regiment of Special Forces of 130-150 people has been deployed in Starobelsk, Lugansk Region, which also makes it possible to draw estimated conclusions concerning the amount of financing for this unit.

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Members of the SBU actively involve members of the hacker community who are agents of the SBU (volunteers and those recruited as a result of the discovery of their crimes). All SBU activities are directly supervised by US CIA personnel.

IPOCs centres within the Operation of United Forces

At present, the following units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are involved in the group of the Operation of United Forces in Donbass:

  • 20 brigades of the Ground Forces;
  • 3 units of the Navy;
  • 1 Air Force Brigade;
  • 3 special-purpose regiments of the General Directorate of Intelligence.

At the same time, the Operation of United Forces HQ itself and every UAF brigade has its own press service in the total number of 27 IPOCs units.

IPOCs centers in other Ukrainian departments and organisations

According to the information obtained from the analysis of open sources, IPOCs divisions and similar structures are also present in the following Ukrainian departments:

  • State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine;
  • CERT-UA (Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine);
  • Ministry of Information Policy;
  • Ministry of the Interior.

The CERT-UA (Joint Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine), a specialised structural division of the State Center for Cyber Defence and Countering Cyber Threats of the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine, deserves special interest. CERT-UA is accredited to FIRST (Forum for Incident Response and Security Teams). As of 2017, membership in FIRST as a part of countering cyber threats at the international level has already provided an opportunity to interact promptly with 307 Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERT) from 67 countries around the world.

Daniil Bezsonov

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