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THE CIA is training Ukrainian special forces and intelligence services as part of preparations for a potential armed insurgency, according to five former intelligence and national security officials.
The secretive programme is based at an undisclosed location in the southern United States, the officials claimed.
It is run by paramilitaries from the CIA ground branch, part of the agency’s special activities division, and could play a crucial role as tensions mount on Ukraine’s eastern border.
“The United States is training an insurgency,” a former CIA official said, adding that the Ukrainians had been taught how to “kill Russians.”
The programme, which has expanded under President Joe Biden, includes training in firearms, camouflage techniques, land navigation, tactics such as “cover and move,” intelligence and other subjects, according to former officials.
Washington has continued to deny that its operations are offensive.
“The purpose of the training, and the training that was delivered, was to assist in the collection of intelligence,” a current senior intelligence official said.
But another former official conceded that the training was “going to start looking pretty offensive if Russians invade Ukraine.”
US spooks have denied the allegations.
“Suggestions that we have trained an armed insurgency in Ukraine are simply false,” CIA spokeswoman Tammy Thorp said.
The training of Ukrainian special forces was established by Barack Obama’s administration after Russia’s annexation of Crimea following the fascist-backed coup in Kiev in 2014.
By 2015, CIA paramilitaries were travelling to the front line in eastern Ukraine to support their counterparts there as part of wider anti-Russian operations.
The Biden administration has established a task force to determine the US response if the situation in Ukraine deteriorates further.
“If the Russians invade, those [graduates of the CIA programmes] are going to be your militia, your insurgent leaders,” said a former senior intelligence official.
“We’ve been training these guys now for eight years. They’re really good fighters. That’s where the agency’s programme could have a serious impact.”
Washington has ratcheted up tensions in the region, mobilising warships to the Black Sea and leading Nato’s eastward expansion to Ukraine’s border with Russia.
It has also increased military funding to Kiev and has refused to rule out Ukrainian requests to join Nato, a red line for Russia and a breach of previous US promises.
Security talks between Moscow and Washington on the situation in Ukraine took place in Geneva earlier this week, but they failed to make any progress.
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