MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will return three captured naval ships to Ukraine on Monday and is moving them to a handover location agreed with Kiev, Crimea's border guard service was cited as saying by Russian news agencies on Sunday.

A Reuters reporter in Crimea, which Russian annexed from Ukraine in 2014, earlier on Sunday saw coastguard boats pulling the three vessels through the Kerch Strait toward the Black Sea where they could potentially be handed over to Ukraine.

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Revelations of an alleged Russian intelligence operation to murder opponents and spread chaos across the European Union were met with a mix of wonder and derision in the intelligence community. Russia's decision to return to formalized violent operations in the West has "proven they can get to anyone," a source told Insider. But in many cases, the Russians' sloppy tradecraft has meant their "secret" operations are almost immediately noticed.

Two current European intelligence officials described the scoop by the New York Times about a unit of Russian military intelligence, commonly called the GRU, tasked with murdering Russia's enemies in Europe and helping sow political and military chaos, as "credible." It's "confirmation of something we have long suspected: There is a plan," one told Insider.

The New York Times piece, which ran Tuesday, used a mix of open-source documentation and intelligence gathered across Europe in the wake of half a dozen killings to determine that many of the international incidents involving Russia involve "Unit 29155" of the GRU, a previously unknown unit. It appears to be specifically tasked with irregular operations directed at Europe, including a failed coup in Montenegro and the attempted poisonings of an arms dealer in Bulgaria and a GRU defector in Salisbury, England.

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Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

MOSCOW/KIEV (Reuters) - Russia and Ukraine swapped dozens of prisoners on Saturday in a carefully-negotiated rapprochement that brought Western praise and could thaw a freeze in relations since Moscow's annexation of the Crimea region in 2014.

While the exchange of 35 prisoners on each side could help rebuild confidence between Moscow and Kiev and allow them to start talking seriously over other issues including a conflict in east Ukraine, full normalization is a long way off.

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Footage released as part of a documentary about life aboard a British warship shows an incident in which 17 Russian warplanes swarmed the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan as it sailed near Crimea in the Black Sea earlier this year.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin would never invade western Europe.

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In 2014, Russia was on its way to filling a major capacity gap that emerged during the 2008 Russo-Georgia conflict; namely, a significant lack of amphibious assault capability.

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