U.S. officials: Ukrainian rebel ‘defense minister’ is Russian GRU officer

U.S. officials: Ukrainian rebel ‘defense minister’ is Russian GRU officer

[Ed. – Oh, now, there’s a @#$%-ing surprise, to quote Vinny Gambini.]

A key figure in covert Russian efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine is working for Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, according to U.S. officials.

Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin, who is currently using the nom de guerreIgor Strelkov, has identified himself in press reports as “defense minister” of the self-proclaimed, pro-Russian “Donetsk People’s Republic. This week he called for Russia to send military aid to rebels in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. officials said Strelkov is considered a leading pro-Russian rebel who is undermining stability as part of a major Russian covert action program in Ukraine.

Officials said Girkin is a GRU colonel who was first identified by the Ukrainian SBU intelligence service. Girkin traveled to the Crimea in February and traveled to Donetsk in April. While in the Crimea was a military adviser to Sergei Aksenov, the current head of Russian-occupied Crimea.

He is also a close aide to the so-called Donetsk prime minister, Alexander Borodai, who is also a Russian. Borodai also worked with Aksenov in Crimea, an indication the Russians may be planning a similar annexation in the Donetsk region.

Girkin and Borodai were employed by a Moscow investment firm called Marshall Capital. That company is owned by Konstantin Valeryevich Malofeyev, who has been linked to funding of pro-Russian separatist activities in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

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