Last week The New York Times revealed a top-secret elite unit inside the Russian intelligence system, known as Unit 29155, aimed at destabilizing European countries and even more.
Although the unit has been operating for at least a decade, Western security officials just put things together. They have found a link between Unit 29155, that is considered to be « a coordinated and ongoing campaign with the main purpose – to destabilize Europe », and following operations:
- destabilization campaign in Moldova;
- poisoning of an arms dealer in Bulgaria Emilian Gebrev;
- thwarted coup in Montenegro;
- attempt to assassinate a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Britain.
Unit 29155 is supposed to use hybrid warfare methods in its activities that consist of committing cyber attacks, spreading propaganda and disinformation, as well as open military confrontation.
However, this unit is not the only one carrying out such tasks.
A 2012 directive from the Russian Defense Ministry assigned bonuses to three units for « special achievements in military service ». One was Unit 29155. Another was Unit 74455, which was involved in the 2016 election interference. Unit 74455 is also linked to operations of disinformation, influence, and propaganda. The third one – Unit 99450 – whose officers are believed to have been involved in the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
There also exist Unit 26165 – named by US prosecutors as « GRU 85 Main Special Service Center ». It is believed to have run the hacking campaign to influence the 2016 US elections. According to Dutch and British authorities, the unit was also involved in attempts to hack the investigations into doping of Russian athletes and the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.
Despite the disclosure of such top-secret units, no one actually knows when and where they will strike again.