A seismic strategical effort from international intelligence agencies will use disinformation, subversion and stealth convoys in the night to protect Western tank shipments from a Russian attack, Ukrainian officials claim.
After weeks of diplomatic deadlock with NATO members, Ukraine will receive a game-changing delivery of advanced battle tanks to aid the country’s war against Russian troops.
The UK will send 14 Challenger 2 tanks, which are expected to be delivered by the Spring, while the US is sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks, and Germany is delivering 14 leopard 2 tanks.
The UK was the first to pledge tanks after the recent appeal by Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky. The Prime Minister called the US and Germany’s decision to follow suit “the right decision by Nato allies and friends”.
“Alongside Challenger 2s, they will strengthen Ukraine’s defensive firepower. Together, we are accelerating our efforts to ensure Ukraine wins this war and secures a lasting peace,” he said.
Poland has also submitted a request to Berlin to send some of its Leopard 2s to Ukraine, which will now be approved. The German-made Leopard 2 is one of the most widely used tanks across Europe and Germany must approve any decision to re-export the tanks to Ukraine from other countries.
The delivery is a key target for Russian attack and Ukrainian officials now face a huge pressing challenge: Delivering the tanks to the front line safely.
Multiple Ukrainian officials have said that analysts from across the globe are working collectively on plans to discretely deliver the tanks in a way that will avoid a Russian attack.
“We are talking about a significant increase in intelligence and counterintelligence activities,” A senior Ukrainian intelligence official told i. “The task of transportation will be taken over by military intelligence agencies and foreign planning centers from foreign institutions.”
The process of delivering weaponry to the front lines of the war has been shrouded in secrecy for obvious reasons, and the latest delivery of tanks is no different. Concerns that Russia will target roads, railways and popular transport routes as tanks are sent to front lines in eastern and southern Ukraine has required officials to use disinformation and subversion to deliver stealth convoys in the night.
The senior Ukrainian intelligence official gave an insight into the playbook of delivery, without giving away specifics. They said the groundwork for a campaign of deception around the delivery is underway.
He told i: “It starts with the launch of disinformation about the supply routes, with the use of mock-ups of tanks and creating the appearance of rotation of equipment at the front, and a further increase in the mobility of armoured units in the area of active hostilities.”
Western forces will not deliver the tanks into conflict zones in Ukraine, in fear of escalating tensions between Russia and the West. Instead, Ukrainian troops must retrieve the weapons from depots in NATO territory.
Mykola Volkivskyi, president of the First International Ukrainian Foundation of Development and former adviser to the chairman of the Rada Parliament of Ukraine, said Russia will track the tanks delivery into Eastern Europe and map out potential routes into the conflict.
“Tanks will assemble and gradually prepare for crossing the border on the territory of Poland, he told i. “Before this, dozens of units will be transferred to warehouses and military bases in Eastern Europe.”
Volkivskyi told i that military intelligence officials would “take over” the planning and begin a two-pronged attack combining the “art of deception” and using older equipment as “bait” while providing significant air cover.
He told i: “We see that for the first time Western air defence systems on NATO territory can be used to cover the skies of Ukraine if there is a risk of missiles hitting the territory of NATO countries.
We can talk about the strengthening of security measures in the border areas of Poland, where the country is preparing for a potential significant provocation.”
Last week, former senior British Army officers warned the Russian military will look to target the tank delivery from Germany before it reaches the front line.
Roland Dangerfield, a former British Army Major and Challenger 2 tank squadron leader, warned that the delivery into Ukraine would be a “strategic and operational challenge” as a convoy of any Western manufactured tanks poses an “exciting target” for Russian forces.
He told i: “They will probably be transported on trains as far as they can go, maybe as far as the Ukrainian border, and then they’ll go on the back of transporters from there.
“Even a tank convoy on the back of transporters will be quite an interesting and exciting target for the Russians,” he said, adding: “Destroying the tanks before they get to the front line is going to be their best chance of success and a major propaganda victory.”
Russia is not known to have successfully struck a large convoy of Western weapons being shipped into Ukraine, and military experts said Ukraine has “proved brilliant” at deceiving their enemy.
A former commanding officer in the British Army’s tank regiment and weapons expert Hamish de Bretton-Gordon said to expect “a lot of misinformation and deception” on the delivery of tanks.
“Ukraine is brilliant at operational security,” he said. Adding, “there will also be a lot of physical security to prevent sabotage and I think NATO and Ukraine will get them delivered without too much trouble.”
A second Ukrainian intelligence official said Russia don’t have the “capabilities for long-range strikes against moving targets”, and intelligence chiefs are looking to “use that information to their advantage.”
The intelligence official told i: “The accuracy of even their best missiles is questionable,” adding: “Their missiles require long preprogramming, so they’re incapable of, let’s say, hitting a convoy from Poland.”
The Ukrainian intelligence official said Russia will “likely try to target convoys” in the East and South of the country.
“The operational security and logistical strategy of our forces were successful with MLRS, howitzers and other valuable pieces of equipment,” he said. “Why shouldn’t it be the case again?”