The pictures shared exclusively with The Daily Beast show members of a crack anti-terrorist unit known as the Alfa Team in the courtyard of the headquarters of Ukraine’s feared state security service, the SBU, preparing themselves for battle. The agency’s seven-story headquarters occupies an entire city block and is just three streets from the Maidan.
The SBU is the successor intelligence agency to the Ukrainian branch of the Soviet-era KGB and it still maintains exceptionally close ties to Moscow. For many years “leading SBU functionaries came from the KGB,” says Boris Volodarsky, a former Russian military intelligence officer and author of the book The KGB’s Poison Factory. He says Russia’s intelligence service, now known as the FSB, has made sure over the years to maintain deep penetration of its Ukrainian counterpart and to ensure that its “agents and associates remain in place.” That was easily done during thepresidency of the pro-Russian Yanukovych.