The Kremlin was so confident of victory in Ukraine that a senior Russian official had selected a bloc in Kyiv even before the war began, intelligence agencies have reportedly revealed.
In February, before Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine, Moscow leaders assumed the war would be short and easy, according to The Washington Post.
Among them was Igor Kovalenko, a senior FSB official who had been conducting spies in Ukraine. According to wiretaps by the Ukrainian secret service and his Western colleagues, Kovalenko had his eye on an apartment in Kyiv and asked an FSB subordinate for the contact information of the informant living there.
Ukrainian intelligence said the informant admitted he received instructions to leave the city in the days leading up to the war – and to leave his keys behind so the Russians could use his apartment overlooking the Dnieper.
In fact, the Russians were so confident that they would occupy Kyiv that they issued similar instructions to informants and moles throughout the Ukrainian capital, and prepared a network of safehouses for agents and quarters for officers.
But Russian soldiers have yet to enter Kyiv.
A little over a month into the invasion, Russian forces, deadlocked around the capital and unable to encircle it, retreated hastily.
Russian propaganda back then played off the Kyiv move as a sham, putting Ukraine on the back burner to pursue its real target — the eastern industrial region known as Donbass, where Russian troops are now stranded.
However, the intercepted messages not only show that Russia intended to take the capital and “decapitate” the Ukrainian government by deposing its leadership – a goal long reported by Ukrainian and Western intelligence agencies; the intercepts show the Russians thought it would be easy.
“They expected someone to open the gate,” a senior Ukrainian official told the Washington Post. “You didn’t expect any resistance.”