a new book on hybrid war by Alex Alvarova

Chapter 2 — Samples

Moscow, 1996

In a huge building on Znamenka 14/1 Street, a building built in the Supreme Soviet brutalist style, a strictly secret meeting of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the possibility of changes in Russian military doctrine was taking place.

General Viktor Nikolayevich Samsonov, Chief of the General Staff, was just closing a lecture on the prospects for a new, revolutionary method of warfare.

“The new means of non-military warfare, in which we have built a decent base since the 1980s, together with the emphasis on the means of information warfare, will allow us to intervene in the enemy’s strategic means of communication, to limit its ability to make the right decisions. Am I making myself clear? By this I mean, above all, to disorganize the system of state administration and to undermine the mentality, opinions and moral spirit of the population. Any questions?“

Samsonov received short, lukewarm applause. Gold curtains with a red rim hung motionless, a sleepy silence in the room. Two lazy flies on a polished mahogany table.

One of the generals suddenly realized with displeasure that the legs of the seated colleague stank. Therefore, he tried to gently turn his head away from the smell. Unfortunately, he had to turn it to the commander. General Samsonov interpreted his gaze and gesture as an application for discussion.

“Please have a word, Nikolai Vasilyevich. ”

The disgusted general had to slap something willy-nilly without preparation. “This is nice, but it’s a theory. It does not solve our urgent need to modernize missiles and tank capacity. We’re at the bottom with priorities. “

A hand rose at the end of the table. There was a young addition to the General Staff. He was chosen by Prime Minister Chernomyrdin himself on the recommendation of a former KGB officer, an adviser to the mayor of St. Petersburg. The young man’s name was still forgotten by the generals. He was a greenhorn. His name was Valeriy Gerasimov.

General Samsonov nodded kindly to the young man. “Please, Valeriy.”

“General, I don’t think we have anything left in view of the current forecast of our economy and world oil prices. Upgrading tanks will still be useless if we do not equalize the offensive capacity on another, unexpected field.

So far, the West thinks we are in disarray. Let’s start with the implementation of this new concept and leave them in the assumption that we don’t have tanks. We’ll buy time. We need to restore capacity in behavioral psychology, information technology and active measures. “

Young Gerasimov earned a commendable look from his superior. “The boy has potential,” Samsonov thought, “he is not afraid and understands the new era. I wish there was another one among those nincompoops. Young people need to be given more opportunities. “

Prague, Czech Republic, 1996

The Pigeons restaurant in Prague’s Smíchov has never been a luxury affair. It attracted mainly local wealthy owners of taxi gangs, but also civil servants from the surrounding authorities. Taxi drivers shamelessly robbed tourists who were heading to the most beautiful city in Europe from the airport and did not know the local prices or the exchange rate of the Czech crown.

The bosses had to pay tithes to the local Russian mafia, which in turn provided them with luxurious protection in the form of deaf and blind magistrates. They granted the license to anyone who paid regularly, and never saw a reason to withdraw it.

If tourists were so blatantly robbed that it had to be dealt with by the police, and some official showed signs of gaining sight or hearing under the influence of conscience, he met a bunch of drunken hooligans on the way home from work and calmed down again. After all, officials had superior politicians and they were part of the system. After four years of the election period, the least successful of them usually bought strangely cheap building plots outside Prague and received a brand new Mercedes, whose perfect papers and new paint did not indicate their origin.

The more successful ones ended up on the boards of directors of huge companies with unclear activities and origins. Borya Kustić, the capo di tutti capi of the Russian gangs in Eastern Europe, left nothing to chance. He hated coincidences.

Green awnings, on which a layer of dirty Smíchov ash clung, unwashed windows, the food not at exorbitant prices and inside a cozy Czech interior, benches and massive oak tables. The walls decorated with somewhat tasteless mirrors and advertisements for beer, not quite clean tablecloths and poured beer paper coasters made exactly the impression that ordinary Czechs like.

Plebeian-looking restaurants have the highest attendance of locals, and the Russian restaurant owner knew all this. His pub prospered. Not only thanks to lunches for employees of local companies and breakfast for taxi drivers but especially thanks to the night club in the basement, where in the evening, in addition to prostitutes, unregistered weapons from the newly ended war in the Balkans could be ordered.

It was Saturday, the day when the restaurant has the biggest turnover in the evening. From the morning, however, the sign “Closed today due to a corporate event” hung on the door.

Two waiters took turns in front of the locked entrance, smoking and looking for food vans; they showed them the way to the back street, where they could be construed closer to the kitchen. In addition to the green aprons with the inscription Pigeons and the extraordinary height, their faces also attracted attention.

Czechs tend to be non-combative, and men in their forties often get a face here, which, due to its roundness and absence of facial features, cannot be described well enough other than with the word melted.

You would never say that about two men in an apron. The sharply cut, slightly scarred faces of two veterans of the war in Afghanistan were an unmissable cognitive signal for experienced Czech criminal investigators.

In the opposite building in the attic, a special rapid response unit of the Czech police, URNA, has set up its observation post. There was also an American on the spot with them, with whom the police officers spoke bad English.

It was the FBI which asked the Czechs to cooperate in breaking up the network of Russian mafias, which were beginning to gain too much influence in Miami and New York and grow their intelligence over their heads with local law enforcement officers.

+++

Attention!” commanded the head of the unit, David Drábek, and everyone stopped joking and fell silent. Two binoculars appeared in the half-open windows, one “long glass” camera and a directional microphone.

In the meantime, a white car with the words Framing of Mirrors arrived on the sidewalk below. But no one got out of it. Upstairs in the observation apartment, they caught the driver speaking in muted Russian to the waiters, who showed him the way back. The van went around the block, where two more people were already waiting. They helped open the car door and the door to the restaurant.

Within two minutes, a scene resembling an evacuation from a burning house appeared briefly. A man with a shaved skull and elaborate biceps’s jumped out of the van. He opened the door wide and shouted, “Move!Now!”

Quite brutally, he began to pull young women dressed in mismatched coats out of the car. Beneath them, the girls had only a little lace and garters, and in the unheated van, the cold broke with them. They moved at an incredible speed from the van under the roof and into the door so that the time spent on the street was as short as possible.

In the next window, this time in the back block, in the part of the gas company’s office building, not a single movement escaped the observers. The second part of the group, led by Deputy Commander Petr Kolář, was stationed here and watched the back entrance. “The whores have arrived,” the Czech police officer told his American counterpart. The FBI officer laughed contentedly and took his binoculars. He did not fly to Prague in vain. It looks like a success. They were waiting for the evening.

+++

The door flew open in the ladies’ toilet in the basement bar. It was just before ten. A scantily-clad girl burst in. More precisely, undressed. She ran to the sink, spat out everything in her mouth, and tried to vomit. Then she stuck her finger in her throat. She was shaking all over.

Oksana adjusted her smudged lipstick by the mirror and slowly approached. “Are you okay?” she asked.

The girl did not answer. She seemed to be crying with her face was under a stream of water. She swallowed in large sips and mumbled something.

Oksana waited for Lilya to undergo a bout of vomiting and to stop the water. She wiped her face lovingly and hugged her. The girl sobbed and jerked like a broken machine. Even in the embrace, Oksana felt Lilya terribly thin. She doesn’t eat, of course, she thought.

“It will be okay. You won’t even feel it soon… ”she repeated mechanically, not letting Lilya out of her arms. She was worried about her. Lilia was from Ukraine like Oksana herself. But this girl came from a small Carpathian village called Lavochne. She never knew anything but a few neighbours, a church and a field behind a cottage.

“I want to die,” Lilya said suddenly, completely emotionless. She stopped crying and watched her swollen face in the mirror.

“You have to learn the blow job, or they’ll kill you.” It was an ice-cold, bare truth. Lilya knew that. But she kept repeating “I want to die.”

Oksana was glad that Lilya was no longer crying. She always cried for so long. That is, until red spots jumped on her face, which could not be covered with make-up or effectively powdered. She poured some white powder on the mirror and cut it with a comb. She handed Lilya a tube. “Hey, take mine, it will put you on your feet.”

Lilia pulled the powder into her nose. “Thank you,” she said softly.

“Ready?” Oksana asked quietly.

The girl nodded mechanically.

She tried to smile and, before leaving the toilet, powdered her face with a thick layer of cheap face powder.

“Where have you been for so long?” One of the waiters snapped at them. “Sergei is looking for you.” Oksana strode briskly in the direction of one of the most powerful bosses of the Russian mafia in Europe — Sergei Kravchuk, nicknamed Sarge.

He was halfway there, stuffing sushi. She blocked his view of the incoming Liliya. The Russian girl pop duo TATU shouted loudly from the speakers: Nas nedogonyat, nas nedogonyat! They won’t catch us! They won’t catch us…

“Sarge is my dearest man,” Oksana said affectionately so that everyone could hear, licking her damp open mouth with the tip of her tongue and reaching into his crotch. The mobster forgot that he wanted to settle accounts with one naughty whore, narrowed his eyes with bliss, and poured himself champagne.

+++

Oksana was gifted at programming, so she was one of the first to be accepted for University in Kyiv. Just before entering the first year, she responded to an advertisement for female students who can pick summer apples in Germany for fifteen euros per hour. So much money!

At the same time, she completely overlooked the fact that the offer of manual work is addressed only to girls. As she boarded the bus, the tour manager took their passports. It is said that in order to show them quickly to Customs at the border, not to delay the trip.

They drove long and slowly. An old cowshed appeared on the horizon. They kicked them off the bus in the fields. They rushed into the cold dark barracks. After several hours of fear, quiet crying and waiting, the workers came from the near construction site. Girls were all raped and brutally beaten. Oksana’s roommate had two teeth knocked out and they broke her nose.

Then it was their guard’s turn. Three girls who had damaged faces were killed immediately, another two after two days of constant rape. They didn’t let them eat. They wanted to dull them and break them. After three days without sleep, with stinking uncles taking turns after hours, they all capitulated. Exhaustion, pain, and utter apathy flowed from the filthy faces of the former beauties.

The night after the third day, the head of the group came with a nicely dressed lady. They shone flashlights into their faces. The girls staggered to exhaustion, standing on their own two feet. Yevgenya, the director of several of Borya´s brothels, came shopping. She walked among the girls and watched.

“This one, this one too, this one, who set it up like that? I want this, give this to me. And let’s see, that’s a piece for me. What is your name?”

Instead of answering, Oksana spat in her face. One of the guards jumped up and was about to strike Oksana again, but Zhenya, as the mobsters called her, stopped him with a domineering gesture. “No. I like that. Give it to me too. “

Then she got into a black Mercedes and drove off.

They divided the group into two smaller ones. She travelled in a white van with five others, the other girls travelled to a worse fate than Oksana had expected.

All she could remember was being tied and stumbling at night, like a herd of cows. They were then taken to an inconspicuous small airport with a single runway and one “taxiway”, where they boarded a small Czech-made L 410 aircraft. Oksana knew it, his father had used it to fly to Odessa before he died. They got a drink and something to calm down. At the airport in the Czech Republic, in Ostrava-Mošnov, they unloaded them at the end of the runway and drove them into a white van in the dark. The next stop after a six-hour drive was a barracks with a desolate garden on the outskirts of Prague.

The lonely house stood in a completely ordinary homestead district, where people do not greet each other and do not know each other because old family houses are all rented to foreigners. This house stood firmly attached to the wall of an abandoned cemetery, and only a crooked rusty gate overgrown with ivy peered out into the street.

The repulsive impression from the outside was underlined by the ever-closing ochre blinds. The largest room in the middle had a walled window. The tenant was an anonymous limited liability company that paid in advance, so the owner allowed building modifications in the form of soundproof windows and doors plus walling the window in a large room.

The drugged girls literally fell on dirty mattresses and fell asleep.

The next day they got a decent meal for the first time. They ate the bowls as greedily as dogs. In the evening, the first shift awaited them in one of the brothels of the powerful mobster Boris Kustić, nicknamed Borya.

+++

The men on the fifth floor of the gas company’s offices announced the latest changes: “All foxes in the cage, we can start.” Deputy Commander Kolar nodded contentedly.

Captain David Drábek, meanwhile, moved into the car and motioned to the crew that everything was ready. They stood two blocks away in the yard behind a wooden gate. They drove quickly to both entrances and didn’t make much noise. It went all the way, like the wheels on a watch.

Two members of the strike team, who had the youngest bones and the fastest reactions, took care of both veterans from Afghanistan. In two minutes, everyone was inside. Drábek ordered the light to be turned off and night-vision goggles to be worn. Kolář led the second group at the front entrance. Guns barked for the first few minutes, but no one was killed. It was all over in twenty minutes.

Inside, they found around eighty men and about fifty girls. Men in bulletproof vests and balaclavas gradually led them out and stuffed them into ready police cars. Bosses and lower members of the Russian and Ukrainian mafias came out quietly, completely overwhelmed by the unexpected brutality which the Czech police allowed. One of the girls cried and begged the police in broken Czech to let her go home. The police officer from the strike team held her head from the emergency room so that she would not slam on the door of the police van. Another stoned hooker, he thought.

Drábek stood at the exit, watching each face carefully. Borya was not among them. He should have been here! It was after all his birthday party! The captain couldn’t believe it.

“Our boy didn’t show up,” he said into the walkie-talkie.

Policeman Petr Kolář was younger than Drábek, but he still knew what it meant. Someone is cracking. This doesn’t look good. For the first time in his life, he felt a real fear. Instinctive fear. He remembered the moment when the people of Kustić first contacted him a month ago. That’s when they wanted him to crack. But he sent them to hell.

Two hours later after the raid, the Czech public prosecutor picked up the phone. He dialled the number and said in a trembling voice, “Please…I swear, I had no idea about this. I don’t know how it could have been… ”He almost cried.

The voice at the other end said in Czech, but with a soft accent of the Carpathian meadows: “You know what to do. My man, aren’t you loyal?”

+++

It was after the raid. Borya sat contentedly in one of his restaurants just a few blocks away. He smoked and looked at the river. It was his last day in Prague. He’s flying to Miami tomorrow. The Italian mobsters kept their agreements: “You will give the FBI ten Ukrainian and Russian bigwigs in Prague, who will end up over our heads, and we will release to you a couple of territories in Manhattan and Miami for that.”

It was May and it was still long to see, even here, on the first floor of a luxury restaurant with a garden, overlooking the river and the majestic historic castle. He loved summer evenings by the Vltava River. He took advantage of the bright orange light of the setting sun outside and began rummaging through his bag. He inserted the sim card into the new Nokia 880 and dialed the number. There was a voice, speaking English.

“It’s over, you can leave.”

“Okay, but the young Czech policeman is somewhat half-witted. He received an offer a month ago. He doesn’t want to agree. Should I take care of him? ”

“No,” Borya says, and thinks. No, not the murder of a cop. That’s what the Italians in Florida taught him.

“Today they arrested our contact with the goods at the airport, put some of it in his suitcase, he serves for a few years for holding the coke,” he says later. “My prosecutor will take care of the restb, that’s exactly what I’m paying for.”

A voice on the American East Coast switched to Russian: „Ponyal. Poka.“ [Got it, bye bye]

Boris hung up, took out the sim card, and held it over the candle for a moment. When it twisted, he noticed a pair of blisters on his fingers. He didn’t feel anything. He hadn’t felt it in his fingers since he’d returned from the gulag. His own waiter watched him in amazement. Kustic took a used phone and a charred melted sim card and threw both into the ashtray.

The waiter took the ashtray and asked ”To the oven ?“

“Yes,“ replied Boris and laughed contentedly. This was his best year in business so far. And I’m still at the beginning, he thought.

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Research of Russian disinfo, seminar leader and public speaker. Author of books on Information Warfare. www.alvarova.com

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