How the Russian servicemen who fired the pilot missile were identified

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, hundreds of Russian missiles have landed on Ukrainian soil, including on civilian buildings, injuring scores of people. But who are the men and women in charge of preparing these devastating strikes remotely from Russia? That’s the question the investigative media has asked themselves. The Bellingcat website (Link in English)The independent Russian media The Insider and the German weekly Der Spiegel The results of the six-month investigation were published on Monday 24 October. By cross-checking phone data, Russian military academies are accessible Open source (free on the Internet) or by searching social networks, they were able to reconstruct the organizational chart of a unit responsible for launching missiles within the Russian military.

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Behind some of these attacks is a secret group of about 30 people, whom Bellingate claims to have identified. All have a university or professional background in missile programming. They are based in Moscow and St. Petersburg at the main computer center of the Russian General Staff, known by the acronym GVC. Eliot Higgins, founder of investigative media outlet Bellingate, shared the identities of these players on Twitter.

The unit is mainly composed of young men and women, engineers or computer scientists. “Most are in their twenties, the youngest four are just 24.”, Details Bellingcat. Among them, even a married couple has been identified. All are military trained. Some took part in the war in Syria, where Russia militarily supported Bashar al-Assad’s regime between 2016 and 2021. One of them was spotted in January 2021 at a command center set up by Russia in Damascus. In the background of a photograph There, Russian President Vladimir Putin shook hands with his Syrian counterpart. One of them is A “Certificate of Appreciation” From Vladimir Putin in 2020, according to his CV published online.

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“Unlike their military counterparts, most of whom have put themselves in danger near the front lines, these young men work in secure command centers in Moscow and St. Petersburg, yet they continue their lives unscathed by this war. Play an important role”Bellingcat points out.

To find the profiles, the journalists first analyzed data from Russian military academies. They also turned to Russia’s black market to sell data.who helped journalists and activists carry out several investigations into the country’s military and secret services”, Bellingade explains. Through this, the site claims to have traced graduates claiming to work at GVC and recovered data related to their phone numbers.

The phone data shows several calls made in the hours before the Russian missile was launched. This is particularly the case of a line attributed to a Russian officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Igor Bagniuk. A member of GVC contacted by journalists sent them a photo of the latter, which Bellingcat’s founder shared on Twitter.

Journalists contacted all the young players they identified. On the phone, some hung up on the spot. Others confirmed their identities but denied working for the Russian military, even when reporters sent pictures of themselves in uniform. One says he is a freelance plumber, another a bus driver, and a third works as a florist. Investigators found profiles of these people on social networks, especially VK, the Russian equivalent of Facebook.

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Christo Grosev, the author of the Bellingate article, describes his very brief exchange with one of the members of this secretive group on Twitter. “I asked him what he was doing. I asked him what he was doing. He replied, “Be professional, ask me a professional question.” I asked him why they killed so many civilians. He wrote: ‘You know I can. Don’t answer that question.’

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