It is usual for the end of the year to draw conclusions, remember successes and pose new aims. InformNapalm community has decided to support this tradition and to draw conclusions of its activity during the year 2015.
“It is not gold, as is vulgarly supposed, that is the sinews of war, but good soldiers; or while gold by itself will not gain you good soldiers, good soldiers may readily get you gold”, – this phrase by Italian thinker, philosopher and writer Niccolo Machiavelli could be very well used to describe the work of the InformNapalm international volunteer community. Reconnaissance analysts and translators of the team have built a system of an effective informational struggle only having their enthusiasm as a motivation. Many government institutions could feel envious about this system, even though they have significant financial resources and authority. The whole last year InformNapalm was destroying our enemy with information, we were using only reliable evidence and structured information. Our team is like a college of bees, we all work hard for our common aim – a future victory over the aggressor.
That is why the main success of the 2015 was strengthening and enlarging of our resource, enlarging the number of its language editions, which are located in different places of the globe and which can successfully cooperate with each other, creating an effective informational product.
Each OSINT investigation by InformNapalm is a unique example of successful and hard work, but we would like just remember the most resonance events of the last year and reconstruct the chronology of our victories.
1) After the first Minsk agreements were signed in September of 2014, it was not possible to find a real information about the actual demarcation line in Donbas. But in December of 2014 our volunteers received an original digital copy of the map, which was owned by the closest company of the ‘LPR’ head Plotnitsky. On January 8, 2015, this map was published on InformNapalm’s website and became available for public download, study and analysis. The map also showed the parties, which approved this document. Plotnitsky himself together with the Ukrainian party of OSCE monitoring mission were among them. This map gave some information about real reasons for occupying these or that territories.
2) On February 19, 2015, InformNapalm volunteers collected and combined the data about the Russian military equipment and published this data in the form of infographics called “Top-10 Military Gadgets Involved in the Russian Aggression Against Ukraine”. This was the first attempt to inform the public about our own OSINT investigations aimed at identification of the heavy equipment, available to militants and provided by the Russian armed forces. This material was translated in 12 languages.
3) On March 11, 2015, InformNapalm volunteer analysts initiated a number of social events ‘Donbas Leaks’ in terms of which we organized a mass trolling of the terrorist forces through the social networks, what attracted attention of the OSCE mission to a number of objects, which could not be destroyed by the Ukrainian forces because of the ceasefire, but were still available to be monitored by the OSCE mission. Our actions caused some dismay of the combined Russian-separatist forces. During this flashmob our activists were spamming OSCE accounts with links to InformNapalm investigations, which showed exact coordinates of those military objects [1, 2, 3].
4) On April 17, 2015, InformNapalm published a material which could be treated as a foreboding. The publication called “Russian Is the Sponsor of International Terrorism: From ISIS to L(D)PR” presented some concrete examples of the connections between the Russian agents and ISIS terrorists, It was also informed that the Western security services did register a secret visit of one Russian high rank official to ISIS leaders in Iraq and Syria.
In the fall of 2015, under the guise of fight with ISIS terrorists, the Russian Federation started a genocide of the Syrian people. Hundreds of civilians were killed by the Russian bombs, meanwhile ISIS terrorists were away from zones of the Russian air strikes.
On April 27, 2015, InformNapalm’s volunteer who lived in the occupied territory conducted an OSINT investigation as a result of which he found a number of pictures, which showed a transfer of the ‘Buk’ anti-aircraft mount column towards the Ukrainian border. Those pictures were published by Dmitriy Zubkov, a conscript Russian serviceman, who served in the 147th automobile battalion of the Russian Ministry of Defense (military unit No. 83466). This transfer was carried on exactly 2 weeks prior to the tragedy of MH-17. The account of Dmitriy Zubkov was deleted soon after this publication, however, this information was preserved in archives and is still available.
The results of this investigation were also presented to the inquiry group of Netherlands police. On May 13, 2015, the information used in the InformNapalm publications was added to the report about MH17 tragedy and written by the British investigative group Bellingcat. Bellingcat’s analysts informed that they had found this information in social networks all by themselves.
5) On May 16, 2015, InformNapalm volunteers were the first to start a resonance in social networks, which made it impossible to quietly exchange the GRU special service soldiers. The information saying that two Russian special service soldiers were captured was received by InformNapalm editorial on May 16 at about 7 p.m. After the verification, this information was published on the InformaNapalm editor’s webpage – only 1 hour 44 minutes after it was received. It also included a call to the public to prevent the continuation of the quiet exchanges practice and to stop ignoring such issues. This information had a great social response and it lead to the press-conference devoted to the Russian servicemen and organized by the Ukrainian General Staff on May 18. Unfortunately, because of the passiveness of the official Kyiv, Ukraine failed to use this incident to attract attention of the international community and to dispel a number of the Russian myths. InformNapalm’s volunteers tried to cooperate with the Ukrainian armed forces, but faced lots of problems with bureaucratic machine, which did not want to work together in the same informational field.
The volunteers of InformNapalm conducted a number of monitoring and reconnaissance operations in social network profiles of the Russian special forces soldiers, whose last names were announced after the first interrogations – sergeant Aleksandrov and captain Yerofeyev, captured near the Shchastya settlement. Our volunteer analysts collected some information about the commander of the GRU unit, who lead the subversive group in Luhansk. His name is major Konstantin Napolskikh. Later we confirmed our assumption with our own sources in the Armed forces. We were informed that the information about the major Konstantin Napolskikh, who was in control of the GRU group in Luhansk, was true.
Moreover, during the OSINT investigations InformNapalm collected some information about the commander of the second squadron of the GRU special forces unit, first class private Ruslan Kutluakhmetov, whose last name was also told by captured soldiers during the interrogation.
6) In June 2015, InformNapalm community conducted a series of OSINT investigations, which helped define the location of a R-330Zh ‘Zhitel’ automated jamming station, determine which Russian anti-aircraft gunners were responsible for downing Ukrainian aircrafts in Donbas, establish the commercial reasons for which two brothers, employees of the Ukrainian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) fled to LPR and calculate the estimated number of losses based on the areas of mass grave sites of the ‘Novorossiya’ militants; showed how the separatist leader Pavel Gubarev exposed the Russian 18th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade, and conducted a number of other interesting investigations, which were quickly disseminated by the media.
7) In July, InformNapalm demonstrated massive participation of the Russian military personnel in the war in Donbas. For example, the article “Putin’s Eleven’: Selfies of Soldiers of the 18th Russian Motorized Rifles Brigade in Donbas” demonstrated, on the basis of an OSINT investigation, the facts of the involvement of the intelligence division of the 18th separate motorized rifle brigade (military unit No. 27777, 58th general army, Southern Military District, Khankala and Kalinovskaya, Republic of Chechnya) in the war against Ukraine.
InformNapalm has also revealed the Volvo truck that carried the BUK missile system for MH17. This information has also been transferred to the investigation team of the Dutch police.
Our website has also published humorous materials mocking the stupidity of the Russian soldiers, who provide us with a lot of interesting data in the photos they post. Laugh with us in the new year, reading our article “A Selfie Artist and a Prisoner of Conscience. Two Very Different Stories from the Same Russian Military Unit“.
In early July, InformNapalm volunteers added important details to the report released by the State Security Service of Ukraine identifying Russian generals exercising direct command of the joint Russian-separatist forces in Donbas.
We have also conducted investigations and found proof that paratroopers of the Russian 31st separate airborne assault brigade from Ulyanovsk assaulted the Crimean Parliament disguised as Berkut.
8) August 2015 was also quite fruitful for the work of InformNapalm international volunteer community. The testimony of another Russian career serviceman taken captive, major general Vladimir Starkov, provided clues that were used by InformNapalm volunteers to prove that the Russian army used military unit No. 89462 stationed in Novocherkassk as a cover for sending personnel to Donbas.
InformNapalm’s volunteers have established successful cooperation with the Ukrainian special task forces, which resulted in a unique footage of the interrogation of the commander of the 1st battalion of the 7th brigade of the ‘DPR’, militant Andriy Kozyrenko (call sign ‘Kozyr’). Our innovative approach to this cooperation has allowed for a more efficient use of the informational potential of such incidents. The video with “Kozyr’s” testimony was shot not in a neutral room, as is the practice of security services, but allowed the militant to assess with his own eyes the deceitfulness of the Russian propaganda. He was taken to a checkpoint in Slovyansk, where he was stationed during the city’s occupation with the joint Russian-separatist forces and ‘DPR’ guerrillas under the command of Igor Girkin (Strelkov). The absence of Nazi flags and crucified babies on the fences of Slovyansk brought “Kozyr” to a state of shock. The Russian propaganda turned out to be a lie that warped his life.
This precedent can be considered a joint victory of the Ukrainian special task forces and the InformNapalm volunteer community, because a few days after “Kozyr” was taken captive and his interview at the checkpoint was published, the morale of his brigade was shaken. According to the Russian propagandist and terrorist blogger Aleksandr Zhuchkovsky, 7th brigade of ‘DPR ‘was disbanded.
“Now we are witnessing an absolutely incomprehensible precedent: the 7the brigade of ‘DPR’ (of which “Kozyr’s” battalion was a part) was included in the ‘LPR’ corps. This could be due to the incident with “Kozyr”. The brigade has been withdrawn from Debaltseve, the heads from the ‘LPR’ have arrived and are taking the inventory of the units’ property. The brigade had already been falling to pieces, and now the fighters are leaving it en masse,” Zhuchkovskiy wrote in his blog.
On August 28, 2015, InformNapalm volunteer community presented the results of the systematization of its own OSINT investigation of the Russian military presence in Donbas. The presentations were held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center and on Hromadske.tv.
We presented the largest to date database of proofs of the Russian aggression. The database contains the facts of the recorded presence of the Russian servicemen in Ukraine, a specific list of military units and formations, with dates, locations and durations of their stay in Donbas, and demonstrates how to identify the enemy: selfies in social networks, ‘Novorossiya’ propaganda videos, expert analysis of weapons and equipment, etc.
9) It was middle of September 2015, when conducting the OSINT operations our volunteers located a picture of the modern Russian ‘Torn’ radio intelligence system based on the KamAZ truck. The exact location of shooting place was also identified: Donetsk, Vzletna str., 11A – this was a destroyed high-rise apartment building near the airport.
The InformNapalm’s specialists were able to prove that the Russian 104th airborne regiment of the 76th airborne brigade participated in a seizure of the ‘ChernomorNefteGas’ infrastructure, i.e. the infamous “Boyko’s drilling rigs”.
On September 4, our team members analyzed the Syrian war videos and noticed the Russian BTR-82A units in those footages; most probably the equipment belongs to the 27th motorized rifle brigade (military unit No. 61899 located in Moscow Oblast). This investigation was the first one in a series of our special materials, which prove that Russia conducts the ground operation in Syria.
On September 15, InformNapalm presented a massive analytical report and infographics, which demonstrated a significant increase in a number of the Russian ships journeys to the Syrian port of Tartus, which is another evidence of the Russian plans to start the active military operation in Syria.
On September 22, based on the satellite images provided by the Stratfor private intelligence company, the foreign media informed the public about a significant increase of the Russian military presence in Syria. The InformNapalm team performed an analysis of the above mentioned pictures and identified the aircrafts as a part of forces of the Russia’s Eastern Military District. Volunteers identified the Su-30SM unit – based on its side number it is clear that the warplane belongs to the 120th mixed aviation regiment of the 303rd guards mixed aviation division, which is a part of the 3rd Command of the Russian Air Forces and Air Defense (Eastern Military District).
Eight days later, on September 30, after the appropriate resolution by the Federation Council, Russia began a military operation in Syria. Russia held its first airstrikes on the Syrian cities of Latakia, Homs and Hama. Approximately 65 people were killed during these initial attacks.
10) In October, while maintaining its work aimed to identify the Russian soldiers in Donbas, the InformNapalm team opened ‘the information front’ and declared an ultimatum to the Kremlin.
A bee swarm principle has again proved to be effective: even a small team of the committed information intelligence professionals is able to act effectively and on-target moving from being in a defense position towards organizing the attacks. So, progressively by using the data from the Russian propagandist media and social networks profiles the InformNapalm members started to publish the side numbers of the military aircrafts and information about the crews. This strategy has become our distinctive feature: every time when controlled by the Kremlin Donbas separatists violated the ceasefire, the InformNapalm team disclosed new information about the Russian pilots – military criminals – who took part in the Syrian airstrikes.
It is important to mention that from the first days of this activity Dmitriy Peskov, the Russian President’s press spokesman, has called such disclosure of the personal information of the soldiers fighting in Syria ‘a hostile position’. According to Peskov “the Russian secret services monitor such work and will take all necessary steps to ensure the Russian soldiers’ security”.
It was a real ‘butthurt’ of the Russian media: they just could not stand such disclosure of the Russian pilots’ data and issued tons of articles blaming ‘the Ukrainian web sites’ but never mentioned our name – probably because they did not want Russians to check the InformNapalm investigations and become informed and not ‘misinformed’. Our web site was under the round-the-clock cyber attacks but we were able to survive and continue to publish new and new materials. The English and Arabic versions of our news & updates was probably the most important moment: the InformNapalm had become known among the Arabic language media and very soon Al Arabiya compared us with the infamous WikiLeaks.
This comparison is irrelevant as the InformNapalm team not just leaks the secret information but rather carefully gathers and analyzes the facts but such collation served well to popularize our project abroad.
On October 27, the InformNapalm members together with another fellow volunteer project Infographics [UA] (Visulas) prepared the 1st part of the grouped data and facts on the Russian soldiers in Syria: military aircrafts navigators and pilots. Data visualization was used to present all appropriate materials. It was another perfect shooting. This time it was not only the Russian media but the Russian Army pilots who experience the above mentioned ‘butthurt’.
At the end of October the InformNapalm teams confirmed the US intelligence data on the Russian aviation, which transported weapons from Iran to Syria during the previous ten days. Open sources were used this time including the taped records with the Il-76MD pilot and the air traffic controller (callsign ‘KORSAR’). It was defined that on September 17 a group of the Russian Air Force aircrafts with a leading Il-76MD (tail No. RF-76554) was flying from the Mozdok military airfield to the Iranian Air Force airbase Hamadan. This fact also proved that Russia violated an existing embargo to sell weapons from Iran to Syria.
11) In November our team continued to expose profiles of those Russian pilots who took part in the Syrian airstrikes. We have also made public the information about the Russia’s involvement in the ground operation in Syria, which is still denied by the Russian official authorities.
Foreign media became more interested in the work of our international volunteer community. For example the well known German magazine ‘Bild‘ wrote ‘how volunteers nailed Russian pilots to the pillory’.
Also for the first time since the InformNapalm started its activity the ‘ICTV’ Ukrainian TV channel decided to shoot a 14-minutes video telling about the specific areas of the volunteers’ work.
12) By December 2, 2015, a systematized information and infographics describing the Russian Army ground component was prepared. Together with the ‘Visuals’ project volunteers we have created a very convenient and useful OSINT analytical tool, which demonstrated all discovered and identified Russian Army divisions operating in Syria.
On December 8 (only a week after the above mentioned materials were published) the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense held a meeting presenting its report on the Russian military units operating in Syria.
Chief Intelligence Division presented its data, which not only fully matched the one previously gathered, grouped & analyzed by our InformNapalm team, but which was also missing some parts describing the certain military units: the 120th artillery brigade near the Lataka region, the 336th marines brigade near the As-Suwayda province, the ‘Solntsepyok’ flamethrower system, which most likely belongs to the 20th regiment of the Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological troops (NCBT).
On December 14 InformNapalm published results of the another sensational investigation on how the Russian ‘Yauza’ bulk carrier transported ammunition for TOS-1/TOS-1A flamethrower systems to Syria. Our OSINT work has revealed the following: Aleksandr Bondarenko, a Russian soldier, has accidentally put a secret data on the weapons delivery in the public domain. Just after several seconds this update was deleted but the Google cache kept all the information, which we later used to prepare the report.
The end of our ‘December marathon’ was marked by a research on the 8th separate motorized rifle brigade: from its deployment to Donbas to the specific decorations honoring these ‘war crimes’ as well as a two-chapter analysis on the crimes of the 291st artillery brigade against Ukraine (part 1 and part 2).
Simultaneously the InformNapalm team continued its diligent work to identify and make public information on those Russian pilots who took part in the Syrian airstrikes resulted in killing citizens. We have noticed that the Russian propagandist journalists were forced to significantly decrease a total number of articles praised the Russian air force and Russians in Syria started to disguise the side numbers or fake them. But our volunteers have quickly detected such poor attempts.
Degree of the Russian propaganda was definitely lessened by our efforts. The Russian media was forced to not disclose names of ‘the heroes’, which turned these supposed-to-be-triumphant materials into the pathetic attempts of the scared propagandists frightened of their shadows (these shadows are probably designed to prevent an identification of their real location).
The pinnacle of our activity in 2015 we consider a fact of the InformNapalm’s acknowledgment by Russia itself. According to the popular American magazine ‘Vice News’ we have tried the Russian authorities’ patience and irritated them so many times that finally they requested Canada to block us (our web hosting is in Quebec).
The representative of the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed a request to delete the confidential information but meanwhile Canada did not provide Russia with the official reply.
While monitoring another Russian ‘butthurt’ of the political character this time, the InformNapalm, team has prepared a few mirror sites ahead of time and addressed several state and NGO organizations in Canada asking to support the freedom of speech as well as to prevent persecution and abuse of the OSINT researches.
We would like to express our gratitude to all volunteers who helped to translate our web site and prepared versions in so many languages. All of them being in different countries are working on a regular basis doing their best to help Ukraine and to bring the Victory. This is our joint Victory – Ukraine, Georgia, Syria, etc. Thanks to your efforts the InformNapalm Project has obtained its international scope. We wish you all the best in the upcoming New Year!
We also would like to thank our friends and readers! We wish you the endless victories! We hope that 2016 will become a year of the triumph! All dreams come true!