We are often asked how did the InformNapalm community appear, what is its purpose, who are its volunteers, how it works, who sponsors it and who is reading our stories? We decided to collect all your questions in one place and give the answers to them.
Our community was created in February, 2014 as an attempt to break through the information blockade and to demonstrate the evidence of the Russian invasion, which initially was dressed up as the activities of the ‘Crimean self-defense’ or as an internal Ukrainian conflict. Seeing the confusion of the authorities the Ukrainian patriots, including professional Ukrainian military and volunteers, acted on their own to do the evidence gathering and to create a multi-language media outlet, informing about the full scale Russian invasion of the Ukrainian Crimea.
At this moment the InformNapalm community is a well-established online resource which presents its own investigations and provides reports about the Russian aggression in Ukraine. The community of volunteers carefully gathers, analyzes and presents the facts of the Russian army’s participation in the undeclared war in Donbas. Besides the intelligence work who do the open source investigations (based on the videos and photos, satellite pictures and social network profiles). A great role in our community is played by the insiders from Donbas and the volunteer-translators, who translate the information we gather into 20 languages. Our volunteer project appears to be a kind of a network between the variety of people of different professions, political views, nationalities and religions from all across the world.
The founder and the chief editor of the InformNapalm.org web site and the community volunteer is Roman Burko, a military reporter from Ukraine. Irakli Komakhidze, an investigator and military analyst from Georgia, is a co-founder of the community.
The geography of our community is reach, it consists of volunteers from the post-Soviet states, EU, US, Israel, Georgia, and even the Republic of South Africa. But we cannot name all our researchers and volunteers here. Some of them work in the occupied territory under cover. Some of our OSINT investigators are already well-known: Irakli Komaxidze (Georgia), Anton Pavlushko (Ukraine/Germany), Vitaliy J. (Luhansk, Ukraine), Victory К. (Kramatorsk, Ukraine) and others.
We communicate via the social networks and crypto chats. The main part of the communication with our audience is done via the social networks. Besides that, we have several channels on YouTube, where we upload the results of our investigations. Noteworthy is that one of the first our videos, showing the Russian servicemen (‘green men’) assaulting the Ukrainian military unit in Sevastopol, Ukraine. This video got 2 million views during the first 24 hours on our channel. This footage was the undeniable evidence for the Global community and it helped to understand the essence of the events during the first days of the Russian operation in Crimea.
Not all our research is published. The information is a weapon, comparable to the nuclear power. It can help to find energy to resolve a lot of problems, but it can also be deadly. The most of our information is delivered to the Ukrainian power-wielding authorities, having the competence to conduct final reconnaissance and initiate special operations to detain or eliminate the enemy. At the same time, InformNapalm does not perform its work at the request of any authority or political force. We are an informal community of like-minded people without any subordination, ranks or positions. We all are trying hard for the sake of victory.
Starting from April, 2014 our community is focused on the gathering the information, which could be used by the Ukrainian forces fighting in Donbas. There were several main directions of our work by that time.
One was monitoring Zello channels, used by the terrorists for their coordination. Another was finding and mapping the enemy checkpoints, infrastructure, personnel and equipment. Since there was no clear demarcation line between the conflicting parties at that time, our volunteers helped Ukrainian army to analyze the terrain and created analytical summaries of the possible enemy actions (based on the information, provided by the insiders in the occupied territory). One of the big stories was the ‘Ho Chi Minh trail’ article (in Russian) which contained maps for the routes, which the militants used to infiltrate the cities besieged by the Ukrainian troops.
The power of journalism and publicity is that if the politicians or generals start to sabotage the intelligence data, choosing inactivity rather than taking decisive steps, then the public pressure forces them to take the responsible decisions.
Starting from the Spring, 2014 the militants used heavy weapons against the Ukrainian forces, including sniper rifles, grenade launchers, armored vehicles, air defense systems and drones. A lot of this equipment had purely Russian origin. That is why InformNapalm performed the search and exposure of the Russian army equipment noticed in Donbas.
In the Summer of 2014 the full scale military operations with the regular Russian army units started in Donbas. So our volunteers Artem Vasilenko and Roman Burko started publishing their daily updates from the battlefield. The articles analyzed dangerous enemy maneuvers. Our summaries contained the first warnings of the threat of the catastrophe in Sector D (which became later known as notorious ‘Ilovaisk kettle’). All the articles were illustrated with maps, which later militants claimed to be ‘provided by the NATO’.
Meeting our Enemy
While hiding its active involvement in the War in Donbas, the Kremlin tried to conceal the information about the killed Russian servicemen in every possible way. Our volunteers did their best in finding the personal information of the wounded and killed Russian soldiers and publishing it. Recognizing the input of our informal community as effective and useful, the power-wielding authorities of Ukraine provided our volunteers with the exclusive interrogation videos of the captured Russian servicemen and militants. The perfect examples of that would be the testimony of the 523rd guards motorized rifle regiment (military unit No. 30616-6) sergeant Evgeniy Tur and Russian DNR militant Fedor Ustinov.
The Exact Delimitation Map
After signing the first Minsk agreements in September, 2014, it was impossible to find any detailed information about the line of delimitation in Donbas. But the volunteers got the original electronic version of the map in December, 2014. It was a copy in possession by the LNR chief Plotnitskiy inner circle. The map was published by InformNapalm on January 8, 2015 and became available for downloading and analysis by the public.
Our volunteers participated in gathering the evidence of the Russian involvement in the shooting down of the Malaysian Boeing 777 in the sky over Donbas. In particular, the information we managed to get during our two investigations was transferred to the Dutch police.
The first investigation was about the identification of the photos, found in the VK profile of Dmitry Zubov, a Russian serviceman of the 147th automotive logistics support battalion (military unit No. 83466, Moscow). Those pictures show a ‘Buk’ missile system convoy on the way to the Ukrainian border. The transferring happened 14 days before the MH17 tragedy. After our story was published the profile of Zubov was deleted, but all the information remained in the archives and Google cache and is available for inspection at any moment.
The second investigation was about the Volvo truck which transported the ‘Buk’ system that allegedly shot down MH17 Boeing 777 through the territory controlled by the militants. The photos of this truck are included in the summaries of the Dutch investigation group as evidence.
InformNapalm volunteers located the base of the militants, where that Volvo truck was seen in October 2014, several month after the tragedy. It was the town of Snizhne, not far from the Udarnik coal mine in the territory controlled by militants.
Both these investigations were conducted by the InformNapalm volunteers, which are constantly located near the combat zone (Victoria) and behind the enemy lines (Vitaliy). Therefore, you definitely cannot name them ‘sofa warriors’. They are the citizens of Ukraine risking their lives to do everything they can for the victory.
Open Source Intelligence
Recently the most of the InformNapalm stories are dedicated to disclosing the Russian military units in Ukraine and near its borders. We publish articles which are based on the information, posted by Russian soldiers and illustrated with the screenshots of their VK and Odnoklassniki pages. Also, we identify the weapons and equipment from the videos, published by the militants propaganda channels and the Russian media. We analyze the drone and satellite pictures as well. Even the soldiers of the elite Russian military units became the objects of our stories because of the selfies they make in Donbas.
Who funds InformNapalm?
Our community is not a commercial project. Currently it is not even legalized as an NGO in any jurisdiction. The volunteers, who gather the information, manage the website and translate the articles, are also bearing the costs of the project maintenance. Some of the mantainance costs are covered by the income we get from the context ads on our website and video channels on YouTube and Vimeo. Official Ukrainian authorities are providing only ‘spiritual’ support and are using our products.
Who reads InformNapalm?
Our community appreciates all of its readers and all people who support our volunteer effort. Without your reposts the volunteers would not have been heard in the places, where the political decisions are made. Because of our coordinated cooperation, the Kremlin crimes are now known far beyond Ukraine. But the process of utilizing the gathered information by the military staffs, authorities and Global media is not always smooth. That is why we are doing an extra effort in providing the information to those, who can use it as a weapon.
The community volunteers participate in seminars with the various organizations and diplomats from many countries. We shared the information about the Donbas military conflict and the facts of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Also we see the interest of foreign governments in our publications and investigations all the time. The analysis of the site logs shows that our audience includes readers from the IP addresses the US State Department, governments of Sweden, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Brazil, the Netherlands, Canada, Israel, Slovakia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia NATO, etc.
The total number of the visitors of the InformNapalm.org varies from 10 to 30 thousand hosts per day, which we consider a good achievement for a website with a narrow specialization and low rate of daily updates (1—3 new posts per day in the Russian version, which is the most visited one).
Currently there are 20 language versions each of which posts updates separately, has separate editorial team and provides a real human translation.
Besides English, German, Spanish and French, we have Turkish, Chinese, Georgian, Belorussian and other language versions.
In addition to translating and disseminating our own investigations, we cooperate with international experts as well. In particular, one of the recent reports by the Atlantic Council titled ‘Hiding in plain sight’ and covering the Russian aggression in Ukraine, was officially translated in Russian by the community of our volunteers. This report is also based on some of our investigations and summaries. The Ukrainian version of this report by our community is being prepared to be finalized in August 2015. InformNapalm appreciates the efforts of the international organizations, covering the events in Ukraine, and tries to assist them in promoting the onset of peace and prosperity in Ukraine.
At this moment InformNapalm community is focused on preparation of the infographics based on our own investigations. In February 2015, our volunteers presented ‘TOP-10 Military Gadgets Involved in the Russian Aggression Against Ukraine‘ — a report visualizing Russian weaponry and equipment, which could not be considered war trophies and which proved the direct participation of Russia in the war. By the end of August we plan to publish another and even bigger material ‘TOP-100 facts’ of Russia’s presence in Donbas, which will include the statistical data based on the investigations with the exact Russian military unit numbers identified with the help of OSINT.
We are trying to set an example of the efforts consolidation and a real volunteer OSINT work, based on the network communication of people from all over the World. These people are active, creative and dedicated. Their life stories are interesting in its own way and, maybe, will become a part of the newest history of Ukraine in its struggle for freedom and independence…
Glory to Ukraine!
Original article by Roman Burko translated by Oleksandr Klymenko, edited by Gennadiy Kornev.