In this feature, InformNapalm volunteer intelligence community presents an overview of the best articles of 2020.
In 2020, the community published about 200 original features and investigations in Ukrainian, which were then translated into 7 to 15 different languages. Thus, the aggregate number of unique InformNapalm publications during the past year totaled about 2000 in different languages.
Over the past year, InformNapalm’s volunteers have worked actively to populate the website with information, prepare investigations in Ukrainian and then translate them into English, Bulgarian, Czech, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Spanish, Belarusian, Turkish, German, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Polish, Azerbaijani, and Russian. In 2020, the collaboration with the Lithuanian Center for Public Opposition Res Publica enabled the launch of a powerful Lithuanian version of InformNapalm. Res Publica has been also actively producing publications and translations not only into Lithuanian but also from Lithuanian into Russian and English. During the year, we added new data and expanded one of the world’s largest and most unique multilingual OSINT databases of the Russian aggression. The number of identified Russian military formations involved in the aggression against Ukraine exceeded 100, and the number of unique types of identified Russian equipment topped 50.
Just like in previous years, InformNapalm’s volunteers devoted their time, energy and resources into establishing and presenting of reliable facts about Russia’s military aggression. We are grateful to all who have joined our common struggle and supported the “flame of information that conquers the darkness”. Let us now briefly review some of the materials and events in 2020 that will permanently remain on our website.
From October 2019 to the end of January 2020, the InformNapalm English team regularly reviewed US media publications on Ukraine. The attention intensified markedly amid a geopolitical scandal over the phone conversation between Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky. InformNapalm made digests for Ukrainian readers of what American media wrote about Ukraine both in the light of this scandal but also in connection with the Russian aggression. The American media’s active attention towards Ukraine faded over time, so these reviews were discontinued.
InformNapalm’s volunteers established facts about the participation of the Large Landing Ship Orsk (Pennant Number 148, Project 1171, Tapir Class, NATO Reporting Name: Alligator), part of the 197th Brigade of Landing Ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet (Military Unit 72136), during the operation to seize the Crimean Peninsula. The list of Russian warships of the Ukrainian Military Prosecutor’s Office involved in the 2014 aggression against Ukraine did not include this ship, therefore facts collected by InformNapalm became an important part of supplementing the prosecutor’s evidence base.
The editor of the Belarusian version of InformNapalm, Dzianis Ivashin, attended the international expert forum “Russia’s Hybrid War against Belarus” and delivered a thorough report on the materials of InformNapalm’s investigations.
We also collected evidence of the participation of the Russian R-60 corvette, its commander and crew in the aggression against Ukraine.
At the end of February, we were faced with shocking facts of unjustified persecution and searches at the homes of hackctivists of the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance (UCA). Since 2016, the UCA activists have provided a lot of important and unique data that helped expose Russian aggression and the Kremlin’s hybrid operations. The information from the UCA hackctivists formed the basis for many investigations and analytical publications in Ukraine and abroad. The most important leaks provided by the UCA helped us prepare and publish such series of materials as SurkovLeaks, FrolovLeaks, UsovskiLeaks and many more.
In Donbas, more and more Russian electronic warfare systems were observed and appeared in OSCE’s SMM reports. Volunteers of InformNapalm analyzed these reports and supplemented them with exclusive photos and their own OSINT investigations.
A concerted attack on our resources began after we issued a publication, which featured the latest Russian technology spotted on aerial photos from the Donbas, geolocated it with precise coordinates and spread this publication in nine languages on social media. And after a tweet with pictures of this Russian equipment, Twitter blocked all of InformNapalm’s official accounts for the first time in six years. Thanks to the efforts of Ukrainian and foreign diplomats, as well as friends of the InformNapalm community from different countries, the main Twitter profile and the editor-in-chief’s page were restored within two weeks. Each Twitter account has more than 14,000 readers from around the world. Many people actively and publicly called on the Twitter administration with a request to unblock InformNapalm’s pages citing their high public importance not only for Ukraine, but also for the broader international community.
In March, InformNapalm also published an important analytical report emphasizing Russia’s obstruction of the OSCE’s monitoring mission in the Donbas during the first quarter of 2020. The report was translated into seven languages.
In connection with information from Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service about Russia’s continued brazen actions in the Black Sea, InformNapalm informed the world about Russia exploitating hijacked Ukrainian floating drilling rigs in Ukraine’s exclusive economic zone under the protection of a corvette. Furthermore, InformNapalm provided a list of unique OSINT investigations dedicated to the identification of Russian units and individual military personnel involved in the seizure of the rigs.
With the help of insiders from the war zone, InformNapalm revealed facts about Russian PSYOPS aimed at residents of the village of Zolotoe-4 and dispelled the Russian falsified propaganda.
In April, InformNapalm published an investigation in seven languages about Russia’s loss of a modern Zastava UAV in the Donbas. The article also contained information about Russian units operating this type of equipment.
In addition, InformNapalm released new evidence of the participation of the Russian 41st Brigade of Missile Boats in the aggression against Ukraine. Also, the participation of the crew of the Russian guided missile corvette Shtil in the aggression against Ukraine was established. This ship was involved in the blockade of Ukrainian naval vessels in Donuzlav Bay in 2014. The list of the Russian military officers who were served charges by the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine did not contain the commanding officer of GMC Shtil at the time of publication. Also, the ship was not listed by the Military Prosecutor among the ships involved in hostilities against Ukraine. Therefore, InformNapalm’s research played an important role in supplementing the evidence base.
In collaboration with the news site Ukrainsky Tyzhden, InformNapalm’s editorial team began to compile and translate weekly information and analytical overviews on COVID-19 in the occupied areas of the Donbas. In addition, InformNapalm exposed fake Russian propaganda and drew attention to how Russia used the pandemic for its information warfare against Ukraine and other countries.
We exposed a Russian paratrooper from the 108th Air Assault Regiment who took part in the occupation of Crimea.
Ten days before the deadline for Ukraine to submit a memorandum to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, InformNapalm reminded the Ukrainian authorities and the society of the importance of filing the material in time.
In June, InformNapalm reported in 13 languages the facts about the Russian mercenaries who desecrated and burned a mosque in Libya. They had been trained in camps of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces.
In addition, an in-depth analytical review of the Ukrainsky Tyzhden news website was published with additional exclusive photos and videos in nine languages. This exposed the issue of the use of Russian special operations units and special forces in the war against Ukraine.
Translations of an article by Thomas Kent first published by the famous American magazine The American Interest were published in June. In this article, Kent discusses how some resourceful European community activists have become a powerful tool in the fight against Russian disinformation on the Internet. In his text, Thomas Kent gives examples of the effective activities carried out by the Lithuanian elves, the InformNapalm international intelligence community and other teams.
An analysis of the operational situation around the Crimean Peninsula was published in July. This analysis describes the actual conditions under which Russia could launch an offensive by sea from Crimea. In addition, the operational situation and the probability of an offensive by ground troops from a north-easterly direction were analyzed.
InformNapalm also presented unique analytical data on the occupation units of the Russian First and Second Army Corps in the Donbas. This material, which indicates certain units of the occupation forces that fired on Ukrainian positions in 2020, later became the main source of information for publications by other journalists.
An exclusive investigation about another type of Russian equipment detected in Donbas was published in 15 languages. Through careful video analysis, InformNapalm volunteers managed to identify the latest Russian multi-functional armored vehicle Tigr, which is part of the MK-BLA-01 aerial reconnaissance system.
We published a two-part OSINT investigation on the role of the Russian media clubs in the information war against Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and the Baltics. The investigation was prepared by the editor of the Belarusian version of the InformNapalm website, Dzianis Ivashin, in cooperation with the Belarusian media portal Novy Chas. We also published an OSINT investigation into one of the leaders of the Belarusian protest movement, Sergei Tikhanovsky, illegally visiting the occupied Crimean Peninsula.
Identification of a military intelligence officer from the Russian 19th Motorized Rifle Brigade (military unit 20634) in the summer of 2020 spotted in occupied eastern Ukraine was published in seven languages.
We took an active part in the international flash mob #CrimeaIsUkraine which was initiated by the well-known British OSINT investigator Alex King. InformNapalm reminded the world about many of its OSINT investigations into the identification of Russian military personnel who were involved in the seizure of Crimea. This flash mob was also actively supported by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On August 10, Mykhailo Makaruk, the spokesman InformNapalm volunteer intelligence community, prepared an analytical intelligence report on Andriy Derkach and his involvement in the Russian interference in the US presidential election. The analytical report was translated and distributed in six languages and caused considerable public outcry. A month later, on September 9, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Derkach for attempts to influence the 2020 US presidential election.
We published in ten languages an article on the Uchoose information and analytical website on key aspects of the Russian propaganda based on an analytical report by the US State Department.
We also documented the facts of the participation of the Russian 7057th Naval Aviation Base (military unit 49311) in the seizure of Crimea.
We monitored and covered in 13 languages suspicious flights of military transport aircraft between Russia and Belarus.
We published in 12 languages the information on the use of technical assets used for PSYOPS against Belarusian protesters by Lukashenko regime. We found that the stations of that type are also operated by Russia, and are actively used by Russia in the war against Ukraine in the Donbas.
We published an analysisof how the Ukrainian President’s comments on the situation in the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) zone contradicted the OSCE SMM reports.
In September, we published an analysis of OSCE-SMM reports, highlighting intelligence signs of the aggressor’s preparations for an escalation of hostilities in the Donbas.
We reported that troops from the Russian 76th Air Assault Division of the Western Military District (military unit 07264), which also took part in the aggression against Ukraine, were transferred to Belarus.
We found and confirmed new information on three Russian military units involved in the hostilities against Ukraine.
Volunteers of InformNapalm published evidence in 13 languages of how Russia grossly violates the terms of the ceasefire by placing banned grenade launchers 2 km from the contact line.
We also published in 12 languages classified materials about strategic command and staff training in the South Caucasus by member countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military and political alliance among the Russian Federation, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
We published in 14 languages an OSINT investigation by the Belarusian service of InformNapalm on how National Guard of Russia conducts training and combat operations in Belarus.
We also published in 11 languages an analysis revealing that the shelling in the Donbas was mainly carried out by the hybrid formations of the Russian First Army Corps.
We released information in 12 languages about the use of banned 82 mm mortars by the Russian occupiers in Donbas.
InformNapalm identified 15 Russian soldiers of the 382nd Marine Battalion of the Black Sea Fleet involved in hostilities against Ukraine. We have translated this information into 10 languages.
InformNapalm’s Georgian editorial team prepared an OSINT investigation to identify Georgian citizens fighting for the illegal armed groups in Nagorno-Karabakh.
We published in 13 languages a report on the detection of the modern Russian remote mine clearing vehicle UR-07M Peresortirovka in the Donbas.
We supplied participants of Ukraine’s permanent OSCE delegation with copies of the English-language printed guide Crimea Behind the Curtain. Guide to the Occupied Zone. The book contains exclusive material on the occupation and militarization of the Crimean Peninsula collected by the InformNapalm community. These guides were then handed over to representatives of different countries at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly during the monitoring of the US elections.
We published in eight languages an article on Russia’s offensive information warfare tactics. The article was written by Lyubov Tsybulska, head of the Hybrid Threat Analysis Group at the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center, for the information and analytical site Uchoose.
We wrote in 15 languages about the modern Russian Navodchik-2 system in the Donbas. The system comprises seven Russian Granat UAVs of various modifications. The system is designed for reconnaissance and special tasks, in particular for providing target coordinates for cannon artillery and multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) at battalion level.
We released in 13 languages the information on a Russian UAV shot down in the Donbas. InformNapalm supplemented the previous report from the Ukrainian Armed Forces Press Service with an identification of the terrorists from the Russian hybrid occupying forces who were spotted by the UAV camera before its take-off.
We published in 13 languages an analysis of misrepresentation of information by Russia’s permanent mission to the OSCE. The mission had distributed fake photos and promoted propaganda narratives about “external control of Ukraine”.
Moreover, we updated InformNapalm’s interactive database with additional information on the participation of the Russian military units in the occupation of Crimea.
InformNapalm collected and published in 14 languages exclusive evidence of yet another spotting of the Russian R-330Zh Zhitel electronic warfare system in the Donbas. In addition, we presented the time line of previous sightings of this equipment in the combat zone.
InformNapalm’s volunteers published information in 14 languages on how the 2B26 rocket system appeared for the first time in OSCE’s SMM reports in the Donbas. The information was corroborated by exclusive photo evidence. Apparently our OSINT investigation published the day before helped OSCE observers to spot this Russian hardware. The publication described the features of this rocket system together with the coordinates of its most recent sighting.
We published in nine languages an OSINT investigation of the Belarusian team of InformNapalm identifying former members of the disbanded Ukrainian riot police force Berkut who now serve the dictatorships in Russia and Belarus.
InformNapalm has continued its work on a voluntary basis for many years. In early 2021, InformNapalm volunteer intelligence community will turn seven. Our community was founded in March 2014 as a response to the aggression unleashed by Russia against Ukraine in Crimea. The community currently consists of volunteers from 20 countries. They conduct OSINT investigations, translate and distribute publications in different languages, and carry out important media, diplomatic and educational work. InformNapalm volunteers actively work with journalists, military experts and diplomats from NATO countries, giving them detailed information about the Russian military aggression as well as information warfare against Ukraine and other countries.
InformNapalm is a completely independent community whose information resources are supported exclusively its volunteers. We do not receive any financial support from any country’s government or large donors. In addition to the volunteers, our readers help us keep the project going with their charitable contributions. You can also support the community by signing up for monthly mini-donations through the Patreon charitable platform. In early 2021, the community will face high costs of paying a reliable and abuse-resistant hosting of our web site and databases. You can also contribute.
Happy New Year with joy, success and victory to everyone in 2021. Together we will achieve more!