Russia is ashamed of its “heroes”. The dishonest hybrid war waged by Putin against Ukraine and entailing casualties of the Russian military forces the Kremlin to resort to various hiding tricks. As early as 2014, a number of Russian human rights organizations, the liberal press and individual bloggers managed to collect data on dozens of Russian servicemen killed in Donbas. However, this array is but a small part of the whole picture. A year later Russian parliament passed a law classifying the data on the losses of the Defense Ministry personnel “in peacetime”, and effectively barring any reliable and official information from the public domain.
At the same time, the information on the losses that made its way to the press was often meant to mislead. From the very beginning of the invasion, Russian intelligence agencies and propaganda media launched a powerful mechanism with a mission to confuse and discredit the publicly available lists of those killed in action (KIA). Through disinformation in the media and on social networks, in a number of cases they managed to distort the reality – names and surnames, dates of birth and death, active connection to the Russian Army (e.g. as it happened in the case of Denis Khusainov, a KIA contract serviceman of the 18th Motorized Rifle Brigade (MRB), who was portrayed in the media as a Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) “militant”). One of the main goals of such information smokescreen is to cut any threads that could lead the press and other interested parties to the relatives of the killed soldiers, to the families which have not received any compensation for their silence and could reveal a lot of uncomfortable details.
Based on the results of the recent open source intelligence (OSINT) investigation, InformNapalm volunteer intelligence community obtained evidence of a remarkable misinformation effort around a Russian contract soldier from the 17th MRB killed in the east of Ukraine in August 2014 (read below Part I. The “forgotten hero”). We are also summarizing here some of the results of our three-year work and present consolidated information on the 17th MRB, which has repeatedly featured on our publications in the context of Ukrainian deployments. Summarized data and infographics show the structure, armament and specific features of this unit, as well as personal data of commanders who gave criminal orders, and contract soldiers who carried out those orders (read below Part II. Shameful history of the 17th MRB. Infographics).
Part I. The “forgotten hero”
While studying social networks data, we found in one of the groups connected to the 17th MRB a curious post (archive) dated March 22, 2017. The author of the post is one Azalia Sadykova. She writes the following: “Hello, is there anyone who is currently serving in Shali? Could you upload the photo of the monument to the fallen soldiers, please, if that is not too much trouble?”
This message caught our interest, especially given that the monument had featured in our past investigations. This is a memorial stele on the grounds of the 17th MRB stationed in the Chechen town of Shali. The stele lists the names of Russian servicemen killed in action in Ukraine in August 2014. For the first time this stele was brought up by the Ukrainian blogger-investigator Askai in the autumn of 2014.
Subsequently, this monument was often the subject of controversy, at times reaching the point of absurdity. On some forums, “concerned Russians” (or rather paid trolls) tried to label the stele “a bad Photoshop fake of Ukrainian provocateurs”. However, the stele was photographed numerous times from other angles which confirmed its authenticity beyond any doubt. The latest data suggests that the Russian military command accidentally or intentionally distorted the surname of at least one of the dead servicemen.
Collecting all the facts and building a logical chain with the relevant evidence was not so easy. All the more so, since the family of the serviceman under our investigation, Janhuvatov / Sadykov, was apparently subjected to pressure by the Russian intelligence agencies, just like the family of another killed soldier of the same brigade, Marcel Araptanov (we presented updated information about him in March 2017).
· Behind the scene of this OSINT operation
We managed to establish the identity of the author of the message in the 17th MRB social media group feed made by the user nicknamed Azalia Sadykova (VK1 account, archived profile, photos, contacts). The account belongs to Sabira Sadykova, the sister of a Russian contract soldier from the village of Bykovo near Volgograd, who was killed in Ukraine. She has several more profiles on social networks – OK (archived profile, photos, contacts, the account is taglined “Ibrahim and Sabira together forever”; ОК2 (archived profile, photos, contacts), inactive since 2016; VK2 (archived profile, album, contacts), inactive since December 2014, instagram and my.mail.ru.
After studying the pages of Sabira Sadykova, who still mourns the brother killed in Donbas, it becomes clear that the name Janhuvatov, indicated on the monument, is fictional, whereas the first name, dates of birth and death belong to her brother Ibrahim Sadykov.
Note: the Janhuvatov name is mentioned on a picture with the image of Sabira and Ibrahim, which was posted in February 2016.
In addition to Sabira, we found other relatives silently mourning the killed soldier: Elmira Sadykova (archived profile, photos, contacts), Islam Sadykov (archived profile, album, contacts), Eldar Sadykov (archived profile, photos, contacts) – and this list of the Sadykovs related to Ibrahim is non-exhaustive.
It should be emphasized that the videos, photos and information about Ibrahim Sadykov, the Russian serviceman from the 17th MRB killed in August 2014, and whose surname was changed to Janhuvatov (in some cases – with other dates of birth and death) appeared on the web in the autumn of 2014. The situation is so confusing that it is difficult to name the primary source of information. It is not clear who first changed Sadykov’s name to Janhuvatov, who produced this amateur video (copy) in memory of the killed contract soldier (some of the pictures from it made their way to several databases (1, 2, 3). In the caption and in the video itself at 4:34 the Ibrahim is referred to as Janhuvatov Ibrahim, died August 13, 2014. Judging by the credits, the author of the idea for the commemorative video, is one Alexander Litovchenko, one of the contacts of both Sabira and Ibrahim. It is noteworthy that all the above data did not contain any direct links to the social pages of the killed soldier and his relatives.
We can conclude that the disinformation effort of the Russian intelligence agencies has been a success in a way. All the traces lead to the group called Cargo 200 from Ukraine to Russia co-founded by Elena Vasilieva, a person with a rather dubious reputation. As of today, the presumed source of misinformation – the post in Vasilyeva’s Facebook group – has been removed.
Born June 04,1989.
KIA in Ukraine on August 13, 2014.
Lived in the village of Bykovo, Volgograd Oblast. Originally from Dagestan.
The profile of Sadykov suggests that he was on contract military service in the 17th MRB (military unit 65384, Shali, Chechnya) since 2010. He reached the rank of a sergeant, presumably in the position of a rifleman-scout.
The main source of information is the surviving page of the deceased Ibrahim Sadykov on OK (archived profile, photos, contacts), under the name <<<DАG>>> 05rus. The account has not been cleaned up, apparently overlooked due to the use of the pseudonym, but it is this page, along with some other sources, that provided a coherent picture of Sadykov’s military service, his deployment and the subsequent connection to the mourning of the relatives over Ibrahim Sadykov, and not the fictional Janhuvatov. By the way, there once was one more VK account of Ibrahim with his real name (see. archived contacts of his sister), but it was successfully cleaned up. Later on (apparently to confuse the traces) in February 2015, someone created a new VK account of Ibrahim Sadykov with his photo (archived profile, photos).
The last visit to the main OK account of Sadykov is dated August 5, 2014. Judging by the comments under one of the photos (archive), he was killed in action on August 13, 2014 in Ukraine, where he was sent along with other contract soldiers disguised as “militiamen”, with their genuine documents taken from them in Russia.
We can conclude that the interest of Sabira Sadykova for the monument to the servicemen of the 17th MRB killed in 2014 was not accidental. Maybe, Sabira hoped to receive a photo with the last name of Janhuvatov replaced with the real name of her brother Ibrahim Sadykov. However it is unlikely that the brigade command will replace the name, fearing another scandal in case the picture of the “edited” monument gets any notice on social media. InformNapalm takes this mission on itself and with a rough touch of Photoshop restores the justice, changing “Janhuvatov” to “Sadykov”.
Part II. Shameful history of the 17th MRB. Infographics
The 17th MRB has been mentioned in 15 (!) OSINT investigations of InformNapalm volunteer intelligence community in the context of Ukrainian deployments. In the summary infographics, we present the personal data of 35 servicemen from Shali, including the former and current commanders (read more about them below). Our investigations feature 33 identified servicemen of the aggressor state, among them 6 officers, 9 bearers of various combat decorations received for participation in the war against Ukraine, and two KIA cases. Infographics also reflect the data on the structure and armament of the 17th MRB (recently 70th Motorized Rifle Regiment (MRR)), the identification markings of this unit.
(To view the infographics, click on the image or follow this link)
Commanders of the 17th MRB (2014) and 70th MRR (2017)
Major general Dmitry Kasperovich
Born in 1976, veteran of the Second Chechen Campaign of 2001. Hero of Russia. In 2007, commander of the 191st MRR of the 201st Military Base in Tajikistan.
In 2014, commander of the 17th MRB of the 58th Army of the Southern Military District, stationed in Shali, Chechnya (in early 2017, it was reorganized into the 70th MRR of the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division (MRD) of the 58th Army of the Southern Military District).
Lieutenant-colonel Sergey Kens
Born March 08,1987. Graduate of the Saint Petersburg Higher Military Command School in 1999. In 2011, commander of the reconnaissance battalion at the 33rd MRB of the 58th Mountain Army of the Southern Military District (Botlikh village, Dagestan, in 2011 relocated to Adygea).
In 2015, interim commander of the 33rd MRB of the 49th Mountain Army of the Southern Military District (Maykop, Adygea); in the spring of 2017, it was reorganized into the 102nd MRR of the 150th MSD of the 8th Army of the Southern Military District and relocated to Rostov Oblast, Kadamovsky training range.
In 2017, the commander of the 70th MRR of the 42nd MRD of the 58th Army, stationed in Shali, Chechnya (formed from the former 17th MRB).
Kens was involved in a scandal. In 2014, some Russian media reported (archive) about trial involving servicemen of the 33rd MRB, who refused to carry out the Kremlin’s criminal orders. Kens, then interim brigade commander, cynically argued that the servicemen of the Maykop brigade had not been sent to Donbas and there were no Russian troops in Ukraine. Moreover, he was one of the initiators of the criminal prosecution for desertion against soldiers who refused to comply with the unlawful orders.
Identification of the machine gunner “X”
In addition, we managed to establish the identity of the previously unidentified machine gunner “X”, featured in our story of February 12, 2017, under the number 4, posing together with other veterans of the Ukrainian deployment, on the photo from September 2014.
Born May 02,1987.
A native of Gelendzhik, Krasnodar Krai (registered in the address database).
Conscript service, in the Airborne Forces in 2012-2013. In 2014, a contract soldier of the 17th MRB.
17th MRB and 70th MRR
17th MRB (as of 2014, in 2017 reorganized into the 70th MRR)
The 17th Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade (military unit 65384, Shali, Chechen Republic) of the 58th Field Army of the Southern Military District.
Composition: the Command, three infantry battalions, a special forces battalion, a separate sniper company, a tank battalion, two self-propelled howitzer artillery battalions, a rocket artillery battalion, an antitank artillery battalion, an antiaircraft missile battalion and an antiaircraft artillery missile battalion, a reconnaissance battalion, a UAV company, an engineer battalion, an NBC protection company, a control (communication) battalion, an electronic warfare company, a control and artillery reconnaissance battery, a control and radar reconnaissance platoon, a control platoon, a recovery battalion, a logistics battalion, a headquarters company, a medical company, a military advisers platoon, a training simulator platoon, a training range and a brass band.
Armament: 40 pcs. T-72B3, 1 pc. T-72BK, 159 pcs. MT-LBM 6MB and MT-LB VMK; 6 pcs. GAZ-233014 Tigr (IMV), 18 pcs. BM-21 Grad MLRS, 36 pcs. – 2S3M Akatsiya 152-mm self-propelled howitzers – 18 pcs.; 2S12 Sani 120-mm mortar, 12 pcs. MT-12 Rapira 100mm anti-tank guns, 12 pcs., 9P149 Shturm-S self-propelled anti-tank missile systems, 11 pcs. BTR-80, 4 pcs. BRDM-2, 12 pcs. BTR-80, 6 pcs. 9A34(35) Strela-10 surface-to-air missile systems, 6 pcs. 2S6M Tunguska self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, 27 pcs. 9K38 Igla man portable surface-to-air missiles.
70th MRR (formed from the former 17th MRB in early 2017)
70th Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment (military unit 71718, Shali, Chechya) of the 42nd MRD of the 58th Field Army of the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation
Composition: the Command; 5 battalions (3 infantry battalion, an armored battalion, a special forces battalion); 2 artillery battalions (a howitzer battalion and an anti-aircraft artillery and missile battalion); 6 companies (snipers, reconnaissance, engineers and sappers, communications, maintenance, logistics); 2 platoons (NBC and headquarters platoon).
Armament: 31 pcs. T-72B3, 129 pc. MT-LMB 6MB and MT-LB VMK (re-equipment is planned for BMP-2/3); 18 pcs. 2S12 Sani 120-mm mortars; 18 pcs. 2S3M Akatsiya 152-mm self-propelled howitzers; 4 pcs. 9A34(35) Strela-10 surface-to-air missile systems; 4 pcs. 2S6M Tunguska self-propelled anti-aircraft guns.
17th MRB in InformNapalm publications – 15 episodes:
- The 17th Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation is in Ukraine2014-09-09
- “Tankman”: Russian Officer of the 17th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade Who Participated in Armed Hostilities in Donbas2014-10-13
- “Inglourious Basterds”: a monument to the soldiers of the 17th Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Shali 2015-02-06
- Officer of the Russian 17th Motorized Rifle Brigade Awarded Order of Courage for the Donbas War2015-06-18
- 2S19 ‘Msta-S’ Self-Propelled Howitzer of the 17th Brigade near Novoazovsk2015-08-12
- The 17th Brigade in Donbas in Summer, 2014. Photo proofs2015-04-27
- Another ‘Hybrid Miner’ from the Russian 17th Brigade2016-02-10
- Veterans of Donbas from the 17th Mechanized Infantry Brigade and their Orders of Courage07/12/2016
- Russian office who lost his Order of Courage09/12/2016
- “F#cked-up brigade” – “F#cked-up brigade” – former contract soldier about 17th MRB of the Russian Army (Video)2016-10-07
- Identified: infantrymen from Chechnya in Donbas 2016-12-02
- Identified: tankman of the 17th MRB Russian Army – fought in Donbas, was awarded Medal for Courage 2017-01-04
- Russian tankman gave away colleagues from the 17th Motorized Rifle Brigade in Donbas 2017-01-09
- Group of scouts of the 17th Motorized Rifle Brigade identified in Donbas2017-02-12
- Identification of the Boasting Scouts of the 17th Motor Rifle Brigade, Who Fought in the Donbas04/25/2017
Databases of identified active Russian military personnel and evidence of their involvement in the fighting in Ukraine as part of the Russian hybrid forces are available here: https://informnapalm.org/en/category/top-investigations/.
Infographics by Alex Alexidze.
(Creative Commons — Attribution 4.0 International — CC BY 4.0)
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