18th Motorized Rifle Brigade (military unit № 27777), based in Khankala and Kalinovskaya village, Chechnya, is part of the Russian 58th Army of the Southern Military District and Russian military unit which is actively participating in the Donbas War.
While examining information and social profiles of the servicemen of 18th brigade (photo albums, comments, contacts, statuses, geotags, etc.), we detected a group of contract servicemen from the reconnaissance company of this brigade, who were deployed to Ukraine in Spring and Summer of 2014.
In the outcome we were able to gather evidence, confirming the presence of Russian scouts in active combat in Donbas. Among the indicators, pointing to the presence of those Russians in Ukraine, are online photos in which these people are posing white arm bands, non-commissioned uniform, Novorossiya insignia, St. George ribbons, weapons and military equipment, masked with DNR/LNR signs yet in a manner which made trace analysis (linking the equipment to Russia) still possible.
Most of the Russian scout ‘veterans’ of the 18th brigade are now on their next assignment to Ukraine, which can be proved by their recent photos, made in those raions of the Rostov oblast which are bordering with Ukraine. So, without further undue introductions, here come our ‘heroes’:
1. Victor Nikolaevich Avzhynov (https://vk.com/avzhinov, arhived https://archive.is/EAMLN) is a scout-sniper. While Avzhynov is not a big fan of photography, yet he did not miss an opportunity to show off his Medal of Suvorov, registration № 40978, issued by a decree of the President of Russia on November 24, 2014. Avzhynov’s photo album includes photos of a number of other servicemen from his unit, who are also subjects of our investigation (please pay particular attention to a group photo in front of the APC with a guy, wearing a jacket and another group selfie with his fellow servicemen, which was posted in the photo albums of other subjects of our investigation — all of whom are scouts of the 18th brigade).
2. Volodya Chembeleev (https://vk.com/id191365679, archive https://archive.is/rK5o8), served in Russian airborne troops, then signed a contract and became serviceman of the 18th brigade. Mr. Chembeleev is one of the most explicit objects of our investigation, his photo albums allowed us to establish a number of interesting details.
Chembeleev’s photos spread from 2012 until now. Photos from 2014—2015 are the most illustrative. These are military shows at the brigade’s base, drills and exercises, walking tours across Grozny and other fun. Photos, that were uploaded in July—December 2014 are from the period of the ‘trip to Ukraine’, including group photos of Chembeleev’s fellow servicemen posing as Novorossiya militants with white arm bands and balaclavas in front of the military equipment. Chembeleev, lilke Avzhanov, did not miss the chance to show off his Medal of Suvorov, award certificate № 41191, issued on December 1, 2014.
Particularly interesting is a photo set dated September 2014, in which Chembeleev is posing in front of T-72B tanks with rushedly painted tactical triangles. The side number, starting with 5 and painted in red, is still visible on one of the turrets. The white triangle is painted over the side number.
Note! Red three digit numbers starting with 5 index were used to indicate tanks and SPGs of the 18th brigade. Among other evidence, this can be proved by photos from the Russian «twower» blog, dated October 14, 2011, where one can find numerous photos with red three digit numbers starting with ‘5’ on the military equipment of this unit. According to our sources, T-72B tanks were decommissioned when the 18th brigade got T-72B3 modification and the decommissioned tanks were then transferred to the storage facilities in Krasnodar Krai in 2014. One can guess that ‘decommissioned’ tanks were intentionally and in advance transferred closer to Ukraine to be then used in Donbas.
The more, the better! Mishaxaxa blog has an entry, dated January 13, 2015 and titled «Т-72 tanks of the self-defence forces». Among the photos presented there is a photo of the tank with ‘Ritka’ woman name written on it. This tank also has tactical signs in a form of white triangles. Moreover, our hero Volodya Chembeleev and his two fellow scouts, whom we then were able to recognize among people in Chembeleev’s photos, are posing in the same photo.
3. Alexei Korovin (https://vk.com/id217518702, archive https://archive.is/QCIo3) is a contract servicemen of the recon company of the same brigade. Despite meagre profile and photos, Korovin posted a number of interesting videos, including the video with a following comment: “To our friend Denys Khusainov, who died in combat near Novosvitlivka, Luhanska oblast, Ukraine. We will always remember you…” The video was uploaded on November 23, 2014 and we made an archive copy in case its owner decides to delete this video.
It is important to note that in memoriam photo of Khusainov, enlisted Russian soldier who died in Ukraine, is featured by the social accounts of other servicemen of 18th brigade whom we investigated.
Note! Denis Khusainov was listed among the dead militants of the ‘Vitsyaz’ regiment of the LNR on Krasnodon website. This way Russian military command kept its back covered by reclassifying their military scout who was killed in Donbas into a militant and shifting the day of his death to a later date. The memorial video lists Denys Khusainov birth date as January 13, 1981 and his date of the death as August 14, 2014 while Krasnodon website states Khusainov died in September, 2014.
4. Anton Gud (https://vk.com/antongud, archive https://archive.is/KaJA4) is a contract serviceman of the reconnaissance company of the 18th brigade. Some of his photos feature content, related to the annexation of Crimea and ‘Ukrainian trip’ that followed. Anton is wearing white armbands for identification, St. George ribbon, Novorossiya insignia as well as other ‘appropriate’ items. He also posted photos of his fellow servicemen dressed as Novorossiya militants in front of the abovementioned tanks with the tactical marking (i.e. white triangles) and in front of the BTR-82 armored personnel carrier. Among people in this picture we can see our previous subjects Avzhynov and Chembeleev. The album also included collective photo in front of an APC with Avzhynov and a guy in a jacket (Avzhynov posted very similar photo with a slightly different angle).
Gud’s profile also features memorial photo and video of his fellow servicemen Khusainov that we already discussed. Gud shared the video from Korovin’s (№3 in this report) profile.
5. Roman Aleskeevskih (https://vk.com/alexeevskih, archive https://archive.is/2aWn7), scout of the 18th brigade. His photo albums are not so informative, yet he has a photo with Novorossiya insignia, ‘I am Moscovite’ poster, and a photo from hospital, where we has ongoing rehabilitation after injury in Ukraine. Like other fellow servicemen, Aleskeevskih posted a memorial photo of Denis Khusainov.
6. Ildar Rinatovich (https://vk.com/id255900576, archive https://archive.is/jmDE4) is a contract serviceman of the reconnaissance company of the 18th brigade since 2011 and a terrorist combatant in the Donbas, which is proved by the photoset we managed to gather. Everything is typical: APC selfie, which Avzhynov and Gud posted as well and memorial photo of Khusainov.
7. Roman Rorokin (https://vk.com/id207467385, archive https://archive.is/Q7tW3), contract serviceman of the scout unit of the 18th brigade since 2013, participated in active combat in Donbas in Summer and Autumn of 2014. The clear evidence of this is Roman’s photo, posted in February 2015 with a following comment: “August 2 ) we are returning from the border ))) we are scout company )”. This photo features other scouts as well, including Mr. Avzhynov, №1 in this research.
8. Mikhail Sinishyn (https://vk.com/id256613800, archive https://archive.is/SOMuN), contract serviceman of the scout company of the 18th brigade. Sinishyn’s photos include many interesting ones: from the brigade’s base and from ‘the Ukrainian trip of 2014’, featuring faces (including our №1 Avzhynov). The most noticeable are photos that were uploaded in August 2014. They include a photo with a bunch of scouts posing as Novorossiya militants. The photo is titled ‘near the village of Volnokhino’ (no doubt it is Volnukhino, a village in Lutuhynsky rayon of Luhansk oblast of Ukraine).
The last photo of Synyshyn, that was uploaded on July 12, 2015, confirmed that he was in another ‘Ukrainian trip’ at that moment. Judging by a geotag in Rostov Oblast, he is getting look and feel of Novorossiya militant — growing a beard and getting rid of everything that can prove he is professional Russian military currently performing active service. Other Russian servicemen, also wearing a white identification armbands, are visible in this photo. Most likely, this unit was already transferred to Donbas and is participating in the new provocations, aimed at conflict escalation.
9. Stas Smolyakov (https://vk.com/id269651666, archive https://archive.is/zlMcs), contract servicemen of the scout company of the 18th brigade. Smolyakov participated in the active combat in Donbas, which is proved by a number of photos, including an APC selfie that was mentioned above. Same of these photos are also featured in albums of our №2 (Volodya Chembeleev).
10. Vitaliy Viktorovich (https://vk.com/id269831672, archive https://archive.is/T9tt8), contract servicemen of the scout company of the 18th brigade. This soldier participated in the active combat in Donbas and it is proved by a typical photo with white armband and APC selfie from Volodya Chembeleev’s album.
11. Andrey Gultyaev (https://vk.com/id24086308, archive https://archive.is/fSksO), contract servicemen of the scout company of the 18th brigade. This soldier participated in the active combat. Group selfies in his photo albums feature №1 (Avzhynov) and №2 (Chembeleev) of our research.
18th separate motorized rifles brigade was created in 2008 as an outcome of reform of the Russian Army. It consists of updated units of former 42th motorized division, which was based in Khankala and Kalinovskaya villages in Chechnya. This unit is one of the most advanced and combat ready in the modern Russian Army. The brigade is completely reequipped with a new and modernized machinery, weapons and ammunition. It also includes so-called ‘national battalion’, staffed by the ethnic Chechens, most of whom are former insurgents, who were granted amnesty and became part of the armed units of pro-Russian Chechen commanders Kadyrov and Yamadaev.
Units of 18th brigade took part in Russian aggression against Georgia in August 2008. In 2014—2015 18th brigade and its ‘national battalion’ were numerously spotted in Donbas. Here are some of the related reports by InformNapalm:
- New Evidence of Russian Military Incursion into Ukraine June 14, 2014
- An Introduction to the so-called “Wild”, or National Battalions of the Russian Federation Currently Engaged in Ukraine August 29, 2014
- Tanks of the 18th Motorized Rifle Brigade in Ukraine March 4, 2015
- A Story Behind the Photo: Separatist Leader Pavel Gubarev and the Russian 18th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade June 10, 2015
This OSINT investigation by InformNapalm proves involvement of the Russian Army in the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine.
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