In this publication, we will peek behind the curtains of a successful operation carried out by volunteers of InformNapalm intelligence community and hacktivists of the Ukrainian cyber-alliance (UCA).
The operation kicked off with specific software installed on the desktop computer of the reconnaissance commander of the so-called Second Army corps of the People’s Militia (2nd CPM), a unit of the hybrid Russian occupation troops in Luhansk Oblast. After the installation of the software, hacktivists gained control over the data exchanged between the reconnaissance commander of the 2nd CPM, the 12th Reserve Command of the Russian Armed Forces (Novocherkassk, Russia), and reconnaissance units operating in the interests of the Corps (Russian unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAV), signals intelligence (SIGINT) and space intelligence).
For a long period, the volunteers and hacktivists were analyzing the received information virtually on the fly, and were passing it to the Ukrainian military. We are not at liberty to disclose how this information has been used. But today, with the passage of time, and as some of the information lost its operational importance, we have decided to present another body of indisputable evidence of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine.
We will publish here the documents indicating the use of Orlan-10, Russian military UAV systems in the conflict zone in the east of Ukraine. This InformNapalm publication will focus on drones. In the next articles on this operation we will also discuss space and signals intelligence.
Aerial reconnaissance assets of the Russian occupation troops in Luhansk Oblast as of the end of 2014
Based on the report by the reconnaissance commander of the 2nd CPM (the unit serves as the cover for the Russian occupation troops on the territory of Luhansk Oblast), we received information about the type and number of aerial reconnaissance systems operated by the “Corps” at the end of 2014.
Subsequently, this equipment was used in the battle of Debaltseve. The Russian military had deployed directly into the Luhansk Oblast 4 Orlan-10 drone systems, 4 Aileron-3 drones, and 2 Tachyon drones. Also on the territory of the Luhansk Oblast the Russian command deployed two RB-341V Leer-3 systems (the system was also recorded in Donetsk). This is a cutting-edge GSM jammer described as “aerodynamically delivered jamming transmitter of GSM standard user terminals of cellular communication” in the very cursory official brochure. The system is based on the Orlan-10 UAV. The documents also feature nonorganic forces and aerial reconnaissance equipment associated with units of the Russian Armed Forces:
- 83rd Air Assault Brigade (military unit 71289) – 3 Orlan-10 drones, tail numbers 10253, 10263, 10273;
- 100th Reconnaissance Brigade (military unit 23511) – 3 Orlan-10 drones, tail numbers 10258, 10268, 10278;
- 138th Motorized Rifle Brigade (military unit 02511) – 2 Tachyon drones, tail numbers 141168, 141169;
Note the entry on the document indicating that a Tachyon with tail number 141169 was shot down by the Ukrainian Army on December 14, 2014, near the village of Rai-Oleksandrivka in Luhansk Oblast. It is known that the occupants lost two more similar drones in Donbas: one in the summer of 2014 (link to the video, the model of the drone is given incorrectly in the title of the clip); the second, tail number 141202, between autumn 2014 and spring 2015. Photos provided by our colleague Kuzma Tutov.
The retrieved documents also contain an interesting telephone message from the reconnaissance commander of the 2nd CPM to his counterpart at the 12th Reserve Command of the Russian Armed Forces in Novocherkassk, Russian Federation. The telephone message indicates that as of December 8, 2014, the reconnaissance units operated Orlan-10 systems (three UAV systems) of the 83rd Air Assault Brigade; and there was also a plan to supply another system, owned by the 100th Reconnaissance Brigade. Here is the text of the telephone message:
The loss of the Orlan-10, tail number 10253
Another document reveals the details of the loss of the Orlan-10 drone with tail number 10253, belonging to the 83rd Air Assault Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces. The unit was conducting aerial reconnaissance along the route Chernukhyne – Debaltseve on February 3, 2015. At 14:20 they lost radio connection. The operator tried to return the drone to the launch point, but it did not respond to commands. At 14:35 at an altitude of 1514 meters the communication with the unit was completely lost. The reason for the loss of the UAV, specified in the preliminary investigation report is “a complex radio-electronic environment”. Or put simply, Ukrainian Army applied some successful electronic countermeasures.
The information on the drone’s crew is also interesting:
- the crew commander (senior operator) – senior lieutenant Yakeev Evgeny Ivanovich, personal number E-672 367;
- operator of the payload – corporal Urekyanu Rodion Savvovich, personal number MT-382 941;
- technician – private Ogly Dmitry Rustamovich, personal number U-771177.
Volunteers of InformNapalm conducted some additional OSINT, and here is what could be determined. Rodion Urekyanu’s profile was found on social networks (profile, photo album, friends). Judging from the photos, in September 2013, Urekyanu was doing conscript service in the Russian Airborne forces.
Urekyanu’s friend and comrade-in-arms Viktor Fedorov helped us identify their exact unit of service (profile, album). In his photo album he posted an image with the logo of the 83rd Air Assault Brigade.
The UCA hacktivists gained access to Urekyanu’s mailbox, email@example.com. The dump handed over to InformNapalm contained salary slips for December 2014 and January 2015. This indicates that the payload operator for the Orlan-10, tail number 10253, Corporal Urekyanu Rodion Savvovich, date of birth 11/22/1994, personal number 382941, employee number MT-1723210, at the time of performing aerial reconnaissance operations near Debaltseve, Ukraine, was a contract soldier at the 83rd Air Assault Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, and was on a so-called Ukrainian mission.
We also found information on Yakeev, a graduate of the secondary school №1 in the town of Shumerlya, Republic of Chuvashia, Russian Federation. In 2007, Yakeev entered the Cherepovets Higher Military Engineering School of Radioelectronics. The School trains specialists in four departments: engineering, command, telecommunications, automated control systems.
Let us compare the facts: the military school training profiles, the date of graduation in 2012 (with the rank of a lieutenant), the rank of a senior lieutenant in 2015, and the position of the drone crew commander (senior operator). Knowing where Yakeev studied, we can assume that his native town is Shumerlya. Having done a simple search by his last name, middle name, and hometown, we find a record of his father in the old traffic police database. Yakeev Ivan, registration address: Shumerlya, Tchaikovsky str. 13, apt.35. We were also able to find the OK profile of Evgeny Yakeev with the matching hometown and the study in the secondary school №1. On the photo, Yakeev is on duty at the military school canteen. Based on his profile information, we also managed to establish his date of birth: 5/24/1990.
UCA hacktivists were able to gain access to Yakeev’s mail as well, wherein they also found salary slips for January – February 2015. Thus, we have another firm indication, that in January 2015, while performing aerial reconnaissance tasks in Ukraine, Yakeev was an active serviceman of the Russian Armed Forces, and received salary from the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Aerial reconnaissance report
Each drone flight resulted in a report to the reconnaissance commander of the 12th Reserve Command of the Russian Army. All reports went through the reconnaissance commander of the 2nd CPM, and were kept on his office computer. Here is the content of one of them. Report compiled by senior lieutenant Yakeev.
- Intelligence report №25
- SG (Luzhniki)
- Type – Orlan-10, tail #10253
- Crew: control operator: sr. lt. Yakeev E.I., payload operator: cpl. Urekyanu R.S.
- Reconnaissance period: December 31, 2014, take-off time is 11:00. Landing time 17:00.
- Reconnaissance tasks: aerial reconnaissance in specified areas. Artillery fire adjustment.
- Route and flight profile: Lugansk – Stanytsia Luhanska – Schastia – Trohizbenka – Luhansk
- Enemy countermeasures: over Chuhynka and Trohizbenka, presumably ECM stations.
- During reconnaissance revealed: at 16:24, from an altitude of 1500 meters, in the village of Stanytsia Luhanska, coordinates X-5392672 Y-7538133: armored vehicles – 2 units, trucks – 6 units.
A photo taken from the drone was attached to the report. The object is in the village of Stanytsia Luhanska (map). Below, for comparison, is a screenshot of the satellite photo of the area where the facility is located:
Summarizing the facts of this report:
- On December 31, 2014 Russian Army servicemen senior lieutenant Yakeev E. I., and corporal Urekyanu R.S. we were on active duty in Luhansk, Ukraine (Luhansk is indicated in the report as the starting point of the route).
- The aerial reconnaissance tasks included artillery fire adjustment.
Among the intercepted data of the 2nd CPM reconnaissance commander, there is another piece of very convincing evidence – a video recording of the desktop of an Orlan-10 system operator, tail number 10258, in service with the 100th Reconnaissance Brigade of the Russian Army, under the control of junior sergeant O.H. Daurov and private V.I. Lazarenko.
The video was recorded on January 13, 2015, after 14:00, when the drone #10258 was performing reconnaissance flight to the west of the town of Schastia, Luhansk Oblast. According to the documents, on 24 January 2015 before noon time the drone was shot down by anti-aircraft fire in Debaltseve. Below is a screenshot of the video and a satellite image to determine the geolocation, and a photo of the desktop of the drone operator from a TV story about the 924th Centre for Combat Training and Flight Personnel Training of UAV fleet of the Russian Army.
Evidence data was exclusively provided to InformNapalm by the hacktivists of the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance for analysis and processing. InformNapalm Community bears no responsibility for the sources and origin of the data.
Our other publications on the Orlan-10 and its use by the Russian troops in the Donbas:
- ‘Orlan’ Drones – The Sea Eagles of St. Petersburg
- ‘Drone Company’ of Russian 19th Motorized Rifle Brigade. A story of their Ukrainian ‘trip’
- Russian Leer-3 EW system revealed in Donbas
Material prepared for publication by Mikhail Kuznetsov , translated by Victor Danilchenko, edited by Artem Velichko
(CC BY) Information specially prepared for InformNapalm.org site, an active link to the authors and our project is obligatory for any reprint or further use of the material.