For the second day in a row, Russian occupation forces in the Donbas have fired 120-mm and 152-mm artillery at dozens of settlements along the line of contact. As of 14:00 on February 18, Russian armed forces have violated the ceasefire 45 times, using the heavy weapons prohibited by the Minsk agreements in 34 cases.
Today, February 18, Ukrainian soldiers and readers of InformNapalm informed us of a very alarming fact. According to them, in the evening of February 17, a massive shelling of the Ukrainian territory by heavy artillery of the Russian occupation forces took place. The shells also reached the electronic intelligence post of Ukrainian defenders which had never been shelled before.
The editorial board of the InformNapalm international intelligence community has its own photo confirmations and additional evidence, but we will not publish them to protect the defenders of Ukraine and not reveal their exact location.
Luckily, there were no losses among Ukrainian troops, but it is notable that exactly four days before this shelling, an UAV of the OSCE special monitoring mission hovered over this post for a long time, conducting reconnaissance.
This suggests that Russians or other persons, who may be working for the aggressor country, are participating in the mission and have access to the data, which they then could share with the artillery units of the Russian occupation forces in the Donbas.
25 Russian citizens in OSCE SMM
According to the last quarterly report from February 7th 2022, 689 citizens from 43 countries are working in the OSCE SMM in the Donbas. There are no Ukrainians there, but, for instance, there are 24 Russian citizens and 6 citizens of Belarus.
InformNapalm already pointed out the potential risks of the presence of Russian citizens and their access to the classified monitoring data of the mission. We stressed that the representatives of Russia, the aggressor country, must be excluded from the mission.
Russia, as an organizer of the conflict and the aggressor, has no moral right to include its citizens in OSCE SMM and conduct unhindered reconnaissance of Ukrainian positions.
Besides, on 17 February 2022, the Russian state news outlet TASS informed that at a meeting of the Permanent Council of this organization in Vienna, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Maksim Buyakevich said: “If the OSCE mission lacks “workers” in Donbas, Russia is ready to supply even more highly qualified candidates to positions of responsibility in the SMM.“
This cynical statement emphasizes that Russia views its participation in the OSCE SMM in the Donbas as a convenient tool for conducting intelligence and hybrid warfare against Ukraine.
Russian citizens can also influence the public reports of the mission, remove from them the information that is inconvenient for them because it can be used to prove the facts of Russia’s direct participation in the aggression against Ukraine, and they can manipulate the data.
The OSCE SMM is still the only international mission that can still visit and monitor the occupied territories, although it faces constant restrictions on movement or blocking of surveillance in certain areas by Russian occupation forces. According to the informed diplomatic sources, the Russians allow the mission to work in the occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts only upon the condition that there are Russian citizens participating in it, and OSCE has to accept it to maintain a kind of status-quo.
At the same time, it should be noted that despite the efforts of the Russian side, some important data on modern models of Russian equipment in the Donbas still occasionally appear in official reports of observers. Thus, in 2019, InformNapalm publicly drew the attention of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the potential of OSCE SMM reports as a source of additional information, investigating which can record the undisputed participation of the Russian Armed Forces in aggression. And it seems that our appeals have been considered, because in 2021 we saw an InformNapalm investigation, which was based on the analysis of OSCE SMM reports, used at high diplomatic levels.
The presence of Russian citizens in the OSCE SMM in the Donbas obviously supports a certain status quo. But of course, Russia gets many more benefits for itself by having its own potential agents of influence and intelligence within the mission. Probably due to the influence of Russians, since 2014, the OSCE mission in the Donbas had earned the reputation of “blind observers”, after numerous facts of Russian aggression and invasion of Russian equipment were ignored and did not appear in the mission’s reports. It is noteworthy that all the observations by the OSCE SMM of unique examples of modern Russian technology in the Donbas were made with the help of UAVs, struggling against the interference from Russian EW systems. And there have been no reports in open sources that the Russians allowed OSCE SMM patrols to visit the areas where they are hiding these weapons.
InformNapalm volunteers once again point out that against the background of growing threats of a full-scale Russian invasion, this factor of hybrid Russian influence through Russian citizens in the OSCE SMM must be carefully considered. First, Russian citizens should be removed from monitoring Ukrainian positions and should be restricted from accessing the classified part of the mission’s reports. This could minimize their impact and limit their ability to provide intelligence and coordinates that can be used to guide Russian artillery shelling.
Read more related material from InformNapalm
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By Roman Burko specially for InformNapalm. Translated by Andrii Gryganskyi. Edited by Max Alginin. Distribution and reprint with reference to the source is welcome! (Creative Commons — Attribution 4.0 International — CC BY 4.0) InformNapalm social media pages: Facebook / Twitter / Telegram
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