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A Story Behind the Photo: Separatist Leader Pavel Gubarev and the Russian 18th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade

There was a photo, published in one of our previous investigations: Russian Air Defence ‘Decepticons’ in Donbas. Who Shoots Down Ukrainian Air Fleet? [1] (translation: courtesy of Censor.net). Former self-proclaimed ‘Donbas people’s mayor’, the leader of ‘Novorossiya’ movement, Pavel Gubarev is posing on this photo with 6P11 ‘Utes’ machine gun.

Gubarev posed on an off-road pickup truck with a self-made mount for heavy-caliber ‘Utes’ machine gun. He was wearing a t-shirt with ‘Novorossiya’ label and was surrounded with the three militant guards.

You can see a monument in background. The pedestal has several steps, its bottom part is painted with a blue color and the flag (same as pedestal’s sign plate) is golden/yellow. The top is covered with gray paint which already started to peel off. Unique features of the monument made its geolocation possible: Zrubne village, Shakhtarsk Raion, Donetsk Oblast (47° 59′ 58.63″ N 38° 52′ 10.57″ E) [2].

You wonder how this monument is linked to the Russian army, don’t you? And here the ‘Peacemaker’ project comes. Profile of Sergey Nikitin, Russian army contract scout from the village of Debyosy, Russia, was added to this website on November 14, 2014. Taking into account his friends, photo album names (‘Chechnya. 18th gvardeyskaya’) and geotags (Naurskiy Raion, Russia) we assume that he is serving in the 18th separate guards motorized rifle brigade: https://psb4ukr.org/criminal/nikitin-sergej [3].

Mr. Nikitin already mentioned that he was ‘in Donbas’ last year. He uploaded photos with white armbands, etc. However now his VK profile [4] looks a little bit different (archive links: https://archive.is/c9W60 [5] and https://archive.is/bqxyj [6]).

The name is changed and some pictures are removed. But we can see on one of the removed photos how he poses with his friends in front of the same monument to a soldier with a flag: monument, pedestal, colors and even the peeled paint perfectly matches.

The group of soldiers with 6P29 ‘Vintorez’ rifles is clearly seen here, ‘Nikonov’ (the new VK name of Mr. Nikitin) is the second from the left in the bottom row. Mixed camouflage, Russian ‘Vintorez’, brand new 6B1 SVD rifles — did the 18th brigade go to vacation in Donbas with its own weapons?

That’s how Pavel Gubarev unexpectedly disclosed the 18th separate motorized rifle brigade of the Russian Army.

Let us remind you that on June, 8 Russian propaganda channel LifeNews [7] reported that unknown militants entered an empty office building and opened fire at one of the DNR army units. Representatives of DNR MGB (Ministry of State Security [Russian: Министерство государственнной безопасности]) arrived at the place, blocked the street and surrounded the building. 15 persons were arrested including Pavel Gubarev. Possibly, our article about his role in disclosing the presence of the 18th brigade in Donbas will play a positive role in charging Mr. Gubarev with some crime by the DNR authorities.

Original article [8] by OSINT investigator Anton Pavlushko [9] and InformNapalm team, translated by Oleksandr Klymenko, edited by Gennadiy Kornev.