Erik Zimerman Profile picture
Jul 26 37 tweets 10 min read
Undoubtedly some very interesting developments here. In the immediate aftermath, @bellingcat & its lead #Russia investigator @christogrozev began damage control regarding the announcement. Mr. Grozev claimed that he was not involved in the operation (as RU sources asserted) but
simply had a front-row seat as a film-maker (for a documentary). He also denied that the Ukrainian operation was a failure or a Russian coup. He portrays it as a mutual attempt at playing the other side, in which the UA came out on top and RU FSB blundered & revealed important
(His thread ), calling it a "blunder for the FSB, disclosing unintentionally identities of dozens of counter intel officers, their methods of operation, and their undercover assets.".
As usual, let us apply some logic, & w/ some luck, intelligence to get passed the hype. First a word about Mr. Grozev. #Bellingcat's own website notes that he is focusing on "...extraterritorial clandestine operations & the weaponization of information" among other things. This
is a gentleman that knows how to play dirty. Here are some troubling allegations to this effect.

I am not exploring this issue in this thread, but let us not forget that Bellingcat & its investigators work under the pressure of getting sensational scoops
if not also under strong political biases as well. Having said that, let me summarize my conclusion on this matter thus far (and I thank many readers who expressed excellent points on this as well). Grozev has two main points.
1. This was not a Ukrainian failure (nor RU success)
and 2. He (& Bellingcat) was not involved in the operation but just had a "front row seat" as a journalist, for an upcoming documentary.

We of course cannot know the details of what happened. Not at this point & perhaps never. These are covert operations & we could expect either
side or both to be misleading about what occurred. However we can broadly address Grozev's main points, & make some conclusions from this.

Let us start with the latter point. This one does not pass the smell test. In his original thread Grozev explains that he was just a viewer.
Then proceeds to tell the story as an active participant. He is proud to have been instrumental in figuring out that the operation was compromised (RU was playing them), at one point bragging that discovering that a pilot's alleged mistress was an agent took him "about 5 minutes"
He mentions other such clues & one cannot believe that he was keeping those to himself and not sharing them with the UA operatives. More to the point, if he was only an audience to the operation, how was Russia, especially one that according to him failed at turning the operation
ever find out about him and accuse him of being part of it? Obviously his part was much more than spectator. The only alternative would be a Russian counter-intelligence operation so successful that it learned everything about the UA operation including who the "front seat"
audience was (in this case Bellingcat). This is unlikely & would also contradict his other point (that it was a RU failure). Finally, if we take Grozev at his word, and somehow reconcile his active participation with just being a documentarist in the operation, how in the world
would he as a supposed independent journalist have a front seat in a covert Ukrainian operation? Bellingcat purports being the at the forefront of independent journalism, not to mention impartial, and not part of the Ukrainian intelligence apparatus.
In his original thread, Grozev tries to casually gloss over this by quickly explaining the connection. The image he choses emphasizes his spectator role (as discussed, in contradiction to the rest of his story). Unspecified UA operatives were doing a covert operation & Bellingcat
somehow "found out" about it. Then apparently once you find out about a country's covert operations you can get a "front row seat", all while maintaining full impartiality as an independent journalist. Apparently this last point was raised by enough of his readers, that it
prompted him to add to his thread about 2 hours later. He tried to resolve this issue by claiming that the operation was started by "maverick ex operatives" whom he later calls "essentially, volunteers". Interestingly in his original thread, he simply called them:
"Ukrainian operatives". Now here is the additional problem with this. Even if again we take him at his word that they are "ex" operatives, the distinction in this case and in time of war is one without meaning. Firstly as he points out they have been active since the beginning of
the war. They are obviously very motivated to help Ukraine & hence "essentially" volunteering for this activity. In time of war and of total mobilization of the country, would these capable clandestine operatives not be mobilized? Not be helping their friends and contacts who are
not "ex" but rather just UA operatives? Would they especially not be contacting them with something this important? The nail in the coffin of course is that the coordination is obvious and necessary. Gozev states that the operation was based on an offer (money) to Russian pilots
based on the Ukrainian "weapons-surrender-incentive-law". The money, unless they meant to cheat the Russian would-be defectors, would come from the UA government. More importantly, the coordination of the defection, a complex endeavor at all times & more so in the midst of war,
had to bee coordinated at the highest levels with the UA government unless they intended to, besides cheating the Russian pilots, have them get blown to bits by AA fire when they tried to defect. Everything from the evacuation of the pilots families & EU citizenship to the
coordination of the flight routes (all which Grozev mentions) had to be coordinated with the UA government. Mere volunteers without the backing of the authorities could not offer any of this. When you add the fact that he admits that they were "ex" operatives, it stretches the
imagination to not conclude that they either were or were acting as present operatives. This was clearly a UA operation. It is most common for intelligence operatives to not be full time "W2" (in American) employees of the intelligence services. It is a murky world that employs
all sorts of contacts, not all full time nor uniformed employees of the state. One assertion being dismantled, let us address the first, namely that this was not an Ukrainian failure (in fact he implies it was a success due to data obtained) nor a Russian success.
In broadest terms, of course this was a Ukrainian failure. Or is it a UA "volunteer" failure. The attempt was to lure Russian pilots to defect and none did. No planes, no pilots. Additionally, even once again taking Grozv at his word, for some time negotiations & discussions took
place while the UA operatives did not know the FSB was playing a double game. This already would indicate that the advantage was on the RU side, and that at least some information that UA would have preferably not given was in fact given. If the RU side is to be believed, it was
quite significant and may even be part of why we see #Russian planes venturing deeper into #Ukraine than previously in recent days (which is part of what I plan to discuss in another thread). The video evidence Russian sources presented & their knowledge of Bellingcat's Christo
Grozev's involvement supports the assertion that the operation proceeded significantly without the UAs knowing they were being duped. Finally, the announcement to the public comes from Russian sources. While Grozev is reacting to the release, and defending himself, it is the
Russians who decided that their counter-intelligence operation was over & should release its results. This alone is not proof of who came out on top but is part of the picture. For all we know Bellingcat & the UA operatives may have had suspicions but did not know the game was up
There is in short enough in Grozev's own admissions, together with the Russian release, to reasonably conclude that this was a failed UA attempt at luring Russian pilots to defect, that at least for a significant period of time the FSB turned the operation on the Ukrainians, that
Bellingcat journalist Christo Grozev was part of the Ukrainian covert operation, in more than a "spectator" capacity, and that the Russians once satisfied that they had gotten what they could out of the operation & concluded the UA had either finally realized they were being
played, and/or could not be tricked into releasing any further information of importance, decided to release evidence of the counter-intelligence operation. Certainly this would embarrass the Ukrainians and Bellingcat, as it did, and we see them actively in damage control.
They have control of the final edit of their future documentary, in which they can paint a different picture, & we should not be surprised if we see it in the near future doing so, but two important points should be clear.
The Ukrainians attempted to lure Russian pilots to defect
for money and failed; and Bellingcat's Christo Grozev was suspiciously intimately involved with the operation (along w who knows what other western intelligence). This is in sharp contrast to what these "open source" independent journalists, darlings of the media, claim to be.
If Mr. Grozev, though Bulgarian, wants to be a Ukrainian patriot and fighter for the Zelensky government he definitely can be. Likewise if he wishes to be an operative against Russia and Mr. Putin's government. He likes to "weaponize" information as their website puts it, & they
often do so against Russia. But if he wishes to be those things I would suggest he be more frank, and not pretend to be an impartial journalist who is reporting an a conflict between two states. Especially not after he's been caught.

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Erik Zimerman

Erik Zimerman Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @ZimermanErik

Jul 26
The thread being long enough, could not fit all I would have wished. But let me add a last and important point. After the release of this information, we learned of two high level dismissals in the Ukrainian government. #Zelensky fired the First Deputy Secretary of the National
Security and Defense Council Ruslan Demchenko. As part of the Council, which among other tasks coordinates security matters and advises the president, he very well may have been involved in clandestine matters such as this operation. He also worked as deputy minister of foreign
affairs. Perhaps more tellingly Zelensky also fired the commander of Special Operations Forces (SSO), Hryhoriy Halahan. Until 2016 these units were under the Chief Directorate of Intelligence (HUR / GUR), and so are highly correlated with this kind of operation. The SSO includes
Read 14 tweets
Jul 25
Reports emerging that #Ukraine, apparently believing itself to be 1960's Israel, and #Russia 1960's Iraq, (not to mention Russian pilots to be Christian Assyrians in Iraq), tried to recruit #Russian pilots to defect with their planes (ie SU-24 / 34). The failed UA intelligence
operation was busted and "flipped" by a successful Russian FSB counter-intelligence operation. The UA intelligence agents were reportedly lured to identify themselves, other trusted sources, and UA anti-aircraft systems details & positions. A defecting pilot for example would
reasonably need to know many such details in order to fly over Ukrainian territory with a reasonable assurance of not being shot down and killed. This was a creative idea, one I could see coming form the likes of #Arestovych or other Ukrainian well read in history, specifically,
Read 7 tweets
Jul 22
Note on a predicted #Ukrainian strategy change. Early on the war, when the public was not accustomed to it, the media got great mileage out of every building that was fired on, assuming all are war crimes. As I discussed in more detail then, people are civilians (or not),
and not buildings. If a defender chooses to defend a city (& an attacker to try to capture it), there will be a fight in the city. Cities are not filled with "designated urban combat buildings", just buildings, and that is where the fighting will take place. Given this reporting
eager to call all events "war crimes" and their intention always "genocide", #Ukraine, whose strategy is always shaped & driven by Western perception, did everything it could to stop civilian evacuations from front line cities. They rationalized that it was the patriotic duty of
Read 19 tweets
Jul 22
This speculative movement, far from the reported fronts seems to finally be in good swing. First discussed it in the quoted tweet (itself quoting a thread about the elusive & unreported forest battles), the last few day of VIIRS data show us a serious #Russian advance to secure
the western forest flank of the #Izium supply line. It is done not as an advance westward from the city, but as a pincer movement from the north & south to advance along the high ground & surround any UA forces still operating within the forest belt. More recently we discussed
these #Ukrainian operations in the forest belt including a river crossing (here ). Also noted that in other threads (such as this one ) that UA would be wise to invest more resources in holding this forest & continuing operations from
Read 20 tweets
Jul 20
Yesterday #Russian sources reported that elements of the #Ukrainian "Kraken" unit infiltrated through the forest belt and attempted an attack on Bilohorivka. This was stopped and some prisoners were taken. Geolocated below. While it is possible that the attack came through the
northern forest belt (meaning UA forces crossed the Donets river twice), and this would be quite a daring mission, it is also possible that these were units that were left in fortified positions in the hilly wooded areas south of Hryrhorivka when the RU forces advanced due west
and attacked took the village (leaving the UA troops in the southern wooded areas). These units could have then advance on Bilohorivka (diagonally) attempting to cut off any remaining troops in Hryhorivka. It is also possible that they simply advanced east from Serebrianka and
Read 25 tweets
Jul 19
We often discuss the all important supply lines, & in the case of #Russia, the railways. RU is one of the few countries in the world & the only major power to still field Railway Troops (In NATO, only Italy has a small regiment w 2 railway engineer companies). Given Russia's vast
geography, heavy use of artillery, especially rocket artillery (very supply intensive), limited number of military trucks, and relatively sparse road system the army depends on the railways. From their Imperial Tsarist beginnings, through the Soviet era & up until today, the
Railway Troops have undergone many changes & been part of various ministries. Their modern iteration begins in 1995 when they are established as an independent Federal Service & strengthened. By 1999 they include 4 railway corps, with 28 railway brigades (+ other elements).
Read 18 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Don't want to be a Premium member but still want to support us?

Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Or Donate anonymously using crypto!


0xfe58350B80634f60Fa6Dc149a72b4DFbc17D341E copy


3ATGMxNzCUFzxpMCHL5sWSt4DVtS8UqXpi copy

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!