Eliot Higgins Profile picture
Oct 24, 2022 20 tweets 9 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Ever wonder how Russian cruise missiles find their way into Ukrainian playgrounds, power stations, and apartment buildings? Well thanks to @bellingcat’s @christogrozev wonder no more. It’s time to meet the team behind the targeting of Russian missiles on civilian infrastructure. Image
Scourge of the Russian intelligence services, Christo Grozev, has spent the last several months piecing together the team responsible for programming Russian cruise missiles launched at targets in Ukraine, frequently hitting civilian infrastructure. Image
The missile programmers are part of the Russian Armed Forces’ vast Main Computation Centre of the General Staff (GVC), and working with @the_ins_ru and @derspiegel we’ve identified the 33 military engineers involved with cruise missile attacks in Ukraine. bellingcat.com/news/uk-and-eu…
Some of the members of this unit also took part in planning cruise missile attacks on targets in Syria and/or worked at Russia's military command centre in Damascus. Some are also recipients of various military awards, including from Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Image
The unit within the GVC that we identified appears to consist of three teams of approximately 10 engineers each, with each team dedicated to programming flight-paths of one specific high-precision missile type, launched from the sea, land, and air. Image
The direct commander of the missile pre-planners sub-unit appears to be Col. Igor Bagnyuk. This was established on the basis of the analysis of telephone data of eleven members of the group of engineers obtained from data sources on the Russian black data market. Image
One of the team members, Maj. Andrey Ivanyutin, can be seen in the background of this photograph of a meeting between President Putin and Syrian President Assad held in a secure Russian compound in Damascus in January 2021 Image
By examining telephone metadata from the members of the unit it has been possible to link phone activity to attacks on Ukraine, including the October 10th strikes on Kyiv. Image
During the investigation we discovered Lt. Col. Bagnyuk was also an active user of the auction website Avito.ru, where he actively sells coins, even taking time to do so during the attack of Kyiv.
His current offerings include a medal awarded by President Putin in 2014. Based on descriptions of other offerings of the same type of medal, it was awarded “for contribution to the organisation of the Sochi Olympics”. Image
Phone records of Bagnyuk and his subordinates from the weeks prior to the 10 October attacks shows a surge of communication starting on 2 October and peaking on 9 October, with a total of 11 calls to engineers made on the last day before the strikes. Image
Prior to 2 October there was a lull of communication for approximately two weeks, consistent also with the absence of reports of intensive cruise missile use. This suggests that the planning for the 10 October attack began approximately one week earlier.
This timing also implies that the attack on the energy infrastructure and Kyiv may not have been a direct consequence of the partial destruction of the Kerch Bridge in Crimea on 8 October 2022.
Bellingcat and @the_ins_ru approached multiple members of the unit, who responded in a variety of ways. Capt. Sergey Ilyin, who spoke with Bagnyuk by phone more than 30 times over the last four months claimed he was a self employed plumber, despite photos of him in uniform. Image
Another member of the team appearing in Bagnyuk’s phone calls around the time of missile attacks was Artem Vedenov. He took our call and confirmed his name, but said he works on a farm, and offered to the reporter to explain how to butcher a pig or pluck a chicken.
More details of the investigation, and the responses from the unit’s members can be found on the Bellingcat website: bellingcat.com/news/uk-and-eu…
The Russian language version can be found on @the_ins_ru, with added details, including DMs between one of the programmers and prostitute, can be found here theins.ru/politika/255158
We did try to buy this medal so Christo could wear it during interviews about the article, but it didn't work out as Bagnyuk had to go away for work
Bellingcat's @Michael1Sheldon also managed to geolocate the group photo to the Russian MoD building in Moscow, but we couldn't fit that into the article: ImageImageImage
Bellingcat is a charity, so if you'd like to support our work you can donate through this link bellingcat.com/donate/

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More from @EliotHiggins

May 31
Asking ChatGPT to rewrite a prss release in the style of a particular outlet to a set word count takes a couple of minutes, then you can get it on your website and wait for the clicks. It's AI powered churnalism.
This also makes me think of the fake news websites I've encountered that put out months of content stolen from other sites to create a sense of credibility when they eventually put out fake stories as part of a disinfo campaign.
Threy we're quite easy to pick apart, as the text of their articles woule appear in the original articles they stole it from, but now you just can get ChatGPT to rewrite it and write up press releases.
Read 4 tweets
May 25
🛰️ New @bellingcat interactive map shows changes in buildings after #Kyrgyzstan-#Tajikistan border clash in 2022. Apparent damage to civilian infrastructure & property increases concern over impact on civilians. Explore the map: bellingcat.com/news/2023/05/2…
How we did it: Using Google Earth Pro, NASA FIRMS, Planet Labs satellite imagery & media footage, we assessed affected areas, highlighting changes in buildings, possibly due to clashes. Image
Our findings: Changes observed in 379 buildings in 11 villages & 1 city in Kyrgyzstan, and 19 buildings in 4 villages in Tajikistan. The map offers a starting point for researchers to identify areas impacted by the clash. Image
Read 4 tweets
May 22
"The Legion and the RDK completely liberated the settlement of Kozinka, Belgorod Region. Advance detachments entered Grayvoron.

We move on.

Russia will be free!

For Russia! For freedom!"
t.me/legionoffreedo… ImageImage
Another update:
"🔥 Mount-Podil passed!

The Legion with the RDK began to storm the n / a Grayvoron, Belgorod region.

Russia will be free!" Image
Read 5 tweets
May 20
I'm running a little experiment with ChatGPT at the moment, using it to design Commander decks for Magic The Gathering designed around defeating specific commander decks. For some reason ChatGPT seems to have a good understanding of the rules of MTG, and details of all the cards.
I've already designed one deck around defeating the Final Flight Commander deck and it's absolutely wiping the floor for the deck, so now I'm seeing if it can design a deck than can defeat both the Final Flight deck and the one designed to defeat the Final Flight deck.
Part of the reason I'm doing this is as a measurement of how good ChatGPT gets at doing the task as new versions of ChatGPT are released. I've also been limiting it to cards under $2.00 (excluding the commander) so it doesn't get extremely expensive.
Read 8 tweets
May 20
We're planning to expand our efforts in North America in the coming years. Personally I'm inclined to train local journalists, NGOs, activists and students, and get them working together on projects that respond to the needs of their own communities, what do you all think?
Hopefully we'll eventually be able to work with schools in North America to develop a similar curriculum that we're working on in the UK, creating pop up newsrooms in schools with the support of professional journalists
Democraticising investigations and building networks of individuals and organisations who can collaborate on investigations to ensure maximum accountability and impact is going to have a positive impact on society, and hopefully counter partisanship and conspiracy in the long run
Read 5 tweets
May 19
Bellingcat's @AricToler spoke to Chris Hayes about his work finding the Texas mass shooter's social media profile and @elonmusk's idiotic claim Bellingcat is a psyop. "Garbage in, garbage out"
You can find @AricToler's detailed investigation here:
As always, you can support Bellingcat by donating here
Read 4 tweets

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