Eliot Higgins Profile picture
Oct 24, 2022 20 tweets 9 min read Read on X
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

Apr 3
Several weeks ago the FvD's @PvanHouwelingen submitted questions to the Ministry of Justice based on reporting by @AndereKrant and @TheGrayzoneNews. Last week those answers were received, but neither Pepijn nor the two publications cited have reported on them. Let's find out why. Image
Just before Christmas the @AndereKrant and @TheGrayzoneNews published false claims that Bellingcat had submitted an article to the Dutch National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV) ahead of publication to allegedly ‘attack journalists’. Image
@AndereKrant @TheGrayzoneNews These allegations appear to have been entirely based on claims made by @CeesCees72, apparently without any attempt to fact check the claim made in his tweet:
Read 11 tweets
Mar 5
The new OECD report is one of the better examples of an intergovernmental report on dealing with disinformation, and actually gets it's not just about factchecking, but also creating a cycle that includes transparency and accountability. oecd.org/publications/f…
I believe that the current issues we face with disinformation are symptoms of a broader social and cultural shift that has occurred over the last 15 years, and Bellingcat and open source investigation is also part of the same shift.
One fundamental issue is people, especially in Western democracies, feel increasingly detached from political process, and don't feel part of the democratic process. It creates a sense of total disempowerment, and that draws them to online communities.
Read 13 tweets
Mar 1
Anyone who has followed George Galloway knows his head consists entirely of tankie brain worms, having taken a denialist position on a wide range of war crimes and atrocities in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere, because he sees the victims as being on the side of "imperialists"
So look forward to some tired tankie bullshit being repeated in Parliament on the rare days he bothers to turn up.
There's noting maverick about taking the opposite side to whatever you imagine is in the interests of the west and then denying a bunch of war crimes to justify your position.. It's boring, tedious, and basic, Twitter is full of idiots like that.
Read 6 tweets
Feb 17
I've seen two major disinformation themes around Navalny's death, one is misrepresenting already false claims, shown left, the other is repeating a story based on fabricated videos and documents alleging an affair. The second one we recently unpicked in the Bellingcat Discord.
The allegations were based on a video featuring a woman claiming to have worked for Yulia Navalnaya, but there's no evidence she ever worked for Navalnaya, and the video was posted on a social media account that was instantly deleted, and never crawled by a search engine.
The only supporting evidence were confirmations, with partially obscured booking numbers. What they didn't account for is that we'd try every possible variation of the missing digits until we found the bookings online. Booking.com
Read 8 tweets
Jan 16
Graham Phillips lost his legal case against UK sanctions on him. The judge said "He has not shown any journalistic responsibility or ethics. His actions directly support Russia in its policies or actions that destabilise Ukraine." Post reaction gifs below:
First may I say "lol", and follow that up with "lmao".
The full text of the decision can be found here. Absolutely no idea how they could have thought Graham was a pro-Russian propagandist

Read 5 tweets
Dec 16, 2023
I’ve written this piece for the FT about the challenges we face globally with disinformation and the urgent need of a systematic approach to address the root causes of the creation and spread of disinformation, and the positive opportunities that offers.
I believe that among many of the policymakers and practitioners who have attempted to address disinformation there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the causes of disinformation, which has undermined our ability to deal with it effectively.
There’s a perception that disinformation is created by outside actors who influence communities, and society as a whole. A typical example of this is the reaction to the 2016 election of Donald Trump, where much of the attention was focused on Russia interference.
Read 46 tweets

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