Some Russian missile programmers were born in Ukraine, Bellingcat’s Grozev says

25 October 2022, 07:16 PM
Consequences of a missile attack on Zaporizhzhia, October 9, 2022 (Photo:REUTERS/Stringer)

Consequences of a missile attack on Zaporizhzhia, October 9, 2022 (Photo:REUTERS/Stringer)

There are some Ukrainian-born people among the Russian military programmers who target high-precision Russian missiles on Ukrainian cities, Christo Grozev, the lead investigator of the Bellingcat group, said in an interview with NV on Oct. 25.

The Bellingcat group, together with Russian independent new outlet the Insider and German news magazine Der Spiegel, identified Russian service people involved in the mass murders of Ukrainian civilians and criminal attacks on critical infrastructure of Ukraine, Christo Grozev told NV.

After analyzing a database of phone records, the journalists reconstructed a team of 33 military engineers who appeared to work under the command of Russian Lt. Col. Igor Bagnyuk. They were likely programming the flight paths of cruise missiles, such as the sea-launched Kalibr (3M-14), the land-launched R-500 (9M728) for the Iskander system, and air-launched Kh-101 types.

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When the investigators discovered these people’s phone numbers and tried to get more details from them about aiming those missiles, they left “two different anonymous e-mail accounts” for possible feedback. The programmer “could send there (true) information, even if they told us in person that they worked at a pig farm or would say nothing at all (fearing retaliation from the FSB).”

That is how, according to Grozev, the reporters received a letter in which one of the engineers agreed to share certain information on the condition of anonymity.

“So we can't really be sure which of those 33 sent us this anonymous email, some photos and some context,” Grozev said.

“Among these people there are a few who were born in Ukraine, so it is possible that someone’s conscience spoke.”

However, he did not specify the names of people who were born in Ukraine.

The investigators concluded the three teams in the unit of the Main Computing Center of the Russian Armed Forces each programs the flight paths for missiles of a specific type:

  • Kalibr (sea-based) — Matvey Lyubavin, Roman Kurochkin, Ivan Popov, Sergey Ilyin, Yuriy Nikonov, Georgy Starostin, Nikolai Tarasov, Dmitry Tikhonov, Yekaterina Chugunova, Igor Groza;
  • Iskander (ground-based) — Alexei Mykhailov, Vitaly Yaskelainen, Elvira Obukhova, Pavel Obukhov, Artem Vedenov, Alexander Grigoryan, Vladimir Petrov, Nikita Poplavskyi;
  • Kh-101 (airborne) — Andrei Ivanyutin, Anton Chulikov, Alexei Betekhtin, Artem Chernov, Olga Pysmenska, Pavel Vasiliev, Alexei Volkov, Anton Shatun, Stanislav Minkov.

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