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Inform Napalm: List-1097: How the Russian 18th Brigade occupied Crimea


Inform Napalm just released this report, translated into English. 

This is exceptionally fine work on the part of InformNapal. This is also a case of very poor operational security on the part of the Russians. 

I copy the entire article here only because, when dealing with information embarrassing to Russians, this might disappear at any time. 

That said, the original site has interesting links and the tables and videos are better. 

</end editorial>



List-1097: How the Russian 18th Brigade occupied Crimea

on 06/08/2018 | | Crimea 

The Russian occupation of Crimea began 4 years ago. After 3 months of EuroMaidan protests in Ukraine, which ended with the shooting of protesters by riot police units, President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country. Many Ukrainian top officials fled either together with him or took their own routes – ministers, MPs, and other senior civil servants. State authorities effectively stopped working, waiting for directives and new appointments from the parliament. Ukraine stepped into a short period of political uncertainty, and Russia immediately took advantage of it by sending its troops into Crimea, and then by invading Donbas. Though several years have already passed, many details of this operation still have not been investigated, and Russian top officials and the actual participants of the Crimea invasion have not been brought to account.

Recently Ukrainian hacktivists from the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance (UCA) obtained unique data that can significantly expand the list of Crimea military invasion participants. UCA gave exclusive access to InformNapalm volunteer community to analyze the files. On our part, we tried to verify the data through open source intelligence (OSINT), and today we are happy to present some of our findings.

This report consists of two parts. In the first part we revisit the general timeline and some of the known facts about the Russian military operation in Crimea, providing the context for this investigation. In the second part we describe the documents that we received from UCA and demonstrate the results of our investigation. We wrap up with brief conclusions.

1. Some known facts about the invasion of Crimea

1.1. Hybrid occupation

The operation to seize Crimea was essentially hybrid. It involved both regular military units of the Russian Federation and paramilitary groups, consisting mainly of the representatives of the Russian Cossack movement from different regions of Russia. Paramilitary associations formed the backbone of the armed groups of the so-called Crimean Self-Defense, which took an active part in blocking and seizing administrative buildings and other facilities in Crimea.

Despite their prominence, Crimean Self-Defense militants played a supporting role. The bulk of the tasks to seize Ukrainian military units and communications was performed by regular troops of the Russian Army. They played three roles:

1) they acted in the crowds disguised as civilians;

2) they operated disguised in the uniform of Ukrainian police units;

3) they carried out special orders of the Russian command in full combat uniforms and gear but without insignia and wearing balaclavas covering their faces.

The secrecy was used to create the illusion of a popular uprising in Crimea that would demonstrate to the world community a contrived image of the confrontation between the civilian population of the Autonomous Republic and representatives of the central government in the region. The world was to see the rebellion of the local population against imaginary ethnic discrimination and the struggle for reunification with the “fraternal people” of Russia. The international community had to see it and, in the best case scenario, approve it or, in the worst case scenario, not to interfere.

1.2. Occupation forces

The occupying hybrid army was numerous and included troops from various army branches. According to the estimates of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, more than 70,000 Russian troops were involved in the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula. Of these, 12,000 served in the Russian Army.

The military element included not only those Russian soldiers who were already in Ukraine under the SOFA agreement between the Russian Federation and Ukraine on stationing of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine, signed on April 21, 2010. In late February 2014, Russia started massive illegal deployment of its military units to the territory of Crimea.

To date, the Military Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine has collected evidence of the participation of the following units of the Russian Army in the Crimean operation: 31st Air Assault Brigade of the Airborne Forces, 45th Special Purpose Regiment of the Airborne Forces (military unit 28337), 98th Airborne Division of the Airborne Forces (military unit 65451), 76th Air Assault Division of the Airborne Forces, 18th Motorized Rifle Brigade (MRB) of 58th Army of the Southern Military District of the Russian Army, and 15th MRB of the Russian Peacekeeping Forces (military unit 90600).

However, this long list is likely incomplete. The list of holders of the medal For the Return of Crimeacompiled by our community contains servicemen of other Russian military units that could have taken part in the operation: 21st MRB (military unit 12128), 7th Armored Brigade (military unit 89547), 32th MRB (military unit 22316), 10th Special Operations Brigade of the GRU (military unit 51532), 16th Special Operations Brigade of the GRU (military unit 54607), 19th MRB (military unit 20634), 74th MRB (military unit 21005) and 2nd Separate Special Operations Brigade of the GRU. This list excludes the units of the Black Sea Fleet that were already in Crimea before the operation’s launch.

1.3. The dates of the military operation to seize Crimea

There was a degree of controversy as to the exact date when “little green men” started landing in Crimea, but Russia itself ended it by issuing the medal For the Return of Crimea in 2014 with the dates indicated on its reverse: 20.02.2014-18.03.2014, i.e. February 20, 2014 – March 18, 2014.

On February 27 at 4:20 AM, about 120 gunmen in combat gear and military uniforms without insignia seized the buildings of the Parliament and the Government of Crimea. After this, key facilities and buildings of the peninsula were seized in a powerful and well coordinated wave: administrative buildings, airfields, telecommunications centers, and military units. In parallel, the occupation force was being ramped up.

On March 16, a referendum on the status of Crimea was held at gunpoint of the Russian occupation forces. On March 17, the newborn Republic of Crimea proclaimed its independence and requested accession to Russia, and on March 18 the treaty on the incorporation of Crimea into the Russian Federation was signed. On March 20 this treaty was hastily ratified by the State Duma of the Russian Federation, and on March 21 it was ratified by the Federation Council, effectively cementing Russia’s status as an aggressor state.

The referendum of March 16 was declared illegitimate not only by all branches of power in Ukraine, but also by the OSCE, PACE and the Venice Commission. On March 27, 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution rejecting the referendum in Crimea on secession from Ukraine held on March 16 and further illegal annexation of the peninsula by Russia.

1.4. Routes of the Russian hybrid army’s invasion of the peninsula

Russia deployed its servicemen to Crimea by sea, air, and land.

On land Russian servicemen traveled by roads, mainly using Kharkiv-Simferopol highway. They were disguised as Cossacks and civilians.

For the sea transportation, Russia used both its navy and civil vessels. Currently, it is known that Russia deployed landing platform docks (LPDs) Nikolay Filchenkov, Kaliningrad, Minsk, Olenegorsky Gorniak, Georgy Pobedonosets, Azov, Saratov, as well as other vessels of smaller size. It is difficult to track all civilian vessels, but it has been reliably established that Russian servicemen were transported on ro-ro/passenger ships Yeysk and Nikolay Aksenenko. State Border Guard Service of Ukraine reported these facts during the Russian military seizure of Crimea.

Russian military men were also airlifted to Crimea. Both airfields of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation in Crimea and those captured by Russian units during the military operation were used. There is no official information as to the number of Russian military aircraft arriving in Crimea between February 20 and March 20, 2014. However, we can appreciate the scale of the airlift if we recall that Serhiy Kunitsyn, then the Permanent Representative of the President of Ukraine in Crimea, reportedthat by March 2, thirteen IL-76 transport planes with Russian paratroopers had arrived in Crimea. In addition to airplanes, the Kremlin also widely used helicopters – Mi-8 and Mi-24 to deliver the troops.

The entire operation to seize Crimea was concealed from the world community as much as possible. Russian TV channels persistently repeated that people hiding their faces under balaclavas were members of the local self-defense groups and denied the deployment of arms and troops. Reports about the equipment unique to the Russian Army, e.g. Tigr and Rys infantry mobility vehicles, were refuted. On March 4, during a press conference, Russian President Putin said that Russia’s armed forces did not take part in the blocking of Ukrainian military units in Crimea. “Those were local self-defense forces”, he said. The next day, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu said that the photos and videos of the Russian military men operating in Crimea in the uniforms without insignia were a provocation. When asked by journalists, whether there were any Russian troops in Crimea, Shoygu replied: “Absolutely no”.

Yet, on November 17, 2014, Putin acknowledged that the servicemen of the Russian Army had participated in seizing Crimea, that is, he himself confirmed the fact of a military aggression against a sovereign independent state.

By having annexed the Ukrainian Crimea, Russia violated 407 bilateral and 80 international treaties with Ukraine and confirmed its aggressor state status, which Moscow had claimed in 2008 when it attacked Georgia.

2. 1,097 skeletons in the closet of the military unit 27777

2.1. Tell us what you ate – and we’ll tell you where you have been

Let’s move to the actual findings. The Ukrainian Cyber Alliance gave us two text documents extracted from the mailbox of Alexander Popov (photo, passport data 123), food supply officer of military unit 27777 of the Southern Military District (18th MRB, permanently stationed in Kalinovskaya village and Khankala town, Chechnya).

Both documents relate to a seemingly innocent topic – supplying food for servicemen. However, there was more to these documents than one could see at first glance.

The first document is dated March 6, 2014. This is an extract from Order #48 of the military unit 27777, which says: “As of March 7, 2014 servicemen of the special operations battalion listed below shall be considered as departed for a combat mission, removed from DFAC meal entitlement plan, supplied with field rations for a period of 11 (eleven) days from March 7 to March 17 and handed ration cards.” This paragraph is followed by a list of 202 military servicemen. The original document is available here.

The second document is another extract from an order of the military unit 27777, Order #53 this time. It is dated March 14, 2014: “Servicemen of the military units 27777, 63354, 29202 listed below, who departed for a combat mission, shall be supplied with field rations for a period of 03 (three) days from March 16, 2014 to March 18, 2014”. This is followed by a list of 891 names. The original extract is available here.

This raises a natural question – which “combat mission” had to be carried out by almost 1,100 military men, 202 of whom served in the special ops battalion? In March 2014 Russia was not at war with any country, at least officially. Still, both time intervals perfectly match with the dates of Crimea invasion. It is logical to assume that the people on both lists took part in the military aggression against Ukraine. However, such assumptions are not enough to pronounce someone guilty, so we decided to look for supporting evidence.

2.2. Our findings

To analyze a list of 1,097 people is not as easy as it may seem, but we rose to the challenge. It definitely took a lot of work, but now we are ready to brag about our results.

We compiled our data into a searchable table of all 1,097 soldiers from both lists with links to their social media profiles and other important relevant information. The table is available in Russian.

If you find anything that we missed during our analysis, please, contact us and we will be happy to refine our investigation with additional OSINT or HUMINT.

2.3. Analysis of the key facts

2.3.1. The ways of deployment of the List-1097 servicemen to Crimea

While we were searching the internet, we discovered a lot of new information about the participation of the 18th MRB in the occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula.

Judging by the photographs that we found, the servicemen were transported to Crimea in several ways.

Most of the pictures were taken on the civilian ro-ro/passenger ship Nikolay Aksenenko. We found these photos made both in Port Kavkaz and Port Krym (ferry terminals across the Kerch Strait), and even the photos of Russian military equipment loaded on the ferry. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Magomed Khamatayev, scout and machine gunner of the 2nd squad, 2nd special operations group, 1st special operations company of the special operations battalion, aboard the ferry Nikolay Aksenenko at Port Krym.
Aydemir Mustafayev, senior driver of the 3rd squad, 1 automotive platoon, automotive company (ammunition transportation) of the logistics battalion, aboard the ferry Nikolay Aksenenko at Port Kavkaz.
Photo with the military equipment aboard the ferry Nikolay Aksenenko. Discovered in the photo album of Usman Gadayev, driver of the 1st squad, 1st automotive platoon, automotive company (ammunition transportation), logistics battalion.

Even though most photos were posted after the period of February 20 – March 20, 2014, it is important to note these details:

  • the servicemen are dressed in non-regulation military uniforms with no insignia;
  • in many photos, the soldiers are holding automatic rifles;
  • photos of the same ferry are found in the social profiles of a whole group of servicemen, some of them are group photos;
  • the soldiers are dressed for cold weather, most of them are wearing caps and beanies, which means that these pictures could not be taken in summer.

There are also other details indicating that the photos were taken during the seizure of Crimea.

For example, Musa Guseyev, praporshchik of the military unit 63354 (136th MRB, based in Buynaksk, Gerey-Avlak, and Botlikh in the Republic of Dagestan) posted a photo from the ferry on March 11, 2014.

Two other photos contain an interesting detail. It is the date of the next maintenance check of the lifeboat lifts – 12.09.14 (September 12, 2014).

The date tells us that the photos could not have been taken later than September 12, otherwise there would have been another date on the lifts. Summer season in Crimea and neighboring parts of Russia lasts until mid-fall, so September 12 is still summer. Therefore, the only possible time interval for these pictures is winter-early spring 2014.

There is an additional piece of evidence in the photos taken on land in Port Krym. One of them includes a welcome sign with the Ukrainian flag and the inscription “Ukraine, Crimea”. This sign was redesignedsoon after the illegal annexation by the occupation government authorities.

Photo from the profile of Ilyas Midayev, driver of the automotive squad, logistics platoon of the special operations battalion at Port Krym
Photo from the profile of Vitaliy Pribytkov, senior sergeant serving at the military unit 63354 (136th MRB, Republic of Dagestan)

Another piece of hard evidence confirming the direct participation of the soldiers listed in the UCA documents, is that some of those spotted on the ferry were awarded medals For the Return of Crimea, including Magomed Khamatayev, Sergei Karchevsky, Marat Magomedov and others.

Despite the fact that sealift by civilian ferryboats looks like predominant way of cross-border troops transportation, we have reasons to believe that not all of the listed servicemen arrived in Crimea by ferries. In three soldiers’ social media profiles we found photos in the port, next to warships. Two of them clearly show LPDs. We managed to identify one of them. This is LPD Kaliningrad, which is on the official list of vessels that transported Russian Army troops to Crimea in spring 2014.

Junior sergeant Vladimir Sobovoy with LPD Kaliningrad in the background, Novorossiysk. Sea Port. Posted on March 12, 2014

One of the awardees of the medal For the Return of Crimea is Marat Magomedov, radio and telephone operator and grenade-launcher operator of the communications platoon of the 1st communications battalion. In his album, we also found a photo where he is wearing non-regulation uniform without insignia with an IL-76MD aircraft in the background. In another picture from his album, there is a group of servicemen also standing in front of an IL-76MD, with a clearly visible tail number RA-78805.

With this tail number we found the serial number of the aircraft  0093492783It belongs to the Russian Air Force.

Unfortunately, at the moment we have not yet found definitive evidence that this transport plane was used to airlift Russian troops to Crimea, but we found a video indicating that this plane may have taken servicemen of the 18th MRB from Crimea back to Russia.

In the first part of the video, we see the same plane with RA-78805 tail number at an unknown airfield. The video shows a crowd of people dressed in military uniforms, mostly of winter type, and the plane is approaching this crowd. Two people are talking in Chechen and the essence of the conversation is roughly as follows: they say that this plane was sent by Putin to pick them up and, having completed their mission, they are going back home with a clear conscience. Then they say that if needed, they will seize Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk.

This video was posted on YouTube on October 2, 2014. The description to the video says that it was retrieved from the phone of one of the Chechen mercenaries who fought in Ukraine. Together with the photos from the album, the information on the video suggests that the people in the video are flying back to Russia after the operation to seize Crimea and that the video was shot at one of the airfields in Crimea. We will let you judge for yourself whether you support our conclusions or not.

We will continue looking for information regarding the possible transportation of the servicemen of the 18th MRB to Crimea on warships and military aircraft, and if we find relevant facts, we will publish them.

Now let’s move on to other findings.

2.3.2. BTR-82A of the military unit 27777

In the social media profile of Vladimir Lukyantsev, machine gunner of the 3rd squad, 3rd platoon, 3rd company of the 1st motorized rifle battalion, we found the photo where he is wearing a non-regulation uniform without insignia and a balaclava with BTR-82A, side number 139 in the background. The photo contains caption “in Crimea” and was posted on March 13, 2014.

The key detail in this photo is the BTR-82A armored personnel carrier (APC), which is a major Russian upgrade of the BTR-80. This modification was adopted by the Russian Army in 2011. This type of equipment has never been supplied to the Armed Forces of Ukraine and it is not operated in Ukraine. This is a direct proof that along with the personnel Moscow was also sending military equipment to Crimea.

Perhaps you might be skeptical, for one photo is not enough to draw such conclusions. Yet, we found other corroborating evidence.

But let’s take a look at two other photos first.

One of them was also found in Lukyantsev’s profile. It shows, again, the BTR-82A. The photo has a caption “to Krasnodar” and was posted on March 9, 2014.

Another photo with the BTR-82A was found in the social profile of another serviceman, Usman Gadaev. He is standing on the BTR-82A in Gorka uniform with no insignia.

We could not identify the location of the shot, but we can clearly see the distinctive three-color camouflage pattern, and side numbers made with dark red paint. If we combine the two partial numbers from the side and the back of the vehicle, we can even determine the full three-digit number – 207.
And this gives us a very meaningful finding. On March 13, 2014, a video with the events of March 12 appeared on YouTube. It shows a convoy of military vehicles, moving around 5:00 AM on Kerch-Feodosiya route. Again, we see BTR-82A APCs in the convoy.

At a closer look in slow motion, the familiar three-color camouflage pattern becomes apparent. The side numbers are painted over, but at around 00:38 of the video the first digit of the APC’s side number, which was not completely painted over, shows itself for a moment. This is the number “2” in dark red paint.

This digit alone is not sufficient to conclude for certain that the video shows the same BTR that is foundin Gadayev’s photo. However, the combination of all the characteristics – the model and the camouflage color pattern of the vehicle, the typography of the number – strongly suggest that the video shows a BTR-82A in service of the military unit 27777.

2.3.3. Camp in Voinka village

After the photos with ferries, ships, and transport aircraft, we came across the photopraphs of soldiers standing in front of tents under camouflage nets, old non-residential single-story buildings and concrete fences. They all looked like photos of a field camp. Some of them were geotagged to Voinka, and one of them had a caption with the same village name.

Voinka is a large village in Krasnoperekopsk Raion of Crimea. Its geographical position has strategic importance. It is located at the intersection of all roads going to the Isthmus of Perekop, the primary land connection of Crimea to the mainland Ukraine. There is a railway station in the village. The North-Crimean Canal passes nearby. Before the illegal annexation this canal used to supply fresh water from the Dnieper river to Crimea.

We tried to verify the information about the Russian 18th MRB camping in this village with the data from other open sources. The search yielded results.

First of all, we found an interview published on March 11, 2014. In this interview a native of Chechnya, who was in Sevastopol at that time, mentions that Kadyrov’s fighters are in Crimea. Initially they came to Kerch, but then they were moved to Voinka.

Voinka could have been chosen as the base for the military unit from Chechnya for a reason. There had been a certain connection between this village and Chechnya. A distinct share of village inhabitants are Muslim, and there is a mosque named after Akhmad Kadyrov, the first president of the Chechen Republic and the father of Ramzan Kadyrov, the current head of the Chechen Republic.

The construction of the mosque was sponsored by Ramzan Kadyrov. It opened on August 21, 2010, that is, three and a half years before the beginning of the occupation. The official website of the Head and Government of the Chechen Republic still has a report about the grand opening of the mosque. We are not completely confident if these religious links determined the choice of deployment location for the servicemen from Chechnya, however, we presume that they had an influence.

Further search for direct evidence yielded several YouTube videos dated the middle of March 2014 showing military equipment near the village. The following video proved to be of the most value:

A large camp with military equipment is clearly visible in it. It also shows rickety concrete fences, rows of dilapidated non-residential buildings, with power line poles and concrete blocks piled here and there. It is difficult to get a view of all equipment, but several curtain-sided KamAZ military trucks and APCs are visible.

The footage provided meaningful clues, and we quickly found the exact location on the map. These are old abandoned farms located to the south of Voinka village. GPS coordinates of the location: 45.8590, 33.9915 (45°51’32.4″N 33°59’29.4″E).

Now by the example of one photo we will do georeferencing and prove that Russian troops actually camped there.

Photo from the profile of Magomedrasul Mugutdinov, senior driver and refueling operator of the 2nd squad, automotive platoon, automotive company (fuel supply) of the logistics battalion.

This equipment also provides additional confirmation that the servicemen of the 18th MRB were at that time in Voinka village of Krasnoperekopsk Raion of Crimea.

2.3.4. Dzhankoy Raion and other details

In the social media accounts of the servicemen, we also found photos that may indicate that occupation units of the 18th MRB were sent to carry out missions in other areas or were also stationed in other field camps in the north of Crimea. For example, several soldiers took photos at the monument sign “Crimea – the land of partisan glory” near the monument to the antiaircraft gunners of the 1576th Anti-aircraft Artillery Regiment located in Dzhankoy Raion, right at the entrance to the Crimean Peninsula from the mainland Kherson Oblast (on the Tiup-Dzhankoy peninsula). These are the approximate GPS coordinates: 45.9776, 34.5715 (45 ° 58’39.4 “N 34 ° 34’17.4” E).

A photo from the profile of Pavel Storozhkov, wire line surveyor of the wire connection squad, radio-relay and wire platoon, communications company of the communications battalion at the monument sign “Crimea – the land of partisan glory” at the entrance to Crimea from Chonhar

Another soldier has a photo at the eponymous monument sign located at the entrance to Armyansk.

Photo from the account of Ruslan Serikov, deputy commander of reconnaissance company of the reconnaissance battalion. Syvash

Another BTR-82A in the familiar three-color camo was also found at another location not far from Armyansk. Its photo was posted on the web on March 18, 2014 by a blogger from Vladivostok Alexander Khitrov (archived blog). In the blog post, the photo is shown under number 16.

There are many other photographs with the details indicating that the Russian servicemen were in Ukraine: pictures of the Ukrainian currency, packaged food and drinks of Ukrainian brands on the dining table, an awning advertising Obolon beer on a city street, a cake in the shape of the Crimean Peninsula with a Russian flag thrust into it, and so on. All of these photos put together convince us that servicemen from the 18th MRB were in Crimea in March 2014 and were directly involved in the occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula.

2.4. Connecting the route and dates

Now we will try to interlink all data and build an approximate timeline based on our evidence.

Let’s select the photos with the earliest upload date marking the route:

  • photo of Lukyantsev on a BTR-82A captioned “to Krasnodar” uploaded on March 9, 2014.
  • photo of Guseyev from Nikolay Aksenenko ferry uploaded on March 11, 2014.
  • photo of Sobovoy in Novorossiysk port with LPD Kaliningrad in the back uploaded on March 12, 2014.
  • photo of Lukyantsev with the caption “in Crimea” uploaded on March 13, 2014.

Now let’s combine them with the dates of the videos:

  • video with a convoy of military equipment near Feodosia uploaded on March 12, 2014.
  • two videos from the village of Voinka uploded on March 13, 2014.

We should also keep in mind the words of the Chechen in the interview, which suggest that some Chechen units were already present in the village of Voinka before March 11, 2014.

Most likely, the movement of servicemen from the 18th MRB was carried out in stages, with different departure dates. Still, it appears that at least one group of military personnel must have arrived in Voinka before March 12-13.

It is important to pay attention to the fact that both Guseyev and Lukyantsev are listed in the excerpt from order No. 53, which points that they had to be in Crimea in March 16-18 timeframe. However, Lukyantsev uploaded a photo from Crimea as early as March 13, which suggests that the order for March 16-18 interval was not the only one. Evidently, there existed another order sending the servicemen to Crimea on earlier dates, and Order No. 53 was issued to extend their stay on the peninsula.

We remember that the 18th MRB, most likely, used 3 ways to get to Crimea:

  1. on the ferry over the Kerch strait;
  2. on the warships of the Russian Navy;
  3. on airplanes / helicopters.

Right now we do not have enough clues to fully retrace the routes for the second and third way.

Yet, we have plenty of evidence to unravel the ferry route. Below we will show you the entire route to Crimea built upon the “ferry” group.

Conclusion

In order to validate the documents provided to InformNapalm by the UCA, we searched the open sources and found direct evidence of participation in military operations outside of Russia for 101 out of 1097 soldiers on the list (9.21%). Of these, 60 servicemen (5.47%) definitely took part in the occupation of Crimea. For 38 (3.46%) of them we found proof that they were awarded medals For the Return of Crimea, and for other 22 we collected strong evidence in the form of photographs and other documents. All this evidence allows us to state with a very high degree of probability that the data passed to our community by the UCA is genuine, and that the servicemen of the Russian military unit 27777 named in these lists took part in the military operation to seize Crimea.

It was a challenging task to identify and find the evidence against these 60 servicemen from the List-1097, since in recent months the Russian Army has been conducting an active campaign aimed to restrict the use of social media by the personnel. We found social media accounts of many more servicemen from the list, but they had already been cleaned up. Yet, the very fact that we managed to collect the evidence not for one or two, but for 60 men, makes it statistically significant and rules out pure coincidence. Therefore, the orders were real, and almost certainly all the listed servicemen were involved in the act of military aggression against Ukraine.

Numerous facts that we learned while analyzing the findings indicate that the deployment of the 18th MRB was well organized and carefully planned. This serves as yet another confirmation that the leadership of Russia did not spontaneously come up with the plan of the military operation to seize Crimea in February 2014, as Vladimir Putin said. The plan must have been in development for months or possibly years. The coordination of the units and speed of their deployment to Crimea, as well as hundreds of small tricks to hide their belonging to the Russian Army, suggest that the act of aggression was conceived a long time ago and all scenarios were written and rehearsed well in advance. Moscow willfully violated the UN Charter, and other international treaties. The Kremlin was fully ready to commit war crimes.

As for individual servicemen of the 18th MRB, they also knew where and why they were going. The orders mentioned “combat mission”, the servicemen got assault weapon, they wore uniforms without insignia, painted out side numbers on combat vehicles before the cross-border deployment. They weresent to populated areas and instructed to use civilians as human shields for their own protection. All of this points to the fact that the servicemen also willfully committed a crime. Moreover, they were proud of what they did. They took photos with the cake in the shape of the seized peninsula and showed off theirmedals For the Return of Crimea.

Justice may be slow in coming. Still and all, ignorance of the law is no excuse for offenders. Russian servicemen who took part in the occupation of Crimea thus far believe that they can hide their crimes from the rest of the world and avoid punishment. Yet, sooner or later, the truth will come out, and criminals will answer for their crimes.

Until then we are asking you to spread the word about the facts that we found. In the name of justice.

The report was prepared by the volunteers of InformNapalm. Translated by Artem Velichko, edited by Max Alginin.
You are welcome to reprint this piece, if you reference the source.

Source: https://informnapalm.org/en/list-1097-how-the-russian-18th-brigade-occupied-crimea/

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