On May 1, 2022, InformNapalm volunteer intelligence community published the first investigation titled “War criminals identified: identification data of scouts of the Russian 64th Motorized Rifle Brigade.” Photo materials handed over to InformNapalm volunteers by the security forces of Ukraine for analysis and examination became the starting point for this OSINT investigation. In mid-April, we received more than 13 GB of photos and videos for study, copied from the smartphone of a Russian serviceman found by the Ukrainian military in the city of Bucha in late March 2022. As established by InformNapalm volunteers, this smartphone belonged to a contract soldier of the deep reconnaissance company of the reconnaissance battalion of the 64th Motorized Rifle Brigade (MRB), military unit 51460, Knyaz-Volkonskoe town, Khabarovsk Krai, of the 35th Army of the Eastern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces, Sergeant Petr Zakharov. These photographs helped us to identify his colleagues, who in March 2022 were operating in the Kyiv Oblast of Ukraine and apparently are directly implicated in the war crimes committed in Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin.
By way of reminder, earlier InformNapalm also identified the commander of the Russian 64th Motorized Rifle Brigade.
On April 3, official representatives of the Ukrainian side published an incomplete list of Russian units drawn up based on intelligence data and things (chevrons, paper lists, etc.) of Russian military personnel found in the Kyiv Oblast. InformNapalm volunteers took note of this list and, first of all, tried to collect data about the commanders of those units. First on the list was the 64th Motorized Rifle Brigade (MRB); on April 3, based on these data, InformNapalm published a post on Facebook and Telegram which drew the attention of the British media. On April 6, Daily Mail they published an article about Lieutenant Colonel Omurbekov with a link to InformNapalm. Based on the above facts, on April 21, the UK Government added Lieutenant Colonel Azatbek Omurbekov (Rus.: Омурбеков Азатбек) to the list of individuals subject to personal sanctions for war crimes in Bucha.
We admit that some of those who are on our lists could have not been involved in the crimes; the implications for each person on the list should be established by the prosecutor’s office. Both publications serve as additional material that can help investigators narrow down the search and establish the degree of actual guilt of each war criminal.
Using the photos and videos, we identified over 100 servicemen of the brigade, as well as other officers and contract soldiers of the Eastern Military District (EMD) responsible for the combat training of military scouts. The volume of data is huge, so, initially we published the names of the first 50 Russian servicemen of the reconnaissance battalion and the command of the 64th MRB, including the identification data of some officers of this military unit.
In the process of preparing this publication, we noticed that some profiles of the Russian military were being cleaned up by the Russian intelligence agencies or the military men themselves. For example, the social media accounts of the brigade reconnaissance commander captain Dmitry Degot (Rus.: Деготь Дмитрий Сергеевич) have been deleted, but we still have online archives, so the captain is in for the “surprise” we promised earlier.
The data of the Russian servicemen does not follow a single format (some lists do not have ranks, personal numbers and passport data). The identification of the invaders was carried out both by photo identification and analysis of mutual contacts. We received some assistance from an anti-war activist from Khabarovsk, who recently served in the 64th MRB. We also used lists leaked on the Internet on the eve of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.
Our first publication drew a wide response both in Ukraine and abroad. Examples are publications of Polish journalist Tomasz Molga on Wirtualna Polska website on May 5, 2022, and the ICTV report of May 15, 2022. Also, InformNapalm volunteers were contacted by CNN journalists.