Last Thursday, a bizarre plot was formed to convince Russian pilots to steal their aircraft: a plot that evidently backfired. As a result, an undisclosed number of Ukrainian service members have been charged with treason, the Ukrainian State Security Service (SBU).
This led to Russian forces launching a “massive missile attack” on Ukraine’s “Kanatove airfield on July 23, 2022.” It killed a commander, wounded 17 airmen, destroyed two fighter jets and caused “significant damage” to the airstrip and several buildings, SBU stated in a release, all as a result of ensuing Russian investigation.
Bellingcat Russia investigator Christo Grosev described the mentioned plot in a Twitter thread as a “crazier-than-fiction story of triple-agents, fake passports and faux girlfriends.” Bellingcat, he said, was chronicling this plot as it unfolded, via a documentary about “one of the wackiest counter-counter-intel operations of all time.” This was just two days after the deadly attack.
It was a tale, he said, that Russia’s FSB security agency falsely accused him of being involved in.
Grosev also mentioned that the origin of this whole operation was based on a new Ukrainian law offering money to Russians who provide Kyiv with military hardware.
“A team of Ukrainian operatives decided to approach Russian pilots with an offer based on this law,” Grosev wrote. “We found out about the initiative, and assured ourselves a front seat – to make a documentary about this brazen operation.”
He was quick to point out that the operation “was not a project of either SBU or GUR [Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Directorate]. (If it were, there’d be no way we would – or want to – get access to it). It was organized by maverick ex operatives whom we got to know” via a previous Bellingcat investigation.”
“Several Russian military pilots were approached and even sent ‘proof-of-access’ videos from inside their planes, in each case bearing a separate number hand-written on pieces of paper. Some of the footage from the inside of the planes was quite detailed and enlightening.”
The plot, however, went sideways.
“This bizarre mutual-deceit game came to an end when the FSB realized no one will show up at any of the suggested meet-ups (FSB were keen to identify Ukrainian agents), realizing they’ve been burned,” Grosev wrote. “And the Ukrainians realized they’re likely not getting a real pilot either.”
“While Russia is presenting today this as a coup for its counter intelligence, in fact the operation was a serious blunder for the FSB, disclosing unintentionally identities of dozens of counter intel officers, their methods of operation, and their undercover assets.”