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Confirmed: Active Russian Spetsnaz Serviceman Photographed in Luhansk

May 26, 2015

By Ruslan Leviev

Ruslan Leviev and his team of investigators recently released an in-depth report on three Russian soldiers who died fighting in Ukraine. Leviev and his team members managed to track down the gravesites of each of these soldiers, all of which belonged to and were still active servicemen in the Russian 16th Separate Spetsnaz Brigade, military unit 54607. One of these soldiers was Timur “Mamai” Mamayusupov, photographed in May next to a distinct APC with shark teeth. This location was assumed to be Luhansk, but only now can this location be confirmed via geolocation. Below is a summary of the English translation of a report detailing the investigation from Leviev and his investigation team.

Our investigation of three Spetsnaz servicemen killed in Ukraine featured several pieces of evidence that they really did visit Eastern Ukraine. A photo shows Ivan “Kardan” and Timur “Mamai” with weapons in a semi-ruined building, Kardan having white leg bands characteristic of rebels. “Mamai” was photographed close to two APCs, one of them bearing a distinct “shark” paint job.


(original message | original photo | saved copy).

However, until now we had not managed to find photographic or video evidence conclusively proving that the killed Spetsnaz servicemen were in the Donbass. So, we went back to Timur “Mamai”’s photo in front of the painted APC (we called “the shark APC”).

In the comments to the translation of our investigation published on Bellingcat, a reader noted that Mamai’s photo was probably mirrored. This is visible by the APC’s paint job, as well as that in the photo Mamai apparently has his left hand on the trigger. We can also see a part of the inverted “P” (from the word “ЛНР” meaning “Luhansk People’s Republic”), confirming that the image was mirrored. Thus, the tree branch is actually to the left of Mamai, not the right. The below photograph of Mamai is properly mirrored, showing the original photograph with distinguishable landmarks:


After searching for photos of the Shark APC, it turned out that this vehicle had already been noticed by many Ukrainian and Western investigators. We found an array of photos that show some of the landmarks visible in the photo with Mamai, including this photograph found on VK, which was taken at the same location as the Mamai photo, with several landmarks visible in both images.


There are five landmarks that are visible in these two images; all of these places must be located in order to verify a geolocation:

  • A distinct light-yellow two-storey building with white shutters (in both photos, purple)
  • A red fence (in both photos, red)
  • A bent tree with distinct branch (in both photos, green)
  • A tall chimney (only in Mamai photo, blue)
  • A yellow marker on top of the red fence directly behind Mamai (only in Mamai photo, yellow)

All of these landmarks can be identified in photographs available in open source data.

On April 8, a local tweeted a picture of a rebel base, giving the location as the backyard of Mafia restaurant on Oboronna street:

In April, a Ukrainian English-language website investigated the likely separatist base in Luhansk quite thoroughly, giving, in particular, this geolocation near Oboronna and Sasyury streets:

Screenshot of satellite map geolocation from Note that building #4 is not visible in the street-level photo, and that the building numbers are slightly off from the depicted buildings, not directly over them.

Screenshot of satellite map geolocation from Note that building #4 is not visible in the street-level photo, and that the building numbers are slightly off from the depicted buildings, not directly over them.

The red fence, distinct tree, yellow marker, and yellow building are all visible in this photograph, showing a rebel base in Luhansk with numerous APCs.


But another landmark still remains–the tall chimney. A similar chimney is visible at a boiler near the location specified by, and in line with the previous geolocation:

After locating this chimney, we can now give exact coordinates for each of the landmarks visible in the photos:

  • Distinct light-yellow two-storey building: located at exactly 48.5604442, 39.3163428
  • Red fence: located at exactly 48.560453, 39.316130
  • Bent tree with distinct branch: shadow visible on current Yandex satellite imagery, located at exactly 48.560457, 39.316202
  • Tall chimney: located at exactly 48.558031, 39.319053
  • Yellow marker on top of the red fence directly behind Mamai: located on fence at exactly 48.560453, 39.316130

Camera perspective of Mamai photograph, with the white lines designating the line of sight, green circle showing the shadow of the bent tree, red circle the red fence, and purple the two-storey light-yellow building. The tall chimney is one block to the south of this site.

This base, and the location of the Russian soldier “Mamai,” is near the “Gratsiya” factory and “Mafia” restaurant in central Luhansk at 48.5605241, 39.316147.


This article is a summary of a more detailed geolocation report found here in English translation. The authors and translators have included information for supporting their research through donations to their Yandex wallet at the end of the detailed article.

Ruslan Leviev

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  1. Andrew Gilmour

    A couple of days ago Mr Pavel, who is a NATO general, said that
    Quote:” …Russia might be able to occupy, for example, the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv within two days…”. Please see a link

    Mr Pavel is right. If Russia really wants to send real troops to Ukraine, then Kiev regime would disappear in two days. However, one year passed since the civil war started but it still goes on. Why? The answer is very simple: there are NO regular Russian troops in Ukraine and we see just volunteers fighting together with the Ukrainian separatists against Poroshenko’s nazi troops. We also see that Kiev’s active “army” consists of Ukr volunteers and people from the US, Sweden, Italy, etc. Somehow these volunteers from the West are different from the Rus volunteers. Hmmm, interesting…

    Now, even if these Rus guys – volunteers previously served with Rus military, so what?
    The US recently openly sent its active military personnel to Ukraine to train the Ukr national guards. On top of that, the US spent years trying to destabilize Ukraine putting their puppet Yushenko first (who in 4 years time failed to get even 5% of voters) and then spending $5 billion to organise a violent Maidan coup, which somehow was peaceful as we were told. However, the outcome went against the US’s intentions, i.e the US spent $5 billion and Russia grabbed Crimea “thanking” the US for that. So, the US initially used NGOs to Ukraine instead of troops, now the US openly uses troops to support a regime in Ukraine. So, what is the difference between the US and the Russians?

    Bellingcat people forgot to say that the US Government thinks it is perfectly allowed to use private military contractors like Academi or Greystonme to run around the world where and when they want and turn a blind eye and pretend they are keeping their hands clean when something goes wrong with these contractors. So, the whole world now tolerates the US private military contractors around the globe. Perfect! When the US organised a mess in Ukraine the US guys simply wanted one out of two variants: either Russia would fully invade or Russia would stay away. The first way would drain Rus resources and the second would allow putting the US military to Crimea and all over Ukraine. Both variants failed simply because Putin decided to develop and send the Rus versions of Greystone. Putin is a master and he showed the Western hypocrisy of closing eyes to what the US private military contractors do. Then he turned it around and effectively said that the US did bad things first. The US and Europe has no one to blame but themselves.

    The US Government claims they are involving themselves in every corner of the globe simply because of their “exceptional” moral superiority. So, for the US it is allowed to send Academi ppl anywhere and get away. Now Russia used the same logic and sent its own Academi to territories close to Russia where Rus people stay for generations and where 80% of ppl speak Russian. Somehow this is wrong now.

    Double standards are seen everywhere in Bellingcat blogs and the US govt actions.

    • Laddies first

      At least US is not making secret of their intentions, whether they seem wrong or right to anyone. Also it is quite difficult for the American president to misinform the average American, because of variety of the viewpoints available. In Russia anyone who does not vote “unanimously” ends up in the ditch. As a result, millions of blind people following the vindictive and bloodthirsty guide dog. To me this is the worst of all the wrongs

      • Bob

        Really? Funny that I have friends in Russia, visit quite often. They don’t vote for the ruling party nor agree with many of Putin’s policies and they are still alive and well. They haven’t seen any ditches. Have you been to Russia? I admit there are problems. Lots, but I think you need to get out more.

      • Joe Morton

        Please. There are and have been Americans in Donbass, including ‘out of my face’ guy who NATO trolls and Interpreter Mag lied and claimed was British volunteer Chris ‘Swampy’ Garrett (who inexplicably doesn’t cover his face in other video shot across town in Mariupol on the same day). NO, that was a Canadian or American merc or active duty NATO specops soldier in Mariupol to train the neo-Nazis of the Azov Battalion. Ukraine National Guardsmen don’t speak fluent Italian, or struggle to speak Russian to locals in Slavyansk while demonstrating thick Polish accents with their English. The shoe is going to be on the other foot sooner or later and NATO’s lies about not having any troops or mercs in Donbass will be exposed.

          • Geo

            Dear Russki government trolls, did you finally get a paycheck in June to come all full forth with your nonsense comments?

        • chris garrett

          hi joe, just to be clear. my name is chris garrett (swampy). it is actually me in both videos. the out of my face farce and when i was inspecting the grad strike impacts in the kindergarden. feel free to find me on facebook and ill hapily show you pictures from that day. im sick of being called a bloody american. The ‘nato trolls and Mag that you alk about were actually telling the truth. just thought you should know


      ruski will deny any evidence of war in Ukraine even if you show them clear evidence of war crimes – we will need another Gorbachew and Reagan to end these monstrosities of Russian aggression – after putin, Russia will need decades of pierestrojka to be a friendly country to its neighbours – Russians maybe after 50 years will tell the truth about MH17

    • John Smith

      Russians arent fighting official war because of obvious consequences financially for the elite. They are however using regular troops in order to just have the hand on the scale and disallow Poroshenko to clean up the place. Thats all there is. Russia has not invaded Kiev because it is dumb idea, not because of anything else. They dont want half of Ukraine, they want all of it. The point is to put as much pressure on them as possible in order to accept these republics with puppet rulers into the official govt, and grant them veto power over Nato, EU etc, thus controlling the whole of Ukraine. This is all it is. If you wanna write 20 paragraphs about it go ahead, but matter is fairly straightforward.

    • Fro5ty

      Has the thought crossed your mind Andrew that maybe Putin doesn’t want to openly invade Ukrane but rather keep the conflict going so Ukraine doesn’t become a part of NATO? And also, cut the crap about Russian Army getting to Kiev in two days. This is called blind shooting and cavalier attitude of unreasonable person.

    • Deus Abscondis

      “The US Government claims they are involving themselves in every corner of the globe simply because of their “exceptional” moral superiority”.

      I understand and agree with many of your points. However, the yanks don’t “see” their exceptionalism or moral superiority or state it as a reason for involving themselves. It is more subtle. The yanks assume implicitly, or rather it is part of their identity, the reason they exist, is that they embody all that is “good”, and together with their belief that they have a god given right, as individuals and as a nation, to want anything they like, and to act in their own interests to get it – and this selfishness (to which they are blind) is to them acting with virtue and grace. It is synonymous for them that doing as they choose (reason often doesn’t come into it) is the right and good thing that others need simply “see” is the right thing and follow. If you don’t agree with them, or if a nation opposes them, or simply avoids accepting their culture, they take it as a personal and existentitial threat and will smash you, completely oblivious to their own violence which they see as doing the right and good thing and which they find enjoyable.

      There are lots of exceptionalist on this site. They do have an overlap with the sanctamonius right of politics. They are often blind to it, which is dangerous when it comes to diplomacy and working out how to get along with people. Exceptionalists are like spoilt children. If they don’t get their way they have tantrums, call you names and get aggressive.

      Don’t for a minute just put it down to anti-Putinism. There’s quite a few Russiophobics here who are quite accepting that ordinary people suffer because of their politicians- acceptance of collective punishment another side to exceptionalism.

      What many fail to understand is that the Russian culture of the East and in Crimea is shared by others with Russian culture accross a line on a map which is called a border. Often borders are drawn and enforced without respect to the cultures that they bisect. Borders can and have been changed.

      The kerffufle over irregular numbers of soldiers crossing the border to fight with their comrades is understandable at a local level. It doesn’t have to be interpretted as being directed by Putin or that they are under orders to fight by their Russian commanders if they are currently enlisted and under contract. However, nicking off with an APC that is in service could get you in trouble but so does being mortally wounded fighting for what you think is right.

  2. Karlis

    Andrew, stop spreading that bull$hit about Russia being able to occupy Kiev in couple of days. The Russian Defense Minister, General Pavel Grachev, had infamously boasted that he could seize Grozny in two hours with just one airborne regiment. We all remember how it turned out.

    • Bob

      Russian forces then and Russian forces now are very different. Besides sweeping through the Ukraine would be quite different from Grozny.

    • Joe Morton

      Not Kiev in two days, but certainly Russia would overrun or encircle every Ukrainian unit east of the Dnieper in a week. The Ukrainian army is a sad, piss poorly supplied force, as even the 173rd Airborne training the Ukie ‘Natl Guard’ (Kiev doesn’t trust regular army draftees to be sufficiently ideologically reliable to receive US training). The Ukrainians have alleged they’ve been fighting regular Russian army in every battle they’ve lost even when vast majority of those shooting at them are Donbass natives.

      The Ukrainian army has lost battles facing only 1970s-80s vintage equipment — they wouldn’t stand a chance if Russia blasted them with Iskander or other modern cruise missiles and attack choppers after cutting off all their communications/jamming their radios.

      The simple fact is at least some Russian regulars are willing to fight and die in Donbass. Not a single NATO country especially Poland and Lithuania wants to admit that their servicemen have been killed or wounded fighting there. That right there tells you which side enjoys ‘escalation dominance’. Russia hasn’t wiped the Ukrainian army in the Donbass out simply because the Russians don’t want to occupy Ukraine and don’t have any desire to take over the whole country, only to neutralize it as a NATO garrison state and let the Ukrainian economy totally collapse under this junta until it’s overthrown. Which SBU are trying to use propaganda, torture, disappearances and kidnappings to suppress as the oligarch bastards that successfully diverted Maidan from their own power to Russia are terrified of a new Maidan, supported with guns from Novorossiya.

  3. Robert Johnson

    well yes, this seems obvious.

    The Ukrainians cannot remotely handle an actual war with Russia.

  4. Kirk

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