the home of online investigations

You can support the work of Bellingcat by donating through the following link:

Identifying The Berlin Bicycle Assassin: Russia’s Murder Franchise (Part 2)

December 6, 2019

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

  • In the previous part of this investigation, we identified the assassin of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili as Vadim Nikolaevich Krasikov, a 54-year old Russian citizen traveling with state-issued false identity papers. Khankoshvilli, an ethnically Chechen Georgian citizen who had fought against Russia in the Second Chechen War and was linked to Georgian military intelligence, was shot and killed at close range by a cyclist in broad daylight at a park near Berlin’s Kleiner Tiergarten. We disclosed that the detained suspect had been a key suspect in a previous murder in Moscow in June 2013, where the killer had also used a bicycle to approach his victim and escape.
  • We also disclosed that Russia had terminated both domestic and international search warrants issued for Vadim Krasikov just over a year after their issuance, in mid 2015. This lifting of the warrants occurred only a couple of months before Krasikov’s fake identity papers were issued under the new, cover name of “Vadim Sokolov”.
  • Following our publication, Germany’s Federal Prosecutor announced that it is escalating the investigation to a federal level, based on its assessment that the murder was likely commissioned by representatives of the Russian state. In its public statement, the Federal prosecutor’s office confirmed the key findings presented in our previous reports., including the true identity of the suspect and the evidence for the Russian state’s involvement.

In this part of the investigation we present newly discovered evidence that at the time Russian authorities detained Vadim Krasikov – presumably around the time his search warrants were revoked in 2015 – he was wanted for a second, previously unresolved murder in Karelia. A recidivist murder charge would have resulted in a severe jail sentence, in all likelihood a life jail term. This circumstance would have aggravated his personal prospects, and, coupled with his track record as a hitman, would have made him a suitable target for recruitment by Russia’s security services.

Crucially, we report evidence that as early as in 2007, Vadim Krasikov had close links to Russian security services and is likely to have been a member of one of FSB’s spetznaz units, the elite team known as “Vympel”.

 ***

At 11pm on 4 April 2007, Yury Kozlov, a member of the city council in a small town in the northwestern corner of Russia, was not home when his brother came to see him. Yury Kozlov’s phone was switched off and his car was missing, and at the place where his car was usually parked, his brother Alexander could see dark damp spots that appeared like they might be blood stains. Alexander got worried when his brother failed to show up after midnight, and called the police.

Article from NewsRU regarding the disappearance of Yury Kozlov, from 2007

After an overnight search operation in the sleepy town of Kostomuksha in Russia’s Republic of Karelia, Yury’s car was found near the train station the next morning. It had been left deserted, and there were signs of fighting and blood on the car floor, as well as traces on the ground from a body being dragged. Witnesses living nearby claimed to have heard two shots that followed a noisy scuffle.

The search continued for the next few days, weeks and months, but to no avail, until on 23 July, mushroom-pickers found a decomposed body in the Karelian forest, about fifteen kilometers from the location of the car. Kozlov’s relatives were able to identify the body as belonging to Yury, age 44. Police reported that he had been killed with several pistol shots into his body.

Theories about the motive for the murder ranged from business strife between Kozlov and another local entrepreneur – both were building rival shopping malls in a town that hardly had a population for one – to a family feud with another local clan. No suspects in the murder were publicly announced, and the investigation slowly turned into a cold case.

But behind the public view, local investigators had been working on leads even before the remains of the body had been found.

A form contained in Krasikov’s passport dossier showing markings requesting his file in connection with a 2007 criminal case

A review of hand-written notes on one form from Vadim Krasikov’s passport file, seen above, shows that on 19 April 2007 – two weeks after the entrepreneur had vanished- the local Karelian investigative office had requested a copy of Krasikov’s passport file. The marks on the form also reference a criminal case number in connection with which information was being sought: №18200712003.

We tried to obtain, via a whistle-blower with access to the local Karelian police database, a case file on Vadim Kasikov (the so-called IBD-R dossier that aggregates all information on suspects or victims in a given region). There was no file on Krasikov in the Karelian police records.

However, the same source was able to pull up data on the case file 18200712003: indeed, this was a criminal case launched on 5 April 2007 in connection with the disappearance of Yury Kozlov, the Kostomuksha entrepreneur. The criminal case was initiated pursuant to article 105 of Russia’s criminal code, which means that even before finding the dead body, the investigators were presuming Kozlov had been murdered.

The fact that the police had a suspect so early in the investigation had never been publicized. The missing local IBD-R record on Krasikov makes it impossible to study why investigators thought Krasikov a person of interest in the case. For the next few years, no further public information about the process of the investigation was made public.

***

Eight years later, on 10 April 2015, a local news website brought news of the cold case being revived. The site reported that the investigation had been resumed when, “a short time ago”, police had detained two persons in Moscow who had reportedly made confessions to the murder, and had even been brought to Kostomuksha in the process of the investigation. The website also reported that searches were being held at the offices of an influential local family who had run the rival shopping mall project in 2007.

While it was impossible, given that Krasikov’s police file was purged, to find hard evidence that he was directly linked to the 2007 murder, a number of circumstances clearly pointed us to that conclusion.

First, it was known from Krasikov’s passport file that he was a person of interest in the case. Second, there is no file for Krasikov in the local IBD-R Karelia record. This absence is abnormal in the event he was a person of interest, which is established from the markings on his passport form. What was even more unusual, however, was that in the victim’s own local police file – Yury Kozlov’s IBD-R dossier – there exists no data relating to his disappearance and murder. In other words, both local police files in Karelia that would have had a reference to the local 2007 murder – just like Krasikov’s own national police dossier – had been thoroughly, and apparently manually, purged. Thirdly, several months after the detention and alleged confession in Moscow (which would have taken place in late 2014 or early 2015), Krasikov’s national and international search warrants were taken down.

We concluded that Krasikov was either one of the two captured suspects, or a third accomplice that the two suspects pointed to after their arrest in Moscow.

The Untouchables from Vympel

Faced with purged records of any of the crimes and associated court cases (no reference to the criminal case mentioned in Krasikov’s passport file exists in the Karelian court system), we approached Alexander Kozlov, Yury Kozlov’s brother. He confirmed to us that shortly after his brother’s murder, investigators had focused on three suspects who – hotel records showed – had arrived and stayed in the town hotel in Kostomuksha the evening his brother vanished. One of the suspects was indeed Vadim Krasikov. 

Alexander told us that on 20 November 2014, police detained the other two suspects: Oleg Ivanov (born 23 July 1976) and Vladimir Fomenko (born 23 June 1976). Police were already searching for Krasikov on an arrest warrant in connection with the 2013 Moscow bicycle murder. At some point in 2014 or early 2015, Krasikov was also detained. All three of them were brought by investigators to Kostomuksha, and they all admitted to having been in town on the night of the murder, but claimed that had nothing to do with the crime itself – arguing that they flew in and out as tourists.

Alexander tells us that only Ivanov and Fomenko were formally charged with the murder, and were brought before court in Karelia’s capital Petrozavodsk (Alexander himself attended the court hearings). Krasikov was never brought to court, and Alexander Kozlov never understood why.

In arguing for their release on bail, the defense told the court that they could not have committed the gruesome murder, as they were highly decorated veterans of FSB’s Vympel spetsnaz team. Several other veterans from the elite Vympel unit came to offer the court character testimony, and even offered bond payments to ensure their comrades would be let out on bail.

Even the court decision to extend their imprisonment, which Alexander shared with us, refers to their legacy at the elite special operations group in its decision to acquit:

“Fomenko is an honorable defender of the fatherland, decorated with multiple state orders, including the Courage Order, the Services to the Fatherland Medal, the Suvorov Medal…..and also a named Glock-100 pistol awarded personally by the President of Kyrgyzstan”

Extract from a court decision from Petrozavodsk’s court, listing the awards bestowed to Fomenko – including a Glock-100 from Kyrgyzstan’s president.

In 2015, Alexander was told that the case has been taken up by the Directorate for investigation of extraordinarily important cases of Russia’s central investigative committee, or SledCom. He was later told that the case had been dropped due to insufficient evidence against the suspects and no further new leads. We have reviewed letters sent from SledCom to Alexander Kozlov that confirm his statements.

Alexander Kozlov appears to have no doubts that all three suspects – including Krasikov – shared a common past in Russia’s elite FSB unit. Court documents show that Alexander wrote to the court stating he fears for his life, given that the third suspect – Vadim Krasikov – was still at large. While there is no paper-trail of his work for the spetsnaz group, there is also no record of any gainful employment he had pursued. Krasikov’s former wife, approached by our partner Der Spiegel, said she did not know what his job had been while they were married, as it was “some business women are usually not informed about”. We also found flight booking record showing that Krasikov flew to Kyrgyzstan – the place where at least one of the other accomplices in the Karelia murder had earned a high award- on two occasions, once in 2011 and a second time in 2017.

Alexander Kozlov tells us that having seen coverage of Krasikov’s arrest in Berlin, he plans to write to the SledCom chief and insist on a re-opening of the cold case, now that it is clear that Krasikov is indeed a murderer.

The Petrozavodsk court system does not yield any results under either the case number of the criminal case Alexander personally attended, nor under any of the names of the charged – and acquitted – suspects.

Catch and Release

The most plausible hypothesis of what happened in 2015 was that Krasikov – who was already wanted under the 2013 murder arrest warrant – was detained at some point in 2014 and was forced to confess not only to the Moscow 2013 murder but also the Karelia 2007 murder. This, in turn, likely led to the arrest of the other two accomplices in the Karelia murder.

In this scenario, Krasikov would have known that he was facing prospects of a lifetime in prison. This would have made him highly susceptible to recruitment as a hitman for Russia’s security’s services, especially under Alexander Kozlov’s hypothesis of his elite spetsnaz background. Russian security services are known to have used criminals – some with FSB or police background – in similar predicaments for extraterritorial assassinations in at least two other cases we have researched (see Public Private Partnerships, below).

***

Following the capture of Vadim Krasikov and the release subject to whatever arrangement he achieved, there is a blank period until the end of 2015 where he does not pop up in any data sources we have reviewed. However, three months later, on 3 September 2015, the first trace of another persona – Vadim Sokolov, born 20 August 1970 – appears in the Russian legal universe. That is when the first domestic passport (a rough equivalent to an European ID card) was issued to “Sokolov”, the fake persona who at that moment would have been 45.

Living a parallel life to his new persona as “Sokolov”, Vadim Krasikov continued his own life, out of prison and ostensibly out of trouble with the law. The annual tax report for Vadim Krasikov for 2015 shows that he earned 140,000 rubles (approx EUR 2,000) from employment at a company named ORD Ltd. Later years’ tax filings show that he continued to be “employed” by this firm through 28 February 2018. A review of the Russian companies register shows that there are three companies with that exact name. When approached by us, none of the three said they employed, or knew of a Vadim Krasikov. If that is true, Krasikov’s employment status was entered into the tax database without grounds – something that, like many other things in this case, would have required an intervention from a state actor.

Krasikov did not travel commercially for the 14 months following his presumed detention (the travel databases consulted by us for this research capture all commercial forms of travel but not personal auto travel). He resumed air-travel in July 2016, when he flew to Simferopol (Crimea) on 17 July and stayed until 1 August 2016. A year later, on 31 August 2017, he flew from Moscow to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. He stayed there five days and returned to Moscow on 4 September 2017. In the next year, he flew from Moscow to Crimea a total of four times, each time staying between 5 and 7 days, with the last trip returning him to Moscow on 12 July 2018. We have not yet been able to correlate his travel dates to significant events in either Kyrgyzstan or Crimea during the times of Krasikov’s trips. However, shortly after the annexation of Crimea, Krasikov’s  two 2007 partners in crime established a private security company in Crimea, and his trips may have been related to that enterprise.

Timeline of key events in the lives of Krasikov and “Sokolov”

On 26 July 2019, Vadim Krasikov made a one-day return trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg. This was a Friday; on the following Monday, Krasikov would appear at the French consulate in Moscow, carrying documents – including fake employment papers issued by the St. Petersburg company RUST – that would misrepresent him as St. Petersburg resident Vadim Sokolov, an engineer earning 80,000 Rubles (EUR 1,100) a month who wanted to see Paris. The French consulate would naively buy into this fiction and issue him a visa the next day.

Purge, Rinse, Repeat

Bellingcat already reported that many previously existing records of Vadim Krasikov have vanished from Russian registries at some point in the last months or years, while others have been falsified. These include records of his driver’s license, criminal records (both national and local), and residential records.

We have since also discovered that records relating to Krasikov’s second wife have also been purged from registries. While offline data sources show that Krasikov married his second spouse in Moscow in 2010, there are no records of such marriage in the current version of Moscow ZAGS (family status database). Records of two cars owned by his wife from offline sources downloaded as recently as 2018 currently cannot be seen by sources with access to the traffic-police database. Similarly, residential records from the two addresses where his spouse has been listed as registered in the last five years show no entry for Krasikov’s wife, including in historical checks.

Public-private partnerships

The use of criminals as proxy assassins by Russia’s security services is not without precedent. In April 2019, a car bomb exploded prematurely as it was being placed under the car of an officer from Ukraine’s military intelligence at his home in Kyiv. The Ukrainian military intelligence officer had played a crucial role in incapacitating Russian military activities in one critical military confrontation in the Donbas a few years earlier.

The person who was placing the car – and who lost his limbs in the explosion but despite severe blood loss, was saved by Ukrainian medics – had traveled to Ukraine under a fake identity.

The would-be assassin traveled under the fake identity of Aleksey Lomako, a non-existing Kyrgyz citizen born in 1983. In fact, back then Bellingcat identified him as Alexey Komarichev, a Russian citizen born five years earlier, in 1978 (coincidentally, Krasikov’s fake alter ego is also five years younger).

Fake Kyrgyz passport used by Russian hired operative Alexey Komarichev to travel to Ukraine in April 2019

Facial comparison between “Lomako” and Komarichev using Microsoft Azure Face API confirms both are the same person. In analyzing open source data and leaked Russian databases, we then identified the most plausible reason for this operative’s acceptance of, what turned out almost literally, a suicide mission. While a former police officer investigating drug crimes in Moscow, Alexey Komarichev had been caught accepting a bribe. This resulted in a criminal charge that – in addition to a prison sentence – required him to pay a criminal fine of nearly 48 million rubles (approximately EUR 700,000). The hefty fine plus the prison term are likely to have appeared as a less attractive option to accepting a risky mission abroad, in return for absolution.

While at the time of the explosion there was no information to help decide which of Russia’s security services would have recruited Komarichev, an arrest of another Russian operative in Kyiv a few days later provided the answer. The contents of Komarichev’s mobile phone contained reference to another person with a Kyrgyzstan passport, which Ukrainian authorities found out to be still in the country. A reverse face search in open source data led to the real identity of the accomplice: Timur Dzortov, a former Spetznaz officer in Ingushetia. He was detained in Kyiv and confessed that he and Alexey had been recruited by the GRU in 2017, underwent additional weapons, sabotage and bomb-making training in Moscow, Rostov and Donetsk, and were deployed to Kyiv with the express mission to assassinate a Ukrainian military counter-intelligence officer. Previous unsuccessful attempts, by Dzortov’s confession, included a knife attack that was planned to appear as random street crime, and murder by firearms. When they found out that the target could not be easily approached within striking distance, the instruction from their GRU handler in Moscow was changed towards placing an IED under the target’s car.

Fake Kyrgyzstan passport issued by GRU to Timur Dzortov.

At the time of Dzortov’s arrest in Kyiv, all data about his existence had been deleted from Russian state-run databases. Both Dzortov and Komarichev are still in Ukrainian custody.

 

In a recent investigation, the New York Times disclosed another case of Russia’s security services using ex-convicts to liquidate targets were believed to have spited Russia years earlier. In 2015, after being wounded in fighting in the Donbas, a Russian citizen with a hefty prison record was recruited by Russian security officers in Moscow after he tried unsuccessfully to join the Wagner PMC to go and fight in Syria. A year later he found himself in the Western Ukrainian town of Rivne, where he profiled, tracked, shot and killed an unsuspecting Ukrainian prison guard. The killer had received a list of six targets, and had been trained in the basics of trade-craft, using floral code-words to decipher instructions he would receive as text messages from Moscow. After he killed the first target, he flew back Moscow to claim his award and prepare for his next assignment, but was captured during a cursory trip to Ukraine to surprise his Ukrainian girlfriend on her birthday. Having found about the murder, she tipped off Ukrainian police.

An analysis of the six targets that were on the laymen assassin’s list showed that they shared only one thing in common: all of them had assisted, in roles of military advisers or volunteers, Georgia’s army during its 2008 war with Russia.

These two recent state-commissioned assassination attempts bear certain common features with the Berlin murder, and may produce clues as to the most likely motive behind it. In both cases Russian security services used ex-criminals, supervised by actual staff officers, to try and create a layer of deniability. And in both cases the motive was not national security concern or operational necessity. Rather, the motive appeared to be revenge for prior actions by the targets that had been seen as hostile to Russia, in one case during the war in eastern Ukraine, and in the other during the Georgian-Russian war. This may well have been the motive in the case of Khangoshvili, who took active part in the second Chechen war, but was also involved in the Georgian-Russian war when he reportedly acted in service of Georgia’s military intelligence.

 

Bellingcat Investigation Team

The Bellingcat Investigation Team is an award winning group of volunteers and full time investigators who make up the core of the Bellingcat's investigative efforts.

Join the Bellingcat Mailing List:

Enter your email address to receive a weekly digest of Bellingcat posts, links to open source research articles, and more.

132 Comments

  1. Tracey Thakore

    Bellingcat is “a fact based ” journalist website!
    Journalists get to the truth.
    Police lie in order to gain information.
    Journlalists also plagarise, but so do serial killers

    Reply
    • oui oui

      the dogs have to bark for the Putin’s caravan to pass
      stop barking and it’s game over . you are no more free
      taken in the schizophrenia you maintain , standing on nothing real
      as solid as the wind you can be downed by a few written words
      stupid beings just able to kill to not be

      Reply
      • Gerhard

        I used to work for Western intelligence, and I am quite sure that they monitor these comments for trends pointing to Russian intelligence directives. I certainly would find this site quite a treasure trove. Like Servus mentioned you can see how they go silent through the EU talks, etc. until they receive new directives. And trolls, if you’re pushing the narrative that Bellingcat is CIA and/or MI6 front, shouldn’t you be concerned that your cover identities/accounts are on full display?

        What I would do if I were still back in the old job is correlate these comments to RT and Sputnik articles to determine Russian intelligence directives. It’s called OSINT, just like Bellingcat’s work. And through your comments you provide invaluable intelligence to Western governments, and for that they should thank you for your semi-literate Putnik babble because you’re basically telegraphing your bosses’ intelligence strategy straight to your counterparts who have real analyst jobs and make somewhat decent money in London, Paris, Berlin, Virginia, Maryland, Seoul, Tokyo, Okinawa, etc…basically most of the entire world that is skeptical of your intentions and wants to contain your miserable efforts. It must be lonely only having buddies left in Tehran, Pyongyang, and Damascus, Havana, and Venezuela? Oops, sorry! And no, Beijing does not need you and is not your friend.

        So go away and find a real way to improve your country and economy, or by all means please keep posting right to the watching eyes of intelligence officers.

        Reply
        • Daniel K

          I think some people who have a lot of time on their hands genuinely enjoy ‘solving’ a good current affairs mystery and getting to the bottom of it, I was one of them.

          I have no doubt there are operatives from both states trying to spin a propaganda war in their favour – even on comment sections such as these, although I think it’s a genuine shame that average members of the public who either have an interest in foreign affairs or want to hold their government to account – don’t have a platform to discuss their ideas without fear of being labelled an adversary of some sort.

          Anyway, as the BBC drama ‘The Capture’ has told me, sometimes it’s better not to worry about things where you can’t see the full picture.

          Other than that, I hope the Ruski and British folk on here can come to some sort of amicable understanding without all of the silly name calling.

          Also good working bellingcat 🙂

          Reply
        • Servus

          It is very important that you Russians trolls read Gerhard’s replay.

          Internet is not anonymous for the competent services.
          The Internet Institute is not protecting your anonymity, there were reports that it was hacked and …. former or current employees can be easily bribed to talk.

          What could be the consequences for you? You will have problems getting visa to any Western country, you could be prevented to enter or even have the visa revoked during your stay. Your employment is considered as associated with FSB, if you lie about it in your visa application, it’s punishable. And you can forget any permanent resident status or will have to collaborate to get one.

          I was remained about it when somebody told me about a retired academic that was refused entry to USA because he was briefly a member of Konsomol , adherence for students was not really voluntary and he would eventually emigrate.
          But a record would be still there waiting for him many decencies later on ….

          Reply
          • Gerhard

            Here here, great point as they’ll obviously want to emigrate at some point. The services probably still follow me to some degree and I was one of them (they knew my interim background when I reapplied) so they’ll certainly know you.

            But if you still think it’s worth the few paltry rubles, by all means save them because there’s not likely to be anything left for your pension.

          • Free

            I really like your style – please do not post any critic opinions, somebody might be watching you and “there could be consequences”… “you will have problems getting visa to any Western country”… You follow a script for your character or its really you? Thanks for the 5 minutes of hilarity though )))

          • Free

            just as a note, Servus… – a little bit of logic from your part would be nice:
            1) the entire article is based on the assumption that people come and go from russia to germany (and from other contries as well, judging from what is written on other articles…) on fake passports that nobody notices and
            2) you say that all powerful Western intelligence can look up at records from tens of years before and deny visas to people that work for russian intelligence…

            In other words, you are saying that it was all an elaborate plot from the western guys to let a person in from russia, trick him into thinking that he was not being noticed, let him commit a murder, just to reinforce his impression that he has not being detected, then blame him, but only after the murder? To make what point exactly? your thinking is really convoluted, but very amusing nevertheless ))

          • Black Star

            “1) the entire article is based on the assumption that people come and go from russia to germany (and from other contries as well, judging from what is written on other articles…) on fake passports ”

            Happens all the time, proven by the fact people do get caught doing it.

            “2) you say that all powerful Western intelligence can look up at records from tens of years before and deny visas to people that work for russian intelligence…”

            Of course they can. Any reason they could not do it?

          • Servus

            Re: black star
            The ´free ´ is a professional propaganda strategist of Russia and in his replies tested some ideas of possible false propaganda narratives. One was to deny that ´Sokolov’ got a real passport so Russian authorities would deny any knowledge of him . This is ´it is not my hand said pickpocket ´ type defense, did not work. Bellingcat and associated Russian journalists provided some proof and German authorities must have had even more evidence, Russians probably confirmed authenticity of the document.
            His other point is a typical red hearing, they would like people spending energy at theirs more or less random ideas.
            Right now there is no official Russian explanation of the Krasikovs relation to RF.
            But it’s easily predictable, as usual. they will have several parallel dental narratives.
            It would be fun to have an internet competition for their possible scenario.

          • Amused

            RE Servant
            🙂 🙂 🙂
            wash your ears so that you can hear herrings better and don’t forget about the dental check-up

          • Servus

            correction:
            “But it’s easily predictable, as usual. they will have several parallel denial narratives.”

    • Jeroen

      Let journalists and concerned citizens get the truth and go back to 1999 and those dark days of the FSB.

      What other Russian state killings and killers need to be brought to our attention?

      Who was the FSB operator who set up Achemez Gochiyaev, to rent cellars at Karshirskoye highway appartement building, Borisovskie Prudy and Kopotnya?
      Where are the police documents and dossiers with the statements of Gochiyaev?
      Can someone leak them to Bellingcat or the Russian Insider?
      Can Wikileaks find emails?
      Where is Achemez Gochiyaev today?
      Who was organsing the FSB operation to bomb Russian citizens, was this operation goal to influence election outcomes?
      Who organized the operations with “fake sugar bags ,with timers, looking and tasting like RDX explosives” which were planted at different locations to “test the general awareness” of Russian citizens?
      What about the 106 Russian citizens who did not survive such an “bomb awareness” test on Guryanova street on 9 September 1999?
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_apartment_bombings

      Reply
      • Gerhard

        It seems that the Russian government doesn’t care about the lives of its citizens and is willing to use them as guinea pigs in sick experiments and political action. This is the Dear Leader they get so excited about. Why serve a corrupt kleptocratic regime by posting nonsense all day? What do you tell your parents and dates about your job, that you work in intelligence? Ha! Your lives are a joke.

        Reply
        • Amused

          1. Change monologue, we’re all already utterly sick of this one 🙂 (you can do better)
          2. You are frustrated because this topic does not have adequate coverage in the media. ( most don`t care about the death of an Islamic terrorist – OK, about a former terrorist, slightly rehabilitated)
          3. I will give you a hint – pro tip 🙂 : write another episode about the adventures of GRU globetrotters, this time when they mingled in a referendum in Catalonia or maybe about Brexit referendum 🙂 between Skripal’s tracking they agitated in London Hyde Park in favor for leaving UE,
          :)for sure.
          Something like that
          You’re welcome!

          Reply
          • Gerhard

            How about a story about Russian troll farm workers getting hit by one of those sword-blade drones on their way to work? That would be hilarious, although we all know you can’t afford cars on your meager wages.

          • Amused

            3 months ago you set my ip and you know my e-mail address – don’t fool around. You know that I don’t write from Russia.
            I asked specific questions about the article – at the weekend !!! and you haven’t answered me yet.

          • Servus

            Masha or Amused M,

            You have defended and attempted to minimize a murder, by a guy that is a former elite policemen that went rouge and killed at least two other people for money.
            Today you have even defended a brutal rapist (sweeds stopped chasing him for formal reasons).
            Defending murderers and rapist, is it what you dreamt of when you were young ? Is it right that you can defend and contradict yourself when needed ? Can you really respect yourself ?

          • Amused

            The Count Monte – CHISTO 😉 ( i mean servant) how dare you!!! I am still young

    • Free

      I would like to elaborate on the point raised by servus – and thank the authors of the article. As a EU citizen, I’ve unwittingly given away many of my rights in the “war against terror”. Google knows what I do in the net, and my location in real time. Apple knows what I do with my phone. Microsoft knows every stroke of my keybord. Facebook knows all about my social relationships. And thanks to laws like the patriot act, and covert programs like the ones unveiled by snowden, everything that I do is unencrypted, stored, perhaps analyzed by amazon and palantir. All data centers are in the US, of course, so nobody knows exactly where my data goes, or how it is treated. I am not a US citizen, so I dont even have the minimal layer of protection granted by the US constitution. Servus in this is right. Western intelligence does access everything, everywhere. GDPR has been opposed and watered down by any possible mean by the same abovementioned companies and is a pale shadow of what it should have been.

      Now, let’s assume for a moment that this article has some basis of truth, and that research done by bellingcat is ahead of german counterintelligence. Lets also assume that bellingcat did unveil new information to british MPs in the parliament audition that happened last year, (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6244043/Identity-second-Skripal-hitman-revealed-UK-Parliament-meeting-week.html). UK is in the five eyes club – same access to intelligence as US has.

      On the surface, this gives us the following picture: a group of journalists, privately funded, is more knowleadgeable than the same secret services that we pay billions in taxes every year. But then, what does western intelligence do with our money, with the special laws we approved out of fear of terrorists, with all this spying? They claimed they needed all this special laws and loopholes to look after our national security. And at the same time they are surprised by the findings of bellingcat. They let understand that they were fooled by an adversarial government faking passports. That’s the same people that got unrestricted access to every mail, device, bit of information that transits on the internet, after using zero-day exploits on every possible kind of device, including siemens industrial controllers in iranian uranium plants by their own admission. We are talking about the same guys that published the audio recordings of kashoggi killing inside a foreign embassy. The same guys that now are trying to get all our fingerprints, because, hey, why not, its for your own good: https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/cjis-link/pilot-program-allows-electronic-fingerprint-submission-for-idhscs-at-select-post-offices Next to come will be facial recognition mandatory at every plane boarding. We already have it at border control at airports, we just need to scale it.

      Western intelligence can kill with drones thousands miles away, and they are proud of it. But hey, looking at russian interference in the elections, thats too complicated. Keeping an eye on cambridge analytica, that’s too boring. They really did not see it coming, did they? And these killers? Who could possibly imagine russia could send killers in europe? And with fake passports! That is so unfair. Changing name at the last minute. My guess is that they did not put “killer” as their profession in the visa application. They said they were tourists, so of course our they let them cross the border without asking questions. At least now we know that killers can go on vacation, it must be a sort of courtesy between enemies, you know. But they are not supposed to work while on holiday. That was unexpected.

      This leaves us with two options, equally bad.
      1) Either western intelligence knows all, and let everything happen, from election interference to contract killing, because they profit from this adversarial scheme and want to keep it as is. And fake surprise at articles like this one.
      2) Or even worse, despite spying on every single one of us, they really do not have a clue. They really did not see it coming.

      Hard to say which one is worse, if the first or the second. Is it worse to have an evil police or an incompetent one? I really dont know.

      Reply
      • Gerhard

        Some good points, but there’s a third option:

        They’re human, and the services don’t pay very well.

        Even with all their technical prowess intelligence services still need bodies to review the unimaginable scale of information required to find these needles in the haystack. Bellingcat and independent researchers provide invaluable help in this regard. And the simple fact is that many of them are probably more interested and involved than many of the people doing the spying.

        Government jobs can be tedious, boring, require an uncomfortably invasive background screening, force you to move all over the world to sometimes dangerous places, prevent you from talking about work or even force you to lie about your job, title, and life to everyone you know (including your spouse and children), and the worst part is that they expect you to put up with all of this but pay you nothing compared to private-sector positions.

        So there is an incredible brain-drain from all of these services into consulting firms, etc. London, Washington, Paris, etc. real estate and cost of living are not cheap, and life is short.

        Many are mismanaged accordingly: overstaffed in the wrong areas, understaffed where it matters most. Russia specialists are almost out of work for 20 years, then voila bonus points for intensive Russian courses and critical needs after 2016 US election. Arabic or Farsi/Pashto specialist? Who needed them before Sep. 11?

        NSA can adapt to voice recognition and catalogue millions of hours of wiretapped conversations, but who will be around to skim through these or care until sometimes it’s too late?

        Also, sometimes it’s coordination between the services, redundant/competitive drain on resources (same with FSB and GRU).

        Could also often be that they do know what Bellingcat has come up with, but the services cannot divulge their sources or methods. This is often the case. It may also not be politically expedient. Therefore leaks to various organisations can provide a level of deniability.

        So long story short, they’re not perfect, and even worse they’re controlled by politicians with all kinds of competing agendas, so what you end up with is very often hackneyed, watered-down results that are of no help to anyone but people trying to cover themselves after a major incident.

        That’s why we need Bellingcat!

        Reply
        • Free

          Thanks for your reply, Gerhardt. I share some of your thoughts, but I think that there is a big point missing in what you say: accountability.

          I don’t think that the western intelligence community is doing a good job. In my opinion they want to have it both ways – on one hand they claim some kind of moral superiority, charachterizing the fight with russia and china and iran as a sort of good vs evil struggle. On the other hand, they completely forget about commitment to their constituencies in terms of accountability, transparency, checks and balances of power. If you play the good guy, you don’t only have to act like one, you have to really be the good guy.
          In other words, all that you wrote would make perfect sense if there was action taken, after every single blunder highlighted by the likes of bellingcat. If between one whistleblower scandal and the other, heads would start rolling, and laws would change, and promises would be made to never again repeat the same mistakes.
          Accountability did exist, not long ago. Scandals did even end up in impeachments. For a lot less, Nixon lost his job.
          And what do we have now? People like Brennan or Clapper going on TV, hired as consultants and commentators on major news channels (!) after the snowden scandal. And all the defects of western intelligence services, that you so clearly outline in your text, constantly kept out of the public debate, minimized, sidelined.
          They want the power, the money, the technology. But they don’t want to stand up and apologize and admit that they screwed up, that bellingcat does a better job without public money and without compromising civil liberties of european citizens. For western intelligence services, its always someone else’s fault. China, Russia, Iran, you name it. Nations that have less than 10% of the resources, that do not leverage on the likes of google, microsoft, amazon, facebook. Nations that rely on false passports, that do not even have drones.

          I do not see the right level of intellectual honesty in this debate. I see Goliath using a lot the “external threat” as a way to manipulate fears, to justify increasing the scope of surveillance, and to cover its own incredible failures in efficiency, compliance, professionality and transparency. I see a lot of “more of the same” and don’t see any “lesson learnt, never again”. And I see it from the afghanistan papers, to iraq, yemen, libya, you name it. Forever wars where US and EU military and intelligence leaders fail consistently, for years over years over years. And they are still there. Same people, same responsabilities.

          I am wondering why the work of bellingcat, of The Intercept, of many other investigative sources does not trigger a sane discussion about inefficiencies of the intelligence and military apparatus, and why the general public is accepting so many limitations in privacy when the dividends are so scarce. Going after russia is a military thing, sure. But the impact is fairly limited – in the end, every sovereign state has always competed for resources and influence, and always will. Russia will continue to pursue its interests, like china, like iran, like whoever else. Nobody can control that.
          The real impact of bellingcat articles should be on european societies, where there is a direct feedback. The low hanging fruit: responsibles should be held accountable for these intelligence failures, and should explain, and then be replaced with more competent people. But I don’t see this happening anytime soon. And I am starting to feel that we passed the tipping point, and that they wont be replaced at all, because they consolidated their grip on power so much, that never mind how big the scandal is, they became untouchable under this cloak of perennial existential threat.

          Reply
          • Gerhard

            Accountability is indeed a political issue among services. The US attempt to establish an overarching DCI overseeing all services was indeed an earnest attempt to coordinate efforts among all relevant organisations. But like any political effort these attempts are often ephemeral and usually fail due to the vagaries of the limited nature of democracies’ leadership tenures.

            Thankfully we now have the even more democratising and transparency-enhancing potential of the Internet, which may yet displace some of the chimera of authority that these tenured bureaucrats enjoy. Yes, just as Wikileaks and Snowden and their unfiltered dumps of information (along with other Russian disinformation efforts) have fundamentally altered the discourse of intelligence, Bellingcat and its ilk of honest journalism can indeed make a difference in getting the truth to the people. Make no mistake — it is not an idle or misinformed effort.

            The critical difference lies in intention; by all means Western intelligence lies and subverts to support its own ends, but I believe (and I don’t think it’s off-base or an overreach to state) that those who believe in such liberal values of human rights and democracy, self-determination, and the rule of law vs. cronyism, self-interest, and criminality support in principle if not always in deed the efforts of their Western governments to reject, deny, oppose, and denounce the insidious capacity of forces and ideologies that run counter to these ideals and infringe upon our established (if almost by design eternally imperfect) Civilisation and way of life.

            The hopelessly cynical or nihilistic may not fundamentally be built to understand this inherent paradox, and may perish without another thought into obscurity. But the ideals of Western civilisation live on regardless now over 2,000 years despite concerted efforts to destroy us, and so we shall persevere as long as physical destruction shall not impair us.

          • Servus

            re: “free”

            What a pretentious but sophisticated propaganda, need to find a moment to do lamb chops of it.

            As for accountability of GRU murders, the boss died suddenly because of failed murder and West expelled Russian lets say “diplomats” and crippled Russian economy with sanctions.

            (last point is maybe exaggeration, sanctions cut Russian GNP by roughly .5%, while Putniks corruption eats 1-2% of it)

        • M

          beautifully written self-tribute ! 🙂
          You should put this in the comments section of the online editions of major European newspapers.

          Reply
          • Free

            Thank you, M. I would ask you to “lend” me your reply button and post here my reply to Servus comment.

            Hey Servus, I did not know that you have difficulty in reading long phrases, sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you by writing complex concepts. Illiteracy is a bad thing, but if you study, I am sure that you can (slowly) improve. Let me simplify the message for you.

            I pay half of my income in taxes in Europe. Part of it goes to people that should protect me. They made an oath, and never complained about not receiving their contractual salary, as far as I know, so they should be actually paid. Real money, from my pocket to theirs. If what bellingcat says here and in other articles is correct, these geniuses of european counterintelligence apparently:
            1) Were notified about Russian methods in a Parliamentary session in UK, by bellingcat.
            2) Did not do anything. Zero. Nada. Ignored the issue.
            3) Issued a schengen tourist visa to a russian serial killer with a fake passport. This time not only a fake person straight out of a foregn military, but also suspected in the past of being a serial killer in its country of origin. Getting worse by the day. Next in line, mass murderers I suppose. Only if they come for tourism, of course.
            4) Prior to issuing the visa, these guys did not even check on the same databases they were pointed to. Not discreetely pointed to – publicly in a UK parliamentary audition! As shameful as it can get for these guys. Databases that are available to investigative journalists, ie to people with some time and curiosity to spend.
            If this is not a sick joke, I don’t know what it is. Maybe a race to show who is the dumbest, for the world to judge.
            Let me guess about the next news. “Islamic terrorist bombs school in Europe. 20 dead. He was an asylum seeker. Investigative journalists goup finds out that he was chopping heads live on Periscope two months before leaving for Europe, here is the 98% facial recognition match. Chopped head belongs to a 5 years old kid.”

            Servus, I am sure that you can sleep well, knowing that one russian spy has allegedly been caught. Apparently, for you it’s a personal thing and the only one that matters. So be it, I dont care how do you sleep.
            On my side, I sleep terrible and I hope that I am not the only one, knowing that our counterintelligence is a laughing stock for the entire world to see. There are 200 countries or so outside there, and I do not consider friendly nations Pakistan, Iran, Saudi or Sudan. What I see, is that not only despite the fact that bellingcat is bashing the counterintelligence guys for years on end, they did not do anything. They repeat the same mistakes, only worse. Or, as I was hinting before, they might be accomplices for their own political agenda, because they profit by stoking fears. Which could be even worse.

            Of course this do not prevent the same western counterintelligence from accessing my data, obstructing GDPR, asking for backdoors on my phone encryption, and tracking me wherever I go in the semiprivate surveillance state they helped to build. But thats another story entirely and I am sure that it gets completely lost on you, servus. Continue looking at the finger, not at the moon, and merry sleeping.

          • Servus

            Your word cascade is based on a lie, certainly intentional ; this is a likely future twist of your damage management propaganda cover up;

            The « Sokolov » passport was an original legal document issued by Russian Federation . It was not a fake passport.
            The holder was a RF undercover agent and the true original passport was a part of an undercover special operation by RF .

            Your propaganda tactic is called «  it’s not my hand said the pickpocket when his hand was grabbed in somebody else’s pocket ».

          • Servus

            re “free” or Fiodor,
            What you write is an amazing propaganda tactic called “Foxe’s defence” .

            Fox was arrested in a hens house and and claimed that:
            – the fence was so low that I could jump over it
            – and the wire weak I could bite through it
            – no bars in hens house window, I could jump trough it
            – the lock was lousy I could pick it with a toothpick
            – and the guardian was asleep
            Your taxpayer contribute with their taxes to this guy’s lousy services, he sleeps at work while hens house is at danger ! It’s outrageous!

            The cynicism of this argument and attempt to”turn the tables” is obvious. And you need a lots of words to hide this caricature of logic.

            Yes, stupid French accepted a fresh “emergency type” passport with no biometry, officially issued by the Russian Federation. The stupid French also accepted request for an urgent business visa, with all necessary paperwork that looked OK. The “Sokolov” was a newly created undercover identity of a Russian state undercover hitman so he was obviously not in any databases of sanctioned or undesirable persons routinely used by French authorities.

            So stupid French (they trusted RF documents, what a bunch of useful idiots!) let him in !

            In the West, we treat people as innocent unless proven guilty, not like in some other countries where everybody is a priori suspect.

            But I agree with your moral of the story, western authorities are too gullible, and should really not allow any non-biometric passports of Russians, don’t deliver any emergency visas, and really be suspect of certain Russian profiles.

            Roughly 7500 Interpol search warrants are public, and round 2500 of these are for different Russian criminals, this database, including warrants retracted in last 20 years, should be checked before issuing visas.

      • Jeroen

        People make mistakes, everybody is incompetent in a certain way.

        Killerscops, corrupt (police)men, evil policemen….

        Worst would be a secret GRU or FSB operation to plant bombs in cellars of appartement buildings

        Reply
        • Jeroen

          It is possible that the GRU did only the car and truck bombs.
          That the five cellar bombs were all FSB

          Reply
      • Jeroen

        At least the local policemen and bomb squad and some local FSB Wolkers back in Ryazan in 1999 were competent. They neutralised the cellarbomb and arrested the two FSB men and FSB woman from Moskva who had planted the cellar RDX bomb

        Reply
    • Jeroen

      I am cetainly not.
      I hate people who blew up and injured Russian citizens, like happened with the Russian appartement bombings in 1999.
      Even worse when Chechen or Dagestan people were framed or falsely blamed.
      Litvinenko and Nemtsov thought and knew who were in control then, who could purchaise and transport that amount of bags of RDX explosives from that factory in Perm?
      The FSB?
      The GRU?

      Reply
  2. Jeroen

    Bellingcat is not against Russia.

    They cooperate with Russians.

    Some people criticise behaviour of some other people. That does not imply one is against all other people.
    Educated people understand.

    Reply
  3. Jeroen

    Some GRU are Russian state killers, killing people in European cities.

    The role of GRU in the Russian appartement bombings meed to be examined.

    Reply
    • Richard

      You can start with the writings of Anna Politkovskaya translated into English. Its really the major source and gives you a very good idea of the lack of the rule of law in present day Russia, as well as the history of all the sordid KGB “Terrorist attacks”. Sorry to say that the US and European childish “Anti-Imperialists” constantly accuse the US of “false flag” operations (Syria, Ukraine, ..) and here, such operations are in front of our noses, but by Russia. Now Russian state killers are spreading out from Britain and North America to Germany and Europe in general. I am against the expansion of NATO, but there is zero evidence that this expansion is the cause of this state terrorism. The Russian spies caught recently were not looking at military installations, but into the labs involved in investigation the Russian state doping ring, as well as the labs investigating the chemical warfare agents used in Britain. The propaganda tsunami (just Google Gish Gallop!) just tries to spread confusion.

      Reply
    • Gerhard

      Looks like “Free” owes Tracey lunch at the Hesburger on Torfyanaya Doroga..just don’t talk shop too loudly around Ani or Vadim, as I hear they like to talk to foreigners.

      Reply
      • Jeroen

        Will 3 kopeks one earnes…
        (can not imagine however someone giving even a dime for typing those words)
        …….realy suffice for a burger?
        Or are “free” lunch coupons provided by the number of comments posted, the number of fake identities run in the internet and on social media, spreading state propaganda and agitation?

        Wish all a tastefull and healthy burger with French frizes and a soda, everyone deserves a good meal.

        That includes Russian state killers both those in german police custody, or Russian desantniki, spetsnaz officers and sergeants and other regular Russian military who became prisoner of war after being caught in Eastern Ukraine after failing military actions on behalf of the Russian minister of defence.
        How many of them were trailed for illegal leaving their units and duty, and starting an illegal secret war in a brotherly friendly neighbouring country?
        None? Not a single one?
        How many were trailed for joy-riding T-90 tanks ending up near the Luhansk airport, or all the other lost vehicles?
        Which Buk crew members were trailed for losing a valueable missile from their launcher without noticing or reporting it after their two day “Torezh” tourist trip?
        I rest my case.

        Reply
        • Servus

          At least, one should admire energy (but not inventiveness) in denials.
          Kradikov asked for political asylum in France becouse it was the first EU he visited. His application was sent to French embassy in Moscow.
          Most likely as Krasikov and he certainly talks to German police, his application’s motivation is certainly full of interesting details….

          The boring part is the very predictable denials of any knowledge of this guy by Russian propaganda, they say he came from
          pRussia….

          Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

You can support the work of Bellingcat by donating through the following link:

TRUST IN JOURNALISM - IMPRESS