Espreso. Global
Review

With blood on their hands: Unmasking enemy informants and understanding their motives

1 December, 2023 Friday
19:00

It's not an uncommon occurrence to apprehend enemy collaborators in Ukraine. Espreso sheds light on the individuals who betray their nation, putting the lives of Ukrainians at risk, even those close to them

Fire adjusters operate not only at the front lines but also across all Ukrainian regions. They are agents recruited by Russia, divulging critical information about strategic and military locations to the occupying Russian forces. Through them, missile strikes are orchestrated on crowded areas, resulting in numerous civilian casualties.

In this article, you'll discover:

  • Real-life instances of enemy collaborators in action
  • The motives driving fire adjusters
  • The efforts of the SBU in apprehending these collaborators
  • What to do if you find yourself a target for recruitment

Examples of enemy collaborators’ work 

Anyone can collaborate with occupying Russian forces, from the young to the old, from neighbors to academic advisors.

Take Oleksandr Kostornyi, a 72-year-old KGB major from Lviv, for instance. He directed rockets at the Yavoriv training ground, resulting in a tragic incident in March 2022. Sixty-four people lost their lives, and many more are still missing, with over 100 people sustaining injuries.

Kostornyi was apprehended on June 28, 2022, and the SBU officially informed him of the suspicion. Investigators claim that he sent the Russians a map of the Yavoriv training ground via Telegram, marking locations for missile strikes. Despite the evidence, Kostorny denies guilt, stating that he sent a "scheme of fishing and hunting grounds" to show a friend his mushroom foraging spots. The ongoing trial reached its final session on November 22.

It's worth noting that this agent attempted to run for the Lviv City Council and Verkhovna Rada at least twice.

A recent case involves an associate professor at Kharkiv University. He is under suspicion for adjusting Russian strikes and documenting the movements of military equipment.

"The individual documented the aftermath of missile and artillery strikes on a defense facility in the Kharkiv region, a frequent target of enemy attacks. The accused also observed the routes taken by Armed Forces units and the locations of logistical warehouses, including those housing ammunition. Additionally, the associate professor monitored the activities of foreign volunteer organizations in the Kharkiv region," as reported by the SBU.

He was recruited at the onset of the full-scale invasion and is currently held in custody without bail.

On October 5, an attack occurred at a cafe in the village of Hroza, Kupyansk district, resulting in the tragic loss of over 50 lives—community members, friends, and neighbors who were attending a memorial dinner.

Subsequently, law enforcement identified the individuals responsible for directing the Russian rocket toward their own community. Dmytro and Volodymyr Momon, former police officers, betrayed Ukraine in 2022 during the occupation of Shevchenkove, Kupyansk district.

Having joined the pseudo-government, the brothers fled to Russia after the village's liberation by the Armed Forces. They continued collaborating with the enemy, gathering and sharing crucial information. Maintaining contact with their former neighbors, the brothers deceptively engaged in sabotage against Ukraine during their conversations.

Based on gathered evidence, the Security Service investigators charged both defendants under suspicion, citing violations under part 2 of Art. 28 and Part 2 of Art. 111 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (treason committed under martial law by a prior conspiracy by a group of persons).

Additionally, Volodymyr Momon faces charges under Part 5 of Art. 27, Part 2 of Art. 28, Part 2 of Art. 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (assistance in the commission of violations of the laws and customs of war, combined with intentional murder, committed by a group of persons according to a prior conspiracy).

As both individuals are currently evading authorities within the Russian Federation, comprehensive efforts are underway to locate and hold them accountable.

In another case, a 21-year-old girl from the Kirovohrad region took photos of strategic sites in exchange for money.

She received 2 to 4 thousand hryvnias from Russian handlers for information on railway crossings and checkpoints. For more complex tasks like photographing military deployments, units, equipment, defense facilities, and critical infrastructure, she earned between 25 to 35 thousand UAH per assignment. During the court session, she revealed earning almost UAH 150,000 for her work.

However, attempting to make money in this manner resulted in a life sentence for her.

According to the girl, she was recruited in Mariupol. The occupiers released her with the condition that they would contact her later for specific services. Despite the recruitment attempt, upon returning to the controlled territory, she chose not to approach the SBU but instead seized the opportunity to earn money at the expense of her fellow citizens.

The case of Hennadiy Herman, the former head of the Mykolaiv district prosecutor's office, also garnered significant attention. In late June 2023, he was found guilty of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment with property confiscation.

The investigation presented evidence of his collaboration with Russian special services, including transmitting data on Ukrainian military positions, the aftermath of Russian shelling in Mykolaiv, and lists of Russian prisoners of war along with other classified information.

Note: As per Article 62 of the Constitution of Ukraine, an individual is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Exploring collaborator motives

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) sheds light on the motives behind collaboration with the enemy. According to the SBU, common incentives for directing enemy fire include financial gain and promises of roles in the occupying administrations. Some seek positions in Russian agencies like the FSB. A suspect gathering intel on the Armed Forces in Odesa even submitted a request for a position to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

However, collaborators fall into various categories, such as ideological and "waiting” or “sleeping” agents. Ideological traitors, embracing alternative histories and Russian propaganda, aid the Russian “liberation” cause, often fueled by nostalgia for the USSR. These individuals are often fanatics, driven by misguided beliefs rather than external encouragement.

Among the most perilous are the so-called sleeping agents, recruited long before large-scale invasions – they work against the Ukrainian people and the state of Ukraine. These are professionals, like Oleksandr from Lviv mentioned above, and pose a significant threat.

Motivations range from financial needs to ideological alignment or personal grievances against the Ukrainian state. Those in pursuit of money are promised financial rewards, while ideologically aligned individuals are enticed with awards, positions, and Russian gratitude. Those discontented with life or the Ukrainian state are coerced to "prove their importance and restore justice."

A unique category involves supporters of the Russian Orthodox Church, motivated by religious beliefs rather than financial or political interests. Military expert Ivan Stupak notes, "Supporters of the Russian Orthodox Church are a separate story." They may not be interested in money or politics, but appeals to religious sentiments can influence their decisions.

Major General Viktor Yahun, retired from the SBU, asserts that those willing to collaborate with Russian special services are often associated with pro-Russian political parties banned in Ukraine. These parties, he emphasizes, serve as a breeding ground for collaborators.

What’s the punishment for cooperating with the enemy?

Under martial law, the court may impose severe penalties on individuals engaging in actions deemed treasonous. For example, a girl from the Kirovohrad region faces life imprisonment with property confiscation – the investigation determines the actions as treason. Alternatively, a sentence ranging from 12 to 15 years in prison with property confiscation may be assigned if the investigation qualifies the actions as collaborationism.

Additionally, those identified by the SBU as army informants and agents of the aggressor country's special services may face charges under articles related to creating a terrorist organization (8 to 15 years in prison with property confiscation), committing sabotage (10 to 15 years imprisonment), or violating laws and customs of war. The sentences for the latter offense vary, ranging from 8 to 12 years, 10 to 15 years, or life imprisonment, depending on the specific circumstances.

Since the war started, the SBU has probed nearly 400 criminal cases

According to Colonel Vladyslav Seleznyov, a former General Staff spokesperson, gunners and coordinators targeting military sites have posed issues since 2014.

"The number of individuals supporting Russia and aiding the enemy through sabotage or intelligence activities has remained relatively constant since the full-scale invasion began," notes the former General Staff spokesman. "However, both law enforcement and the judicial system are now more actively identifying and prosecuting them."

“Throughout the full-scale war's duration, the SBU has initiated almost 400 criminal investigations involving 257 individuals linked to guiding or directing enemy fire,” reveals SBU spokesperson Artem Dekhtyarenko to Liga.net. “In total, charges against 224 people have been forwarded to court, resulting in the conviction of 77 coordinators.”

These statistics specifically pertain to Article 114-2 of the Criminal Code, addressing the unauthorized spread of information about the Armed Forces.

Depending on the crime's circumstances, individuals involved may face more serious charges such as treason, aiding an aggressor state, or collaborative activity, as clarified by the SBU.

The SBU notes that Russian informants are most active in frontline regions, focusing on gathering data about the Armed Forces' units, positions, roadblocks, and air defense. They also target civilian sites like schools, hospitals, warehouses, and infrastructure.

Identifying correctors is relatively straightforward, they’re constantly loitering and taking photos near strategic sites. They are frequently caught in the act; for instance, an individual attempting to monitor the SBU administration in the Zaporizhzhia region was discovered during countersurveillance. Observers noticed him near the building, constantly taking pictures.

How to respond if approached for recruitment

Reserve Major General Viktor Yahun of the SBU suggests reaching out to the Security Service of Ukraine promptly.

"If you report before making decisions, taking direct actions, completing tasks, or receiving money, it's not a crime. Instead, you could assist the service and your country by gathering information from the enemy or providing them with disinformation. The outcome depends on who benefits more when you come forward," highlights the retired Major General of the SBU.

Tags:
Read also:
  • News
2024, Saturday
24 February
22:28
Total Resistance: the launch of calendar dedicated to the heroic struggle of Ukrainians against Russia
21:19
All children evacuated from five settlements in Donetsk region
20:54
Russia shells Huliaipole, Zaporizhzhia region, killing elderly woman
20:27
EU plans to transfer almost 170,000 pieces of ammunition to Ukraine by end of March - FM Kuleba
20:01
Ukrainian army repels 28 Russian attacks in five directions - General Staff
19:36
Exclusive
Theory of Ukraine's success largely depends on US - American politician Fried
19:10
Executed in Olenivka Russian Captivity: The Story of a Boy from the Cherry City
18:44
Exclusive
Prospects of Ukraine's victory in war are very high - General Mussayev
18:16
All crew of downed Russian A-50 aircraft killed - media
17:50
Exclusive
Putin is forced into conditions where he cannot stop his aggression against Ukraine - General Mussayev
17:21
West's decision to ban Ukraine from striking at Russian territory is wrong - future commander of Estonian army
16:52
Exclusive
New US sanctions against Russia may affect Chinese companies - US politician Fried
16:24
Two years of Ukraine inspiring world: Western leaders on second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion
15:55
OPINION
Zelenskyy's interview with FOX: main points
15:28
UK intelligence estimates Russian losses over two years of full-scale war in Ukraine
15:00
Ukraine uses American chemical munitions against Russian army: Kremlin media spread another fake
14:32
Exclusive
Diplomat Chaly comments on preparations for 'congress' in Russian-occupied Transnistria
14:04
Review
Ukrainian counterattacks, liberation of territories in south, situation near Avdiivka: weekly military results by Serhiy Zgurets
13:35
Russia deploys dozens of Soviet T-62 tanks to Crimea - Atesh
13:07
ISW assesses risks of invasion of Ukraine from Transnistria
12:39
Exclusive
Aviation expert names complex used by Ukraine to destroy Russian A-50 aircraft
12:11
Ukrainian army destroys 770 Russian soldiers, 36 artillery systems, aircraft - General Staff
11:42
Ukraine intercepts conversation confirming downing of Russian A-50U aircraft
11:15
Ukraine's Air Force destroys 12 Shahed drones, 2 missiles overnight
10:49
Russian Su-34 firing missiles at Ukraine shot down in Kherson region - media
10:24
Updated
Ukraine’s forces target another Russian A-50 radar aircraft
2024, Friday
23 February
21:40
Review
Victorious news of 730th day of war: destroyed Russian Tor-M2 and Strela-10, €1.8bn in military support from Denmark
21:20
Ukrainian army repels 18 Russian attacks in 5 directions - General Staff
21:00
DPRK supplies Russia with 1.5 million ammo produced in 1970s-1980s - Ukrainian intelligence
20:45
Canada announces additional sanctions against Russia
20:15
Russian army destroys almost 500 tons of grain overnight in Donetsk region
19:50
Ukrainian officials arrive at Poland's border, but do not meet with Polish counterparts
19:30
Updated
Russia’s missiles, attack drones kill at least four in Ukraine
19:12
Exclusive
Japan provides record aid to Ukraine, thus supporting US and EU - Zhevago
18:50
Ukrainians, your fight is our fight: Polish media thanks Ukraine for resisting Russian aggression
18:20
Ukraine war is giant Ponzi scheme: fake news for February 23
17:50
Russian forces use chemical weapons in Tavria sector - General Tarnavskyi
17:20
What long-range weapons can Germany provide to Ukraine?
16:50
Russia can use almost 300 combat aircraft against Ukraine - intelligence
16:20
Situation in eastern Ukraine isn't critical - Ukrainian military
More news