October 4, 2022

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"Putin's entourage is absolutely terrifying" the war in Ukraine

“Putin’s entourage is absolutely terrifying” the war in Ukraine

BellingcatThe invasion of Ukraine was supposed to last three days, and most likely, Russia regretted the deaths of 3,000 soldiers. That’s the view of data researchers from Bellingcat, the research group that tracks war with its own methods.

Christo Grosev believes that US President Joe Biden’s claims – that Vladimir Putin has been looking for a reason to actually attack Ukraine for weeks and will do so on a specific date – were much more than psychological war games. It is a mainstay of the Bellingcat investigative journalism group, founded by British blogger Elliot Higgins. Bellingcat had similar leads last year, except that they came straight from a Russian detective.

Grosev, a Bulgarian investigative journalist, media expert and media investor, spoke about it yesterday in a webinar for his international colleagues. Everyone would like to look inside Vladimir Putin’s head at who Grosev casually said the Russian president might be ill. Bellingcat has unparalleled expertise in investigating open source intelligence and leaked data, and has a proven track record of rebuilding the drama of MH17 as the ultimate achievement.

What do Bellingcat data specialists know about this Russian attack? Grosev says he saw this invasion coming “in slow motion.” Because of his organization’s profile, people came to him last year. Also agents of the FSB (formerly the Federal Security Service of Russia – KGB) who had already told him that things would change in Russia in 2022 “like never before”.

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Christo Gruzef from Bellingcat during a visit to the Netherlands. © Marco Uchhuizen

Grosev heard that Russia would become a full-fledged dictatorship and the country would be run like an army. Those were valuable insights, but we couldn’t confirm them. We had an idea of ​​what was happening in the Kremlin when someone else came to us to declare war with Ukraine and also that Putin was considering deploying tactical nuclear weapons if necessary. Everyone in the Kremlin was terrified of it all, except for a small group of the military elite. He is the only one who trusts Putin now. They are no longer the broader elite, the oligarchs who are traditionally his comrades and childhood friends.”

In January, Grosev says, the dates for the so-called big military exercises came. But he only became really concerned when the Russians lied about troop movements away from the border when the data showed otherwise. The only thing that failed in the preliminary period was that they did not find any credible provocation to justify the invasion. “

Three days

The attack doesn’t go according to plan, Bellingcat concludes based on his own data. Putin’s plan was a blitzkrieg, for three days at most, to bring down Kyiv. Grosev: The Russians had ready copies of the websites of all Ukrainian government institutions with their private information. But they haven’t been published yet.”

He believes that the miscalculation turned out to be the poor quality of the Russian army and perhaps not the best time to attack. Now they are working on Plan B because they cannot occupy the country quickly and it is also difficult to replace President Zelensky. And the fact that the column standing in front of Kyiv has been standing for two days is an indication that they did not get out. ”

Grosev knows that it does not bother Putin that the world is watching the horrific bombardment of cities. The Kremlin cares about its own reputation. They are now bombing Kharkov, the largest Russian city in Ukraine. Dozens killed to force people to submit, they don’t care and then the nuclear warning is not strange.”

How many dead?

One pressing question is how many Russian soldiers have been killed so far. It is essential that Grozev be able to play Russian public opinion with body bags in the future. For example, all the corpses of soldiers in the photo are counted on social media near burning tanks. The Ukrainians are very happy to photograph this, leaving their dead soldiers out of the picture so as not to make the enemy wiser. According to verified videos, there are now between 700 and 900 Russian dead.

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Bellingcat also uses a different method in which destroyed tanks, trucks and aircraft are combined with the minimum number of passengers who were there before the explosion. Then it came to the death of about 3,000 Russians, while the Ministry of Defense in Moscow asserts that “almost no casualties.” Grosev believes that the Ukrainian authorities are not protecting the 6,000 killed Russians. The Ukrainian military has its own interest in increasing that number: to discourage the Russians. “Remember that most soldiers are 19 years old, they are 20 years old, and they are conscripts until they carry out orders.”

Bellingcat tries to find out the identity of the fallen and then informs their mothers, fathers and sisters in the hope that they will talk about it in Russia. Grosev knows that many Russian units partially switched to analog communication a week ago. Afraid of being digitally tracked. According to Grozev, this is a happy accident. “If you know the frequencies, it is as easy as listening to police radio. We hear a lot of complaints about the lack of food and there is anger about the insufficient air support.”

The Bellingcat man estimates that if Ukraine can hold out for another two weeks, it could have dire consequences. “They hold the big cities until the lack of supplies in the Russian army begins to appear and also until the money starts to run out to win.” “Sources” reported that the people around Putin are completely terrified by Western sanctions, Grosev knows. “They are doing everything they can to limit the damage to them. Including how to get rid of it. This is not a conspiracy theory, but that is how powerful people think who could lose everything because of this unpragmatic behavior.”

Watch our videos about the war in Ukraine here: