Security blunders have plagued Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) for the past few weeks as various FSB whistleblowers reveal the inner workings of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The intelligence agency of Russia, which is known for its extreme secrecy, has now been allegedly exposed by Ukrainian intelligence as they had published the names and information of 620 Russian FSB officers in what seems to be the largest data breach of the war. You may see the list for yourself here.
The Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine revealed that they had access to the information of 620 individuals who were registered employees of the FSB. They accused many of them of being involved in criminal activities in Europe. Astonishingly, the list contained the personal details, phone numbers, date of birth, place of birth, and even car number plates of the FSB agents. It was also revealed that those on the list were reportedly living in Lubyanka, the location of FSB’s headquarters.
In a satirical fashion, the list also revealed that some Russian agents were not-so secretive with their Skype name as they used the username “jamesbond007,” a reference to the famous British MI6 agent, James Bond.
While the list is not independently verified, the negative impact on morale within the FSB and its related government agencies would be extremely felt as this would indicate that their cyber-infrastructure and the FSB itself are vulnerable to foreign hacking or that there may be a mole inside the FSB that has been feeding information to the Ukrainians. Furthermore, it is important to note that Ukraine did not specify how they obtained the list, which leaves room for legitimacy issues for the list.
Putin himself was once part of the KGB, which the present-day FSB replaced, and would now question further the actual capabilities of its intelligence agency as they had previously failed in collecting ample data to effectively gauge the situation in Ukraine before the start of the invasion. This led to them failing to secure any major city in Ukraine aside from Kherson, with a majority of its forces being incapacitated due to morale, food, and fuel issues.
The Russian intelligence agency had also lost two of its top executives as the Kremlin arrested the FSB foreign intelligence branch Fifth Service head Sergey Beseda and his deputy Anatoly Bolyukh. They were blamed for collecting inaccurate information about Ukraine. This ultimately led to their invading forces incurring a large number of casualties in the 1-month-old war. Some 20 of their colleagues were also apprehended by the Russian authorities in an effort to find out who was leaking the information to Western journalists.
Furthermore, SOFREP also reported about another FSB whistleblower claiming that their war in Ukraine would be a “total failure” due to many challenges. One of these challenges was related to Beseda’s actions of collecting inaccurate information as they were forced to make assessments that would favor Russia to appease Putin.
Despite the large leak, Bellingcat’s Aric Toler reported that some of the names found on Ukraine’s list came from existing leaks, but a number of them also appeared to be original.
“Going through some of these with spot-checks, and a lot of them are direct copy-pastes from different leaked databases,” he said.
EU Kicks Out Russian Diplomats for Alleged Spying
Before Ukraine published the list of Russian spies from the FSB, some 100 Russian diplomats from ten European countries were removed from their posts as they were allegedly part of a Russian intelligence network.
In an apparent planned and united expulsion, Belgium kicked out 21 Russian officials, while the Netherlands kicked out 17. Ireland also joined in on the expulsions and removed 4 Russian officials from their positions, while the Czech Republic booted out 1. The Russian diplomats were ordered to leave because they posed a “national security threat” to the governments mentioned as the EU countries suspected them of being spies.
Earlier last week, Poland had removed 45 Russians from its borders. Bulgaria, along with Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, removed 20 Russian officials. Slovakia also expelled 3 Russian diplomats for the same reason. They had all alleged that these diplomats were functioning as spies and that they were removed so that their spy network could not operate efficiently.
Russian Radio Communications Compromised
It isn’t just the FSB that is losing secrecy. On the ground in Ukraine, their forces have reportedly been suffering from communication issues which they caused themselves by knocking down 3G towers their encrypted communication systems depended on. As a result, they used local sim cards in cell phones and VHF/UHF radios that could easily be jammed and intercepted, more so they could also be located by using these communication methods. It is believed the extraordinary number of senior Russian officers killed by Ukrainian troops is due to a lack of communications security by Russian forces.
With Russia limited to inferior, unencrypted communication systems, the Ukrainians can now intercept calls made from local sim cards and locate where the Russian generals are. In fact, the second Russian general to be killed in action, Major General Vitaly Gerasimov, was killed as their communication lines were intercepted by the Ukrainians and gave away his position. He was then successfully assassinated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
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The Russian forces were so vulnerable that their radio communications from the frontlines are now published all over the internet, with The New York Times breaking the story about what exactly the Russian forces were experiencing through translating intercepted Russian radio chatter. It’s important to note that the intercepted radio chatter was verified by the New York Times.
The Russians incriminated themselves as they were heard to be deliberately targeting residential areas through the following exchange. This also revealed their communication challenges as they could not hear each other.
“Buran-30, this is Yug-95. Over. There was a decision made to remove the first “property” from the residential area and to cover the residential area with artillery. Over,” said a Russian group with the callsign Yug-95. Another group replied that they could not hear and that they should speak slower.
It also revealed what the Kremlin was trying to hide — the number of their casualties. During the radio chatter, the Russian forces said that “the boys are suffering” and that there were drones everywhere attacking them. Miscommunication led to Yug-95 blaming Buran-30 that they forgot to send them air support as they were allegedly pinned down, which may have led to their demise.
“You f*cking forgot about the f*cking air support! You forgot! Over!”
Lastly, there were also multiple Russian troops urgently requesting refueling, water, and food supplies as they were stalling on the road. This would seem to confirm numerous reports, videos and photographs showed Ukrainian troops coming upon armed and functional tanks, trucks and APCs abandoned by their crews. These troops sounded as if they were already very weak and had reported to their fellow soldiers that they were “looking for retreat routes.”
Ukrainian Armed Forces, who jammed the Russian communication line, mocked these troops, saying that they should just go home and that it was better to be a deserter than fertilizer.
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