Russian Communications In Shambles As Ukraine Intercepts Key Intel

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Ukrainian defense personnel have released audio from an intercepted phone conversation between two officers of the Russian agency known as the Federal Security Service amid Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. In the course of the conversation, the Russian officers discussed the apparent break-down of their side’s secure communication capabilities and “lamented” the death of a top Russian general on the battlefield in Ukraine, The Daily Beast summarizes. The Russian general in question — although there are others who’ve apparently died amid the Ukraine conflict — is Vitaly Gerasimov, who was chief of staff of Russia’s 41st Army. According to Ukrainian officials, Gerasimov had been wiped out near Kharkiv, which has faced numerous attacks from Russian soldiers that have severely endangered local civilians.

Christo Grozev, who serves as executive director of the fact-checking group known as Bellingcat, commented as follows regarding the captured Russian communications:

‘In the phone call in which the [Federal Security Service, or FSB] officer assigned to the 41st Army reports the death to his boss in Tula, he says they’ve lost all secure communications. Thus the phone call using a local sim card. Thus the intercept… His boss, who makes a looong pause when he hears the news of Gerassimov’s death (before swearing), is Dmitry Shevchenko, a senior FSB officer from Tula. We identified him by searching for his phone (published by Ukrainian military Intel) in open source lookup apps… In the call, you hear the Ukraine-based FSB officer ask his boss if he can talk via the secure Era system. The boss says Era is not working.’

Ukrainian officials have backed up the notion of problems with Russia’s secure communications, saying that “data obtained also indicate significant problems with communication in the occupier’s army and with the evacuation of their broken units.” As for the progression of the conflict, Ukrainian officials claim that over 12,000 Russian troops have been wiped out — and Western officials have actually provided tentative support for this notion, suggesting that Russian personnel may have under-estimated the extent to which Ukrainians would fight for their country. Numbers have been shifting, but the total number of Russian casualties has been pinned in the thousands, per Western officials. In the meantime, Russian military personnel have continued to threaten civilians across Ukraine, including in Mariupol, where a remaining local population in the range of hundreds of thousands have lost access to basic utilities like running water. Repeatedly, Russian fighters have derailed attempts to evacuate civilians from the city; just this Tuesday, Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko publicly revealed that “Russian forces are now shelling the humanitarian corridor from Zaporizhzhia to Mariupol.”