Russia continues to fire missiles at Ukrainian facilities and apparently civilian targets. At the same time, they draw their swords and threaten the world that they will use all available weapons if they are attacked or feel threatened.
– It seems that the Russians are still several decades behind the development of the United States, for example. It was only in 2015 that the Russians managed to launch long-range, precision-guided missiles at distant targets, in the Syrian war against ISIS. As many of us might remember, the United States did the same in the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq — a quarter of a century ago, says Tormod Heyer, professor of strategy and military operations at the Norwegian Defense Academy.
Now, it has also been revealed who is responsible for firing these missiles, and who may also be responsible for what likely amount to war crimes.
Reveals a secret group
In collaboration with The Insider and Der Spiegel, Bellingcat A hitherto secret group, consisting of dozens of military engineers with a background in missile programming, has now been revealed. Early in the morning of October 9, Russia launched large-scale missile attacks on several Ukrainian cities.
While the Russian authorities boasted of the missiles’ accuracy against military targets, Many of them clearly injured civilians. Attacks deliberately directed against civilians are war crimes.
To date, little is known about who is directly responsible for targeting and programming of Russian missiles.
Phone data shows, among other things, that contact between the group and its superiors has increased significantly, shortly before the major missile attacks.
Young men and women
The maps of the three publications show that the group operates from two locations; The headquarters of the Russian Ministry of Defense are in Moscow and the headquarters of the Admiralty are in St. Petersburg.
The engineers will be deeply involved in what is referred to as the main computing center of the Russian General Staff (GVC).
Most of the members identified are said to be young men and women, many of whom have a background in IT and computer games.
Less risk of loss
– This is not surprising because Western armies do too. Thus, Russian recruitment fits into a broader and more general pattern: IT experts occupy an increasingly large position in the army’s ranks. This is partly because more and more materials used in warfare, particularly in the missile side, are made up of very advanced technology. This means the war can be waged over a longer distance, which means less risk of high individual casualties, says Tormod Heier, professor of strategy and military operations at the Norwegian Defense Academy.
– Does it matter that this is revealed?
– Both yes and no. In the West, this will likely contribute to more public insight into what is going on within the Russian missile forces. The combination of good mining journalism and access to online digital traces shows how important the systematic use of open source is. Not the least of which was the penetration of a seemingly thick wall of Russian military secrecy.
– But on the other hand, within the Russian forces, officers may only shrug their shoulders. Maybe they’ll just say that hiring IT experts is just a sign of the times, and that the bombing will continue as before, says Heier.
He is personally somewhat surprised by the poor coordination between missiles and ground military efforts on the ground, especially in the early stages of the war.
Now that the Russian ground forces are beginning to retreat, and the Ukrainians are advancing, these missile attacks are seen as a psychological weapon against the civilian population rather than an integrated combat system that plays well with other Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, says Heyer before continuing:
This almost complete lack of system integration or communication between missiles, drones, fighters and ground forces means we have to ask ourselves: Did Putin fool us?
He notes that in the wake of Russia’s defense reforms that began in 2008 after the war in Georgia, we in the West have heard many stories about how tall and dark the Russians are.
Very good at hybrid warfare
– Perhaps the reality is quite different: they are very good at hybrid warfare, where the goal is to frighten the Western population until the politicians change course. But they are probably not particularly good at waging modern warfare. It should be a consolation for many of us, Tormod Heier tells Dagbladet.
The former defense minister, Ambassador Diesen, was not surprised by the new information.
– Of course there are people who have a background in the military. These are people who have been trained as military engineers and have a professional background in missile programming. The fact that there is a unit within the General Staff staffed with engineers is not particularly surprising. It would be even more exciting if it weren’t for it, says Ambassador Diesen, a researcher at the Norwegian Defense Research Institute (FFI).
Hitting civilian targets
The fact that investigative reporters had found the names of many of those responsible seemed even more important to him.
– It is interesting that they found those people who are allegedly responsible for programming the missiles. These missiles have the accuracy that if they hit civilian targets, it is because you are shooting civilian targets. Dessen’s ambassador says they will hit within a five-meter radius of what they shot.
– This is not delegated to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but is maintained at the level of the General Staff of Russia, says Ambassador Dessen.
New attacks may be war crimes
Several actors are currently investigating possible war crimes in Ukraine.
The United Nations concluded at the end of September that such crimes had been committed.
The Commission of Inquiry referred to, among other things, Russian attacks on civilian areas, numerous executions, torture and sexual violence. Some of the victims were taken to Russia and held there against their will for several weeks.
Witnesses described beatings, electric shocks, and forced nudity, as well as other types of ill-treatment in these detention centers, Norwegian lawyer Eric Moss told the UN Human Rights Council when presenting the findings.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also believes that the Russian attacks in recent weeks may violate the rules of war.
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