The Russian media announced the ‘exposure’ of the Ukrainian special services that were trying to recruit Russian pilots. In fact, the journalists were filming a documentary that showed the recruitment of Russian pilots.
In the end, everything turned into a double and triple game, as a result of which Russian propaganda screwed up again.
All this was presented with great fanfare by the Russian media as a confident victory for the FSB over the SBU. On Russian TV there was a story about the recruitment of pilots, pro-government channels in Telegram published interviews with ‘pilots’, whom the SBU allegedly tried to recruit, and a video with ‘exposing’ the Ukrainian special services.
Hristo Grozev published his comments on these publications:
What’s true is that I was involved in this crazier than fiction tale of triple agents, fake passports and fake girlfriends as a documentary filmmaker.
Yes, we chronicled one of the dumbest counterintelligence operations of all time. […]
While today Russia presents this as a coup for its counterintelligence, in fact this operation was a serious mistake for the FSB, inadvertently revealing the identities of dozens of counterintelligence officers, their methods of work and their secret assets.
The intrigue was as follows: Bellingcat journalists tried to involve Russian pilots in a game in which the pilot had to hand over a military aircraft to the Ukrainian side, arguing that Ukroboronprom announced a reward of $1,000,000 to the pilot who brought a Russian military aircraft to Ukraine.
However, the journalists quickly realized that they were not talking to pilots at all, but to FSB agents.
A mutual game ensued, in which the Ukrainian side provided false data about its air defense systems and airfields, and the Russian side provided false data about aircraft and personal data of pilots.
A clear hint that the FSB had intercepted the messages appeared when one of the pilots suddenly said that he no longer wanted to take his wife out of the country, but wanted to take his “mistress” out.
It took me about 5 minutes to discover that the pilot’s “mistress” (too hot for him) was an FSB agent, working as a fitness trainer during the day, but moonlighting as an FSB girlfriend for hire the rest of the time.
Another clue came when another pilot unexpectedly turned to his Ukrainian colleagues for advice on incapacitating the co-pilot with a sedative.
Grozev promised to release a journalistic investigation of the incident and a documentary in the near future.
As Aleksey Arestovich stated in an interview with journalist Yulia Latynina, the former head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Vasyl Burba, was involved in the ‘hijacking operation’.