Remote killers - who among the Russians directs missiles at civilian objects in Ukraine

Remote killers – who among the Russians directs missiles at civilian objects in Ukraine

By guiding Russian missiles, military engineers, among them promising programmers, become key anonymous actors enabling Putin to wage aggressive war. But the investigators managed to learn the names of these killers remotely.

Caliber missile / photo of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation / Facebook

Russia strikes with “high-precision” missiles on residential areas and civilian infrastructure of Ukraine. Such attacks by the occupiers, in particular, took place on October 10, when 20 civilians were killed and 108 wounded; the next day, about 30 more rockets were fired at Ukrainian cities; the arrival of “Kalibra” in Vinnytsia on July 14 took the lives of 27 civilians; On June 26, several guided missiles hit a residential area of ​​Kyiv.

Investigative journalists The Insider, Bellingcat and Der Spiegel managed to find out who is directing these missiles at civilian objects. It is a secret unit within the Main Computing Center (GTC) of the Russian Armed Forces, which determines flight tasks for high-precision missiles.

By sifting through calls comparable to the Ukraine shelling, investigators identified 30 Russian military engineers, most of them young men and women with backgrounds in information technology and even computer game development. The journalists established the names and positions of these war criminals.

Gunners rockets from the main computing center: who are they

Journalists note that it is unlikely to find information about GOC in open sources. They managed to find out that all the rocket engineers currently on duty in the main computer center are registered as living and working at 19 Znamyanka Street in Moscow – the official address of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.


Military publications describe the functions of GOC as “provision of IT services” and “automation of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”. Among his employees, as the investigators found out, there are not only military personnel, but also people with civilian work experience as corporate IT specialists or even game designers.

The journalists studied the metadata of the telephone conversations of the head of the center, Major General Robert Baranov. And it turned out that every time before the launch of cruise missiles in the period from February 24 to the end of April 2022, he was called from one specific number, and it belongs to Colonel Ihor Bagnyuk, registered at the same address as other established officers of the Central Military District – on Znam’ Yantsi, 19. Then the metadata of Bagniuk’s calls were studied – it turned out that he had intensively communicated with more than 20 military engineers and IT experts from the Central Military District. This is how it was reconstructed by researchers The InsiderBellingcat and Der Spiegel a team of 33 military engineers reporting to Colonel Bagniuk.

“Furthermore, after analyzing this data, we were able to link many individual cruise missile strikes with specific units of the GOC and found a correlation between the type of missiles and specific employees of the GOC,” the journalists noted.

As you can see, the GOC unit discovered by the researchers consists of three teams, each of which programs the flight trajectories of one specific type of high-precision missiles:

  • ZM-14 – (“Caliber”, sea-based) – Major Ivan Popov, Major Matviy Lyubavin, Lieutenant Kateryna Chugunova, Captain Serhii Ilyin, Captain Yuriy Nikonov, Senior Lieutenant Dmytro Tikhonov;
  • 9M728 (aka P-500, Iskander operational-tactical missile systems (ground-based) – Major Pavlo Obukhov, Captain Elvira Obukhova, Major Mykyta Poplavskyi, Captain Viktor Yaskelainen, Lieutenant Oleksandr Grigoryan, Lieutenant Volodymyr Petrov;
  • Kh-101 (airborne) – Captain Artem Chernov, Captain Oleksiy Betehtin, Major Andriy Ivanyutin, Major Mykyta Poplavskyi.
  • And, in fact, the head of the GOC, General Robert Baranov, Colonel Ihor Bagniuk from the targeting unit, and Lieutenant Colonel Anton Tymashinov.

War criminals deny involvement in GOC in phone calls

The lnsider tried to contact the gunners on the phones from the billing received, they all admitted that these phone numbers belonged to them, but categorically denied that they worked in the Main Computing Center and had anything to do with the shelling of Ukraine. Ilyin called himself a plumber, Lieutenant Artem Vedenov claims that he works on a pig farm, Captain Yuriy Nikonov said that he is a bus driver, Major Ivan Popov said that he is just learning to program on “Python”, Lieutenant Kateryna Chugunova says that she has a flower shop.

But when journalists from The lnsider showed some of the gunners a photo of them standing in military uniform with a computer center sign, it confused them.

But one of the engineers agreed to share with the investigators on the condition of anonymity some contextual information and several photos of the route-computing block of the GOC, which is located in front of the building of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation in Moscow.

Artem Lubov is in the first row, Igor Bagnyuk is on the far right Artem Lubov is in the first row, Igor Bagnyuk is on the far right

Biographies of murderers on the remote controlguided missiles at Ukrainian civilian objects

Military engineers who program the trajectories of guided missiles have very different backgrounds. These are both professional military and people with civilian professions related to IT.

Commander GOT. Ihor Bagniuk was born in 1982 in Riga, in 2004 he graduated from the Serpukhovskyi branch of the Academy of Defense and Security, specializing in information systems for Russian missiles. Bagnyuk served in military unit 29692 (2027th aviation and technical depot) under Volodymyr, until at some point, no later than 2010, he was transferred to Moscow to serve in the GOC.

Ihor Bagniuk, photo provided by a colleague.  Awarded, among other things, medals Ihor Bagniuk, photo provided by a colleague. Awarded, among other things, medals “For military valor” of the 1st degree and for participation in the military operation in Syria

The medals on his photo, obtained from one of the employees of the GOC, show that Bagniuk was awarded the medal “For participation in hostilities in Syria.” This medal has been awarded to Russian servicemen since 2015 (Russia has repeatedly used guided missiles in Syria, for example, during strikes on Aleppo in 2016).

Bagnyuk is not the only GOC employee who distinguished himself in Syria, the investigators found out. So, for example, in the photo published by the Kremlin of the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad in Damascus in January 2021 at the Russian military command center in Syria, you can find Major Andrii Ivanyutin, a member of the GOC unit, with whom Bagniuk actively communicates during the full-scale war.

Major Andriy Ivanyutin (top left) Major Andriy Ivanyutin (top left)

Investigators have restored the chronology of calls and missile targeting of Ukrainian cities

On the eve of the massive missile attack on Ukraine on October 10, the telephone activity of Bagnyuk and his subordinates was noticed, starting from October 2 and ending on the 9th. On the last date, 11 calls were made to gunner engineers. What does this indicate? About the fact that these strikes were planned for at least a week and could not be a consequence of the bombing of the Crimean bridge on October 8, 2022.

“On October 9, immediately before the missile strikes, Bagniuk called three engineer officers from the GOC group, each of whom specialized in one of the three types of cruise missiles,” the researchers emphasize.

Bagnyuk called Captain Oleksiy Mykhaylov, then Major Matvii Lyubavin. Moreover, the latter had a landline work phone after 3:00 p.m., and he was at his workplace on Sunday after 3:00 p.m.

As the journalists calculated, after an almost two-hour pause at 5:10 p.m., Bagniuk received a phone call from one of the deputy commanders of the Military Police, Colonel Yevhen Kapshuk. Immediately after the conversation with the chief, Colonel Bagniuk called Senior Lieutenant Olga Chesnokova, a member of the subgroup specializing in Kh-101 air-launched cruise missiles. Bagniuk called Chesnokova twice in a row at 5:16 p.m. and 5:17 p.m., and then called his superior, Colonel Kapshuk, at 5:20 p.m.

“Thus, between 3:17 p.m. and 5:17 p.m., Colonel Bagniuk contacted the officers of each of the units specializing in three types of missiles that will be launched at targets in Ukraine the next morning,” the investigators emphasized.

It turned out that after that, Bagnyuk went to his office at 19 Znamyanka Street, in the headquarters of the General Staff. He was there, judging by the metadata, until late in the evening. For the last time, he called General Baranov, the head of the National Security Service, at 9:15 p.m., after which he went home. Bagnyuk returned to the workplace at 5:30 in the morning on October 10.

Journalists established a connection between Bagniuk’s calls to his top management and future large-scale missile attacks on the territory of Ukraine. Yes, Bagniuk spoke with General Baranov on September 10 at 12:41 p.m. Bagniuk made the last call at 9:20 p.m. that Saturday evening to Captain Oleksiy Mykhaylov, a specialist in the guidance of cruise missiles of the Iskander complex. The next day, September 11, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported that over the past day, the Russian Federation had launched several Iskander missiles at the Ukrainian military base in Donbas. Later that day – 12 more winged in Ukraine, which was the first known attempt to cause significant damage to Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

In addition, on the night of September 12-13, Bagnyuk’s phone records recorded a new flurry of calls – from Kapshuk’s boss to his subordinates. The next day, the Ministry of Defense of Russia published a video recording of the night launch of the Iskander complex cruise missile at the command post of the Armed Forces.

A screenshot of a video shared by the Russian Ministry of Defense showing the complex's night launch of a missile Screenshot of a video shared by the Russian Ministry of Defense showing the night launch of the Iskander complex missile

“The earliest calls between Bagniuk and General Baranov established by our team are dated March 13, 2022. They spoke twice that morning between 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Earlier that morning, Russia launched its deadliest salvo since the beginning of its invasion: 30 X missiles -101 and “Caliber” led to the death of at least 35 and wounding of 134 people at the military training ground near Lviv”, – note the investigators.

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