Insurgents Identified: The Green Men of VKontakte
Ukrainian intelligence produced and presented a dossier of photographs to the OSCE last week. The images, and official accusations, point to Russian “sabotage-reconnaissance groups” being involved in the recent armed insurgency in eastern Ukraine – Donetsk region specifically. According to a New York Times article, the photos and their descriptions were “endorsed by the Obama administration,” but who are these men? With the power of crowdsourcing, but mostly with the power of social networking and public profiles, the identities of a series of Russian insurgents in Donetsk have been uncovered. Men have been comparing the size of their guns since the invention of gunpowder, and thankfully these few decided to flaunt just that. Publicly. On the internet.
From the identified militants, a few notes can be made from the following gunmen who appear to be connected to the raids in Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. For one, not all are from Russia. While some may be local radicals, others appear to come from Belorechensk in Russia, or have connections to related neo-Cossack groups. This does not necessarily exonerate Russian state involvement, however. While it’s been known that military veterans and Russian ‘tourists’ have been actively involved for some time, the presence of Registered Cossacks of the Russian Federation connects Russia officially to the ongoing crisis. Registered Cossack organizations enjoy financial and organizational support from the authorities, including monthly salary as police auxiliaries. This, of course, isn’t the first controversial deployment of Cossack forces, who made a name for themselves on the world stage enforcing the law in Sochi.
Another point of interest is the insignia seen on a number of the gunmen. For clarity’s sake, the symbol is that of Andrei Shkuro‘s ‘Terek Wolf Company’, a detachment of White emigre Cossacks who fought for Nazi Germany during the second world war.
So who is involved in the Ukrainian invasion? Let’s take a look.
Evgeny “Dingo” Ponomarev
Ponomarev is a 39 year old native of Belorechensk, Russia, in the Kuban region. Pictured above, he is a Registered Cossack with full police badge. He is active in the Terek Cossack community, and featured in many of the photos recently presented by CNN and the BBC detailing the same group of insurgents appearing in Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. At this moment there is no confirmation that he is directly related to self-declared Sloviansk mayor Vyacheslav Ponomarev, though they are pictured together.
Profile: Евгений Пономарев
While Ganchev’s profile is littered with cat pictures and memes, in 2013 through to January 2014 there are many photos of him in combat training, including with sniper rifles, assault rifles, heavy machine guns, and rocket launchers. Recent photos from April show him with members who seized buildings in Donetsk. Groups he is a member of include Berkut support, The Supreme Council of the people of Ukraine and Russia (which asks for “practical” assistance in imposing referendums), Crimean “self-defense” groups, and airsoft rifle groups in Crimea (which appears to be a front to gather militants and buy weapons). His current city is listed as Horlivka, Ukraine, and he appears to be from Makiivka.
Profile: Александр Ганичев
His hometown is listed as Simferopol and photos show him in Sevastopol, and in group shots with other self-defense militants. Above he is seen at the Sloviansk airfield in Donetsk region (here’s video of the airfield with the same helicopters). He’s in the ‘People’s Liberation Movement in Ukraine‘ (which calls to ‘liberate’ the ‘western occupied colony’ from ‘invaders’), Russian Spring, and another group which calls to retake Odessa from ‘fascism’. He is seen with the Terek Wolf Company insignia.
Update: Since this article broke, Georgievsky has issued a statement of pride that he and his “brothers of the list, and those who have not yet got there” gained attention.
Profile: Игорь Георгиевский
Like Ponomarev, Karetniy is a member of the Belorechensk Cossack community in Russia. A photo posted on the community page details the group involved in the seizures in Sloviansk called “Terek Wolf Sotnia“. His profile is relatively new (registered in February, active more recently) so it cannot be confirmed that his identity is real, however, he does have the social connections with other members involved with a higher degree of authenticity. It’s likely this is him pictured with Ponomarev.
Update: Karetniy has since deleted all personal information and photos from his page.
Profile: Тихон Каретный
Kovalyov is another from Belorechensk, Russia. His photo albums contain many swastikas and neo-Nazi or ultranationalist imagery. Photos dating back 2 years show him in paramilitary garb, while his profile picture appears to be ‘self-defense’ force paramilitary in Crimea. In another photo he appears with Karetniy while wearing the ‘Terek Wolf Company’ badge, who is also an insurgent in Donetsk with a Russian Cossack connection.
Profile: Zheka Kovalyov
Photos show him carrying an automatic rifle in front government buildings in Slovinansk. His profile lists him as being a Simferopol native, and is a member of a Simferopol Don Cossack group. Photos also show what appears to be a swastika pendant, and Russian ultra-nationalist graphics.
Profile: Евген Злой
Pitersky lists himself as residing in Kharkiv and a member of the Oplot fight club and ‘Polite People of Kharkiv‘ (a reference to the ‘Green Men’ from Russia). He is ironically a member of the ‘Anti-fascist movement of the South-East‘ as well as the ‘White Legion‘ neo-Nazi community.
Profile: Edvard Pitersky
Current city is listed as Sloviansk. He appears to be a local and a member of Gubarev’s militia.
Profile: Dima Kharkovsky
Ignat “Topaz” Kromskoy
Topaz is a sort of celebrity in internet circles. He was placed under house arrest on March 29 for his involvement in the March 1st raid on the Kharkiv Regional State Administration building. On April 7, Topaz fled house arrest, cutting off his monitoring bracelet. Topaz has since given interviews with the Russian channel LifeNews, and spoken about the current ‘guerrilla struggle’ and need to use firearms to capture buildings. Pictures with assault rifles, BDU, and St. George ribbon indicate it’s likely he has been involved in the current insurgency in Donetsk or Luhansk since his arrest.
Profile: Ignat Kromskoy
This profile is less straightforward, but the photos appear to sync up. Anastasov is from Simferopol. Photos include him with various firearms. The above photo makes no indication on which building he is in, so it’s possible he was only involved in Crimea.
Profile: Sergey Anastasov
From Irkutsk, Russia. His main profile shows him in military fatigues in what appears to be barracks. Photos include neo-Nazi imagery (burning an Israeli flag) and Eurasian symbols. He appears to be pictured with Zloy, above. Correction: Morozov denies this is him, and it’s entirely possible that it was a convenient juxtaposition with a lookalike.
Profile: Anton Morozov