Russian agents killed 3 men they said were saboteurs sent by Ukraine. A report says they were just gamers in costume.

A still from a Russian state media Russia-1 report, showing what it claims is a mass of military equipment found at the site of a FSB operation
A still from a Russian state media Russia-1 report, showing what it claims is a mass of military equipment found at the site of a FSB operationRussia-1/Smotrim.ru
  • Russian state media reported on an FSB operation targeting "pro-Ukrainian saboteurs."

  • Per independent media, the men killed were roleplayers of the video game "S.T.A.L.K.E.R."

  • The state media report appeared to misidentify videogame imagery as genuine militant symbols.

Three men killed in a Russian secret service operation were gamers in costume rather than Ukrainian agents, according to a report in Russian media.

The initial story of Russian FSB agents taking out Ukrainian saboteurs came under scrutiny when supposed militant gear was identified as imitation gear from the video game "S.T.A.L.K.E.R.", The Moscow Times reported.

On Wednesday evening, state news channel Russia-1 reported on an operation by the FSB in Voronezh, a city around 150km from the border with Ukraine.

The agents, per the outlet, killed "three active pro-Ukrainian nationalist ideology supporters" who it claimed were planning to attack energy infrastructure nearby.

The Moscow Times said it identified two of those killed as seemingly harmless gaming role-players.

It attributed its information to other members of that community who would roleplay alongside them, staging realistic but harmless mock-military battles.

Per the paper, the men were mimicking the popular survival-horror videogame, "S.T.A.L.K.E.R.," which is set in a fictionalized version of Ukraine's Chernobyl.

Footage from the Russia-1 report, reviewed and translated by Insider, featured a flag which the network said was from a Ukrainian nationalist party, but actually matches imagery from the game.

A still from a Russian state media Russia-1 report, showing what it claims is a flag showing affiliation with a far-right Ukrainian party. The image is blurred.
A still from a Russian state media Russia-1 report, showing what it claims is a flag showing affiliation with a far-right Ukrainian partyRussia-1/Smotrim.ru

The obscured wolf insignia above was attributed by Russia-1 to a fringe political party in Ukraine called Volya.

"Those exact flags could be seen in the hands of the ultra-right gangs during the Kyiv Maidan," claimed the report, referring to the uprising in 2014 which overthrew Ukraine's last pro-Russian government.

The only logo associated with the Ukrainian Volya party that Insider could locate is formed of bold yellow lettering on a white background. Nonetheless, the reporter said: "It is obvious whose orders they follow."

However, the blurred-out flag does strongly resemble that of a faction of the same name from "S.T.A.L.K.E.R." This logo has a green wolf's head in profile on a black background.

A still from a Russian state media Russia-1 report, showing what it claims is a mass of military paraphernalia found at the site of a FSB operation
A still from a Russian state media Russia-1 report, showing what it claims is military paraphernalia owned by the men killed.Russia-1/Smotrim.ru

The two men identified by The Moscow Times, which viewed what it said were their social media accounts, were Vorozneh locals Vladimir Kotovsky, and an account under the name Stalker Phosgene.

The room filmed by Russia-1 also matches one that appears in a photo shared by Stalker Phosgene on social media, the paper reported. Insider was unable to confirm this.

Insider viewed an account in the name of Stalker Phosgene on Russian social media site VKontake, where the account holder appeared to be a fan of the video game.

A large number of the account's photos show a man in military gear in what appeared to be staged photos. The account was last active on November 22, and did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

Kotosvsky's account, per the paper, also showed him to be a "S.T.A.L.K.E.R." fan.

An unnamed member of the local airsoft fan group told the paper "Stalker Phosgene was an anarchist, a rebel and supported Ukraine" and that he was "banned many times from games due to rule violations."

Kotovsky, the source said, was an "ordinary" person who "was a supporter of Navalny."

Read the original article on Business Insider