The Ukrainian hoax that revealed the Russian pilots who bombed Mariupol theatre
Ukrainian “hacktivists” have outed the Russian pilots allegedly responsible for brutally bombing the Mariupol theatre by tricking their spouses to pose for a risqué military wives calendar.
Cyber Resistance, the group behind the elaborate stunt, used fake Russian identities to pose as ardent supporters of the Kremlin’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.
The plot focused on the wife of Colonel Sergey Valeriyvich Atroschenko, the commander of Russia’s elite 960th Assault Aviation Regiment, who reportedly ordered the bombing of the theatre, which killed an estimated 600 civilians last year.
His Su-25 ground attack warplanes also bombed a maternity hospital in the southern Ukrainian city, killing at least four people, injuring 16 more and leading to at least one stillbirth.
Having identified Mrs Atroschenko, the hackers contacted her and convinced her to organise a photoshoot with herself and 11 other squadron wives to produce a pin-up calendar to boost morale, according to a report by Inform Napalm, a Ukrainian open source journalism group.
It is tradition amongst Russian military families that the spouse of the unit commander has substantial influence over the lower-ranking wives and girlfriends in supporting their husbands.
A group shot released as part of the report showed 12 military spouses wearing their partners’ uniforms and medals with an Su-25 jet in the background.
Ten wore high heels, while some wore short skirts that were barely noticeable underneath the parade tunics.
The Telegraph could not immediately verify the content of the report.
Amongst the content released were two raunchy pictures of Mrs Atroschenko, 41, posing in her underwear sent as “photo surprises” to her husband.
The 41-year-old believed she was communicating with an officer from her husband’s regiment, and not a Ukrainian activist, when she agreed to take part and organise the “patriotic photo shoot” at an airfield near the city of Primorsko-Akhtarsk in the Krasnodar Krai, on the shores of the Sea of Azov.
The group also published the names, ranks, home addresses, passport numbers and contact details of the 11 other pilots whose spouses posed for the morale-boosting pictures.
Cyber Resistance claimed it had obtained operational planning documents, manuals for Russian military air search, air traffic control procedures and a 16-page dossier on improving Russian Air Force interception tactics against Nato surveillance jets.
Most of the material remained unpublished and was instead handed to the Ukrainian authorities.