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Investigative Stories from Ukraine: Journalists identify 100 Russian soldiers killed trying to seize Kyiv last March

by Anna Myroniuk and Alexander Khrebet March 7, 2023 3:56 PM 6 min read
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty identifies some 100 soldiers of Russian elite military units killed during the battle of Moshchun, three kilometers north of Kyiv, in March 2022. (Credit: RFE/RL)
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Top investigative stories

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RFE/RL identifies 100 Russian soldiers killed attempting to seize Kyiv last March

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty identified some 100 soldiers of Russian elite military units killed during the battle of Moshchun, three kilometers north of Kyiv, in March 2022.

RFE/RL used open-source research, documents, and interviews with sources to identify Russian soldiers attempting to take Kyiv last March. Among them were paratroopers, marines, and servicemen specializing in reconnaissance. These soldiers reportedly belong to at least three elite divisions of Russia's Airborne forces from Pskov, Tula, and Ivanovo, and two marine brigades from Vladivostok and Kamchatka regions.

Among those killed in battle, the RFE/RL identified 45 paratroopers of Russia's 331st Guards Airborne Regiment based in Kostroma.

At least 12 of them reportedly had taken part in the military parades in Moscow, six had fought in Syria, and three had received awards for participating in the Russian occupation of Crimea in 2014.

The 331st Guards Airborne Regiment was one of the three Russian units taking part in the Battle of Ilovaisk in eastern Donetsk Oblast, during which at least 420 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in August 2014, according to RFE/RL.

The 155th Separate Marine Brigade from the Russian eastern city of Vladivostok reportedly had at least 30 soldiers killed in Moshchun. Among them was Captain Andrey Ivanov, who posthumously received the highest Russian military award, Hero of Russia.

Russia's defeat in Moshchun prevented its troops from encircling Ukraine's capital and subsequently forced Russian troops to withdraw from northern Ukraine in early April 2022, RFE/RL reported.

Find the full story in Ukrainian with English subtitles here.

Suspilne identifies Russian soldiers that could be responsible for killing volunteers in Bucha

Suspilne, Ukraine's public broadcaster, identified Russian soldiers allegedly responsible for killing four and injuring one civilian on Kyivo-Myrotska Street in Bucha on March 4, 2022.

Among these people were three volunteers delivering food to an animal shelter. (Revisit their story here).

Having obtained pictures and videos from the phones of the victims and CCTV footage from street cameras, journalists managed to reconstruct the events of that morning.

Russian troops allegedly shot at a car on Kyivo-Myrotska Street, injuring a man. The car caught fire and a man living nearby came out to check whether help was needed. Russian soldiers shot him dead.

Soon after, the volunteers, Serhiy Ustymenko, 25, Maxym Kuzmenko, 28, and Anastasia Yalanska, 26, turned to Kyivo-Myrotska Street where Ustymenko's parents lived.

When Russian soldiers saw their car, they shot Kuzmenko in the head. Ustymenko and Yalanska managed to jump out of the car, trying to escape, but Russian soldiers shot them too, Yalanska's mother told Suspilne.

Suspilne identified some of the soldiers caught on CCTV cameras around the time of the murder on the street where it was committed.

Among them is Aleksandr Dosyagaev, the commander of the second battalion of the Russian 104th Guards Air Assault Regiment. He is reportedly the one leading his troops to Kyivo-Myrotska Street in Bucha on March 4, 2022.

Find the full story in Ukrainian with English subtitles here.

Bihus.Info identifies proxy owning real estate for Russia-backed politicians Medvedchuk, Kozak

Former lawmakers Viktor Medvedchuk and Taras Kozak, charged with treason, allegedly used a proxy to keep hold of expensive real estate and land plots in Kyiv, Bihus.Info outlet found.

Lviv resident Olha Kuts, 62, is allegedly a nominal owner of companies linked to Medvedchuk and Kozak. The two are under Ukrainian sanctions, stipulating that their bank accounts are frozen and assets confiscated.

These assets involve a residential complex in central Kyiv and a few land plots across the city, the estimated cost of which amounts to hundreds of millions of hryvnias, according to Bihus.Info.

On paper, Kuts owns 55% of the companies linked to Medvedchuk, while 45% hold affiliates of Medvedchuk and Kozak. Since Kuts is a majority stakeholder, these assets allegedly went unnoticed by Ukrainian law enforcement and weren't seized by the state, Bihus.Info reported.

In conversation with Bihus.Info, Kuts confessed to being a nominal owner of a number of companies at the request of Taras Kozak's father she worked for back in the 2000s.

Following the Bihus.Info investigation, a Lviv court arrested assets of companies nominally owned by Kuts.

In late February, a Ukrainian court seized Hr 5.6 billion ($152 million) in assets belonging to Medvedchuk's wife, Oksana Marchenko. In April last year, the court arrested Lviv real estate registered to relatives of Medvedchuk and Kozak.

Kozak fled Ukraine in 2021. Medvedchuk was detained in Ukraine and handed over to Russia as part of a prisoner exchange in September 2022.

Find the full story in English here.

Independent Russian media identify people behind Russian censorship

Roskomnadzor, Russia's agency responsible for censorship, suffers from employee shortage and hires students, Russian media outlet iStories found.

Candidates for the position at Roskomnadzor's Internet censorship department are told they will be required to look for criticism of President Vladimir Putin and Russia's war against Ukraine online.

Early career employees get a salary of 40,000 rubles ($530), heads of departments' wages start from 100,000 rubles ($1,300), while top managers earn 500,000 rubles ($6,630) and more.

Roskomnadzor employees are also exempt from military service, according to iStories.

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Roskomnadzor has blocked 125,000 pieces of content about Russia's war against Ukraine and adjacent topics as of January, according to iStories.

The story is part of the #RussianCensorFiles, a series of investigations published in February by iStories and other outlets, based on more than 2 million documents leaked from Roskomnadzor.

The leak revealed that Roskomnadzor is tasked with being Putin's personal watchdog, dedicated to tracking down anyone criticizing the Russian president online.

Information from the agency is then passed to Putin's administration and Russian law enforcement bodies.

Over 1,000 employees within Roskomnadzor specialize in tracking content, ranging from speculations about Putin's health to memes that mock the Russian leader, according to the report.

Read the full story in Russian via the link. Some of the earlier stories of the #RussianCensorFiles series are now available in English here.

Independent Russian media: Putin's alleged mistress, kids live in lavish villa next to presidential residence

According to Proekt Media, a Russian investigative outlet, Putin reportedly built a luxurious villa for his alleged girlfriend, former gymnast Alina Kabaeva, and her kids.

The villa is located next to Putin’s presidential residence on Lake Valdai between Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

Putin commissioned the construction of a villa for Kabaeva in 2020, next to the presidential residence which had been built 15 years earlier, Proekt wrote citing an anonymous source.

Proekt also found other real estate Kabaeva uses. Among them is “the largest apartment in Russia,” a 2,600-square-meter penthouse of 20 rooms in Sochi, and three other flats there, registered under the name of her grandmother.

Watch the full story in Russian with English subtitles here.

Recognition

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The Kyiv Independent journalists win award for investigation into International Legion

The Kyiv Independent's investigative reporters Anna Myroniuk and Alexander Khrebet received the #AllForJan Award in Warsaw on March 2 for their investigation into alleged leadership misconduct in the Ukrainian army's International Legion.

The International Legion was established following the full-scale Russian invasion for foreigners eager to help defend Ukraine.

The award-winning investigation revealed the International Legion’s commanders' alleged involvement in the misappropriation of light weapons and small arms, including Western-provided ones.

Other allegations include threatening legionnaires with a gun and sexual harassment of female subordinates.

For this story, journalists interviewed over 30 sources in the Legion and beyond.

The #AllForJan Award was established in 2020 and "recognizes best media coverage, exceptional and courageous reporting with a great impact on society, and innovative ways of bringing the story to the public."

The award was named after Slovak investigative reporter Jan Kuciak who was assassinated in 2018. Kuciak covered the corrupt activity of businessmen and their connections with top-level politicians in Slovakia.

As the #AllforJan award committee stated, the Kyiv Independent was the first Ukrainian media outlet to break the story despite the sensitivity of the topic during Russia's all-out war.

The Kyiv Independent’s investigation into the International Legion came out in two parts.

The #AllForJan prize was awarded to the second story in the series, published in November, while the first story, published in August, made it to the final of Ukraine’s National Investigative Journalism Competition.

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