Today Der Spiegel reported that the German Foreign Intelligence Service intercepted and recorded communications of Russian military units on the ground in the area north of Kyiv. It is possible that some of these comms may be linked with the horrifying images that have emerged from Bucha and other areas where civilians were shot, many with their hands bound behind their back. The Ukrainian State Security Service also posted two intercepted audio cuts of Russian soldiers giving and receiving orders to fire at civilians as well as soldiers discussing the killing of civilians. These were intercepted in other parts of Ukraine and posted to the service’s YouTube channel on March 30th and April 6th. It is likely that U.S. and other NATO intelligence services have also collected similar comms. Whether or not any potential evidence gathered by U.S. intelligence is published will likely depend on if the collection method used to intercept Russian communications can be kept secret.
The March 30th audio intercept consists of a conversation between two Russian officers at Trostianets, near Sumy in northeast Ukraine. Colonel Yevhen Mykolayovych Zhuravlyov, commander of the 4th Tank Division, call sign Venets, and a subordinate commander of an artillery unit, call sign Ratnik discuss ongoing operations. In the call Ratnik mentions that his unit has come under heavy artillery fire and that he returned fire, including at an area of residential neighborhoods. Colonel Zhuravlyov then orders Ratnik to “raze” the villages of Riabushki and Kulinovka “to the ground,” and to “raze” the Ukrainian village of Skryagovka “to the ground from east to west.”
The Russian comms posted to the Ukrainian State Security Service YouTube channel on April 6th include audio in which a superior gives a direct order to subordinates to shoot civilians – “civilians, slay them all!” In the subsequent chatter one soldier mentions his unit’s location in Polohy, approximately 120 kilometers northwest of Mariupol. Russian soldiers go on to talk about being surrounded by the enemy and outnumbered in what sounds like an attempt to justify their orders for murdering civilians.