Russian Vacationers Inadvertently Expose Air Defenses, Research Suggestions

Russia

Russian vacationers in Crimea inadvertently exposed Moscow’s air defenses after they posted pictures on social media, recent research suggested.

According to independent OSINT researcher Benjamin Pittet, a user of Russia’s social media platform VKontakte uploaded a photograph of Russian S-400 air defense systems “during a stroll along the beach” inJuly.

Those images contained geographic coordinates that showed they were taken near the village of Molochnoye, in Crimea, the Russian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The equipment arrived near the western Crimean town of Yevpatoria around July 20, Pittet noted.

In another example highlighted by Ukraine’s armed forces on Telegram, a Russian woman shared an image on instagram that purportedly revealed the location of Russian anti-aircraft missile defense systems near Yevpatoria.

Russia's soldiers stand guard
Russian soldiers stand guard near Russian air defense system S-400 Triumf launch vehicles at the military exhibition “Oboronexpo-2014” in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, on August 13, 2014. Russian vacationers in occupied Crimea inadvertently exposed Moscow’s air defenses after they posted pictures on social media, according to research.
KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

The photograph was geo-tagged Yevpatoria, and captioned: “Under protection.” The user’s Instagram account has since been deleted.

Newsweek has been unable to independently verify the images and has reached out to Russia’s foreign ministry for comment.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that it was also able to source close-up images of the Russian air defense installations published by another VKontakte user.

Crimeaannexed from Ukraine in 2014, is a tourist hotspot for Russians. Earlier this month, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense released a video mocking Russian tourists in the region, after the Saky air base in the peninsula was targeted.

At least 12 explosions were reported to have struck the airbase, with some captured on camera by Russian tourists at a nearby beach resort. In one viral clip, which has not been independently verified by Newsweek, a Russian tourist is seen crying as she leaves the area.

The Ukrainian government mocked the footage in a videosuggesting that Russian tourists “head home” or consider alternative destinations “unless they want an unpleasantly hot summer break.”

Over the weekend, the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet Crimea was struck in a drone attack, officials said.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Russia-installed administrator of the port city of Sevastopol, posted on Telegram that a drone crashed into the roof of the headquarters on August 20.

Oleg Kryuchkov, adviser to the head of Crimea, also wrote on Telegram that “small drone attacks” were being carried out in the region, and urged residents to “remain calm.”

“The goal is not military, it is psychological,” he wrote. “The explosives are minimal and not capable of inflicting significant harm.”

“The best way to help the army and navy is to keep calm, and report all suspicious people, facts, and findings to the appropriate authorities,” Kryuchkov added.

Later, Sergei Aksyonov, the Moscow-installed governor of Crimea, said on Telegram that Russia’s air defense systems successfully shot down Ukrainian drones over the territory over Crimea on Saturday morning.

“There are no casualties or material damage,” he wrote.

Late last month, celebrations to mark Russia’s Navy Day holiday were canceled in Sevastopol after Moscow claimed a Ukrainian drone attack injured six people. According to the Ukrainian outlet Euromaidan Press, Kyiv has denied responsibility for the attack.

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