The FSB has accused Bellingcat investigative journalist Khristo Grozev of assisting Ukrainian intelligence in return for allegedly planning an operation to hijack Russian military aircraft. However, Grozev himself posted a thread on Twitter in which he explained that the publication chronicled “one of the most stupid” intelligence and counterintelligence operations of all time.
According to him, in fact, this operation was a major mistake by the FSB, revealing the identities of dozens of intelligence officers, as well as their methods of work and secret assets. He recalled the detention of 33 Wagnerites in Belarus in 2020, adding that when Russia invaded Ukraine, some of the Ukrainian operatives decided to repeat the scheme, lure the pilots and force them to surrender. Ukrainian operatives turned to Russian pilots with such a proposal, Grozev's team found out about this and decided to make a documentary film about the "operation".
He claims that several Russian military pilots even sent videos of "access confirmation" from inside the planes. Grozev noted that the FSB is now presenting these videos as "leaks", blurring the image of the cockpit.
After that, “negotiations” began between Ukrainian recruiters and pilots, while the pilots, as expected, no longer spoke on their own behalf, but negotiated with the help of FSB military counterintelligence officers.
“A clear hint that the FSB intercepted the operation appeared when one of the pilots suddenly said that he wanted to take out of the country not his wife, but his “mistress”. It took us about three minutes to discover that his “mistress” (too hot for him) was an FSB agent, working as a fitness trainer during the day, and the rest of the time she worked as an FSB girlfriend for hire.
The journalists also learned that the pilot's "mistress" was talking to her FSB counterintelligence supervisor, Major Evgeniy Kashlach, during all the "negotiations" with the Ukrainians.
So the original operation turned into a double "operational game" in which both sides tried to extract as much information about each other as possible while feeding as much disinformation as possible. The Ukrainians reported to the "pilots" - FSB officers - fake maps of their air defense deployments, misinformation about the runways.
The operation came to an end when the FSB realized that no one would show up for any of the proposed meetings, Grozev concluded.
On the morning of July 25, the propaganda media, citing the Public Relations Center of the FSB of Russia, reported that Ukrainian military intelligence officers allegedly tried to recruit Russian pilots and persuade them to fly and land aircraft at airfields controlled by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In return, they were promised a monetary reward and guarantees of obtaining citizenship of one of the EU countries. The media claimed that the FSB disrupted the operation of the Ukrainian military intelligence to hijack the planes of the Russian Aerospace Forces, which was supervised by the NATO special services.