A Russian colonel was accused of selling information on the whereabouts of his own men to foreign intelligence agencies by concerned Russians, according to Ukrainian authorities.
An audio recording of what the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate says is an intercepted phone call appears to suggest the colonel was not the first who was accused of selling out his own troops. The call, released Monday, includes a conversation between a man identified as a Russian soldier and a female acquaintance. No details were provided on where the soldier was based in Ukraine, but he can be heard in the recording complaining of constant shelling.
The conversation then takes an interesting turn when the unnamed woman notes that a squadron of the “31st Brigade” was given up by their own Russian colonel, apparently referring to the 31st Guards Air Assault Brigade.
“The airborne troops taken captive?” the man asks.
“Yes, yes, 76 people were taken,” she says, adding that “they were sold out by their own” and naming a “Colonel Matkovsky” for the betrayal.
“There have already been many such instances,” the man responds, noting that “they leak information” about the troops.
“It’s true, it’s true. I later spoke with a FSBishnik [an agent of Russia’s Federal Security Service] … and he said yes, it’s all true. They found 17 million in his account,” she said.
The woman went on to say she hadn’t asked for clarification on what currency the money was found in, before appearing to suggest the Russian colonel had been paid by American intelligence agencies.
“It’s understandable, the stinking U.S. is suffering. They have hunger, cold,” she said.
Ukrainian intelligence did not say when the phone call was said to have taken place, or provide any further information on the fate of the Russian colonel or troops mentioned in the conversation.
But the 31st Guards Air Assault Brigade, one of Russia’s most elite airborne units, suffered heavy losses in a Russian offensive outside Kyiv in late February and early March, and several Russian troops were said to have been captured at that time.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine also said in early April that 25 members of the brigade had refused to fight any further in Ukraine.
U.S. intelligence has not publicly confirmed that any Russian commanders have handed over intel on troop movements in Ukraine, but the CIA did launch a very public campaign in May to solicit information from Russians regarding the war.
The agency published Russian-language instructions on social media urging wannabe informants to make “virtual contact” using the Tor Internet browser. Those who make contact are then vetted to determine if they truly have “information of interest” to U.S. spies.