How Ukrainians leak information on Ukrainian prisoners of war to the russians
No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t identify any positive intentions behind the post displayed on the screen. The author encourages his followers to re-post the message along with an image of captured Ukrainian soldiers. Serhiy Honcharuk, the administrator of the Good Deeds group where this post appeared, writes, “It could be your neighbor, brother, father or friend who is in captivity! (someone may recognize a relative)”.
This appeal has garnered an unprecedented 155,000 shares, over 2,000 likes, and approximately 500 predominantly sympathetic comments. These numbers stand out considering that other posts in the group typically receive just a few dozen shares. Honcharuk most likely achieved such a result by involving 53 other individuals as co-authors of the post.
We immediately recognized the image – it’s a screenshot taken from a video released by the russian occupiers around April 2022. We believe it was published on the 18th, at least according to the earliest record we could find.
Since then, this video, along with screenshots from it, has periodically surfaced on social media and trash websites. The most recent outbreak of information occurred in mid-May, 2023.
The Good Deeds group was established on January 22, 2023. It primarily shares patriotic content, including posts providing updates on wounded and deceased individuals, as well as organizing fundraisers for assistance.
While we cannot verify all the particulars, we did conduct a selective examination of the collection of funds pertaining to Kateryna Motrych, the mother of a fallen soldier. The materials are indeed authentic. However, this should come as no surprise, considering it is a re-post (of which there are numerous in the group).
We are not saying that this group is fraudulent, but there’s also no reason to believe it. The content is merely a mixture of unverified and outright fake information. Neither the administrator, Honcharuk, nor the other group members make any effort to fact-check. This behavior is typical of such “we will win” groups, whether intentional or stemming from ignorance.
For instance, in a post concerning prisoners of war, there are questions about the font being used. As evident in the quoted direct speech within the first paragraph, the Latin letters “n” and “m” are used. This serves as a means to evade detection by search engine algorithms that can block false news. Despite the fact that the browsers have already found ways to circumvent these tactics, the trash sites still cling to the hope that this method will keep them hidden from systemic checks.
Serhiy Honcharuk did not invent this technique. He’s merely an ordinary information scavenger, posting anything he can lay his hands on. A quick Google search of his appeal will yield the exact same text replicated on numerous trash sites previously mentioned. Thus, the usage of Latin letters.
This has been ongoing since at least August 2022, or maybe earlier, and it continues to persist. We refrain from providing links in order to avoid promoting these malicious resources, but you can easily verify them yourself if you wish. Instead, we will show you a tweet. As you can see, it’s dated August 23, 2022. The appeal is literally identical (down to the letter!)
Needless to say, the statement “maybe someone will recognize a relative” is absurd. The photograph shows dozens of individuals, but only a handful of them can actually be identified. This means that even if the intentions were noble (though they are not), the practical benefits would be close to none.
However, the potential harm is real. As we mentioned before, if a soldier goes missing, it’s inappropriate to share his photo in uniform on social media or disclose details such as his military unit’s number or his last known location. Missing soldiers could be in captivity disguised as civilians, or hiding in temporarily occupied territories while seeking opportunities to return. By publishing personal information and photos of such individuals, one might unintentionally aid the enemy.
The website of the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War provides a detailed roadmap outlining the actions that families should take if a loved one who served in the Armed Forces of Ukraine goes missing, is captured, or killed.
We have reached out to the headquarters to seek clarification on whether posts like the one found in the Good Deeds group can be helpful or detrimental. Once we receive a response, we’ll promptly share it here or in a separate post. Make sure to subscribe to Behind the News to stay updated and not miss the latest news!