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Our investigation of three Spetsnaz servicemen killed in Ukraine featured several pieces of evidence that they really did visit Eastern Ukraine. A photo shows Ivan “Kardan” and Timur “Mamai” with weapons in a semi-ruined building, Kardan having white legbands characteristic of rebels. “Mami” was photographed close to two APCs, one of them bearing a distinct “shark” paint job.
Earlier, this APC was spotted driving in front of a Russian humanitarian convoy (the video states the footage site as Izvarine, Luhansk region):
However, until now we hadn’t managed to find photos or videos that would conclusively prove the killed Spetsnaz servicemen appearing in Donbass. So we went back to Timur “Mamai”’s photo in front of the painted APC (we called “the shark APC”).
In the comments to the translation of our investigation published on bellingcat, , a reader noted that Mamai’s photo was probably mirrored. This is visible by the APC’s paint job, as well as that in the photo Mamai apparently has his left hand on the trigger. We can also see a part of the inverted “P” (from the word “ЛНР” meaning “Luhansk People’s Republic”).
We mirrored the photo back and searched it in Google images, but to no avail. So we decided to look for the shark APC. It turned out it had already been noticed by may Ukrainian and Western investigators. We got an array of photos:
There’s another photo where we can’t see the shark APC, but definitely can see a distinct light-yellow two-storey building and a read fence, as well as a twisted tree. Let’s mark them for later:
Obviously the last three photos, as well as Mamai’s, were taken in the same place. Now we have but to find them. But it’s not that easy.
The first picture is recognized by the locals as the regional energy company building at Kotelnikova, 1, Luhansk (Yandex streetview).
The streetview (top) was taken quite long ago, since that time the tree on the right got replaced with a fir tree and the building got shelled. However, now we know that the shark APC has at least been in Luhansk.
We recall the writing “Zarya” on the shark APC’s hatch visible in the convoy video:
“Zarya” is an LPR rebel battalion created in 2014 (Wikipedia article).
Bellingcat investigators have found a Zarya base in the regional military commissariat (detailed investigation to follow), yet they found nothing similar to the shark APC parking site. Moving on.
One of the separatist photos near the shark APC (people like to take photos with it for some reason) is geotagged:
On the map, the geotag is quite close to the energy company building:
However, Yandex streetview shows mainly private residential houses:
By the way, this is a good example of why you shouldn’t blindly trust Vkontakte geotags while geolocating. Smartphone GPS may be erratic or turned off.
After a long, fruitless search and a lot of asking on Twitter, the locals point us to a very similar photo (saved copy):
ул Оборонная, во дворе "Мафии" pic.twitter.com/PZKX1lNgxi
— Voroshilovgrad (@UkroSpider) April 8, 2015
Oboronnaya street, Mafia restaurant yard.
This photo, taken from the other side of the fence, shows the fence itself, a tree and a two-storey building we have seen in Mamai’s and rebels’ photos.
There is only one Mafia restaurant in Luhansk, located at Kvartal Eremenko, 7a»:
In April, a Ukrainian English-language website lugansk-news.com investigated the likely separatist base quite thoroughly, giving, in particular, this geolocation:
Sadly, the two-storey building and the fence aren’t marked here.
The same website features a video showing a group of rebels going to the Mafia restaurant:
This screenshot is useful in that it allows to view the building housing the Mafia restaurant in more detail. In Yandex streetview, the building is closed-off by the foliage, the restaurant is seemingly not there and the roof hasn’t been renovated yet.
Indeed, let’s compare the building’s roof in Google Earth 2011 and 2014 images:
The roof has been renovated and a few trees got cut down. However, both images have a bus stop sign, and we can see two buses and the bus stop on Yandex streetview.
The August 15, 2014 Google Earth image also allows us to understand where another photo of the APC was taken:
The highlighted staircases, attic windows and fir trees are visible in Google Earth:
Thus, the shark APC has definitely been in the yard of the Kvartal Eremenko, 7a building in Winter 2014–2015.
Googling “Мафия Квартал Еременко” (“Mafia Kvartal Eremenko”) yields a photo from a Ukrainian media outlet’s news pieceon military vehicles in the Mafia yard:
Other Ukrainian media cite this tweet (copy) as the source:
Боевики ЛНР хранят военную технику во дворе ресторана «Мафия». pic.twitter.com/49AI55qWH2
— Ukrainian Mistress (@JuMistress) December 21, 2014
LPR militants store military vehicles in the Mafia restaurant yard.
This photo distinctly features our fence (at that point with barbed wire over it’s full length) and the Kvartal Eremenko, 7a house in the background.
Another Google Earth image with a good tilt allows us to pinpoint the brick building with two windows:
Now let’s research another detail of the photos that interest us, namely the fence. A similar one is seen on Yandex streetview “peeking” into the block:
From Cheluskintsev street:
From Sosyury street:
It should be noted that according to a video, cited by lugansk-news.com, this entrance into the block is now cordonned off:
This fence is probably limiting access to Gratsiya clothes factory, now housing a separatst base (Wikimapia):
The part of the fence that interests us (or its shadow) may be seen on the latest Yandex maps. The twisted tree’s shadow may be seen here as well:
The summer Google Earth photos confirm this is indeed a tree shadow. This is what it looks like with foliage (in the same position relative to the building’s shadow):
The last element from inside the block is a red brick building with gray stucco over the ground floor, visible on the separatist group photo:
Here we can use Google Earth historical imagery again:
The gray first floor and the other red floors are quite visible.
A similar red brick yardside wall (of another building) can be seen on Yandex streetview:
Finally, another detail in Mamai’s photo: the chimney:
The industrial Luhansk has a multitude of factory chimneys, while blocks built in the thirties have chimneys attached to boilers providing the whole block with heating. This was one of the reasons this photo was so hard to locate. There’s a boiler in this block as well (Wikimapia). The screenshot clearly shows the chimney’s shadow, but it can’t fit in the supposed photo’s line of sight:
However, the right chimney can easily be found in the next block by walking around on Yandex streetview:
This chimney, situated between a department store at Oboronnaya 9 and an office building at Cheluskintsev 14, is clearly visible in Google Earth, complete with the observation platform:
By drawing a straight line from the chimney to the suspected photo site we can determine the house in the background partially blocking the chimney view as Kvartal Eremenko, 5:
Another background building with large windows is situated in the next block as well (Yandex streetview). It’s a side of the department store at Oboronnaya 9.
The residential building at Kvartal Eremenko 6 should be visible as well, but it’s probably blocked by the shark APC’s turret.
Let’s sum up by marking all the objects we’ve located in the photos and Yandex maps screenshots. We will mark them with the following numbers:
3. Yellowish two-storey building
4. House at Kvartal Eremenko 7a with a Mafia restaurant
5. Gray brick accessory building
6. House at Kvartal Eremenko 7 with a bare red brick yard side, first floor covered with gray stucco
7. Chimney between the department store at Oboronnaya 9 and the office building at Cheluskintsev 14
8. House at Kvartal Eremenko 5
9. The side of the department store at Oboronnaya 9
The blue lines on the map represent Mamai’s photo’s approximate line of sight, in no way completely accurate.
We are certain that the photo showing a Russian Spetsnaz serviceman Timur “Mamai” Mamayusupov was taken in the yard of the house at adress “Kvartal Eremenko 7a, Luhansk, Ukraine”. It probably was taken in spring 2015, not long before “Sava”, “Mamai” and “Kardan” were killed.