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Ukraine says it caught a sleeper agent who sent video of a crowded restaurant to Russia before a deadly missile strike blew it apart

Story by jepstein@insider.com (Jake Epstein)

Jun 28, 2023


Search and rescue efforts continue after a Russian missile attack hits Ria restaurant in Kramatorsk, Ukraine on June 27, 2023. Photo by Wojciech Grzedzinski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images



  • A Russian missile strike in the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk left several dead and dozens injured.

  • Kyiv said it caught a Russian sleeper agent who was monitoring the restaurant before the strike.

  • The agent allegedly filmed the restaurant and sent footage to Russia's GRU, Ukraine said.


Ukraine's security service says it captured a sleeper agent who was allegedly instructed to gather information on a popular restaurant and send the details back to Russia, which then blew it up with a deadly missile strike.


 


 

The unnamed sleeper agent was told on Tuesday to find out if the Ria Lounge in Kramatorsk, a city in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region, was open for business and ordered to film



evidence that it was occupied by patrons, the Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, said in a statement on Wednesday.


Kyiv alleged that the agent then secretly filmed the restaurant and cars that were parked nearby before sending the footage to the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency. Equipped with this information, the SBU said, Russian forces launched a missile strike on the restaurant, which has killed at least 10 people and injured more than 60 others.



Photo released by Ukraine's security service on June 28, 2023 of the alleged agent. Screenshot/Security Service of Ukraine



The now-detained Russian agent is a resident of Kramatorsk who worked at a local gas transport company and was recruited remotely by Moscow, according to the SBU.


It was not immediately clear when the agent was recruited, but Ukraine suggested that they were "activated" at some point after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of its neighbor in February 2022. The sleeper agent problem is one Ukraine has been contending with since the war began.


Related video: Several killed in Russian missile strike on pizza restaurant in eastern Ukraine (NBC News)


The SBU alleged that the agent was commanded to send Russia information on Ukraine's soldiers, as well as the locations of crowded civilian areas and critical infrastructure. The SBU did not publish evidence of its claims, and Insider was not able to immediately verify the information.


'The russian agent will undoubtedly stand trial in a Ukrainian court. But this detention is also a signal to all other spotters and traitors working for russia. Remember: punishment is inevitable!" the SBU said in its statement. "Just as the organizers of war crimes — putin's regime — will inevitably be held accountable before an international tribunal. To this end, we are conducting legal work and collecting evidence for international courts."



Pavel Golovkin/AP, Alexei Nikolsky/AP, Murat Kula/Getty Images, Getty Images, Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images, Ludovic Marin/Getty Images, Ricki Lee/Insider



Initially, officials said Russian forces used S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to carry out the strike in Kramatorsk on Tuesday evening, but they later clarified that Moscow's troops used Iskander short-range ballistic missiles — a precision weapon — in what has become the latest attack to cause mass civilian casualties in Ukraine.


Videos and photos captured the immediate aftermath. The imagery, which was published to social media, showed mangled and destroyed buildings, heaping piles of debris, and bloodied bodies. Ukraine's defense ministry said 14-year-old twin sisters were among those killed in the attack.



Search and rescue efforts continue after a Russian missile attack hit Ria Restaurant, popular place of meeting in the city of Kramatorsk, Ukraine on June 27, 2023. Photo by Wojciech Grzedzinski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

© Photo by Wojciech Grzedzinski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images




"Each such manifestation of terror proves over and over again to us and to the whole world that Russia deserves only one thing as a result of everything it has done — defeat and a tribunal, fair and legal trials against all [Russian] murderers and terrorists," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an address to the nation on Tuesday.


 


 

Kramatorsk is a short distance from the current front lines in eastern Ukraine, where Kyiv's forces have made small territorial gains during their grinding counteroffensive. The city, which had a pre-war population of over 150,000 people, was also the site of an April 2022 Russian missile strike on a train station which killed dozens in what is one of the deadliest attacks on civilians of the war.


Tuesday's strike came on the heels of a particularly chaotic weekend for Russia when the Wagner Group — a mercenary organization that has fought in Ukraine alongside Russia's regular army — launched an armed rebellion against Moscow's military leadership after months of rising tensions.


But the historic mutiny was short-lived and saw Wagner's founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, exiled to Belarus. Western officials, meanwhile, have said that the insurrection highlighted serious cracks in Russian President Vladimir Putin's grip on power and greatly undermined his leadership, but for now the war in Ukraine continues.





 

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