Ukrainian resistance fighters say Russian officers who hadn't been paid by Moscow sold them key intel on the Black Sea Fleet. Missiles then tore through the headquarters.

  • Russian officers leaked sensitive intel on the Black Sea Fleet to Ukrainian partisans, per Ukrainian media.

  • A resistance group told the Kyiv Post the officers hadn't received salary payments from Moscow.

  • Ukraine later targeted the Black Sea Fleet's headquarters in a huge missile strike last week.

After missing their anticipated salary payments, Russian officers leaked sensitive information about Moscow's Black Sea Fleet to a Ukrainian partisan movement, Ukrainian media reported, revealing the intelligence later paved the way for a devastating missile strike on the fleet's headquarters in the occupied Crimean Peninsula.

Ukrainian resistance fighters told the Kyiv Post in a recent interview that they managed to gather information about high-ranking Russian commanders from officers who were frustrated by Moscow's failure to pay their salaries on time. They said the officers were financially compensated in exchange for the information, which was then passed along to state agencies and reportedly used to plan last week's attack on the Black Sea Fleet's headquarters.

"Delays in payments alone do not force the military armed forces of the Russian Federation to go against the Russian authorities," a spokesperson for the partisan movement of Ukrainians and Tatars in Crimea, known as ATESH, told the Kyiv Post, which disclosed details of the arrangement in a Monday report. "But the financial reward only helps them to decide on cooperation with the ATESH movement, it serves as an additional incentive," the spokesperson added.

Kyiv's forces on Friday bombarded the Black Sea Fleet's headquarters in Sevastopol, on the southwestern edge of Crimea, with several Western-made cruise missiles, with visual evidence indicating they were Storm Shadow missiles. Videos and photographs of the attack showed the moment one of the missiles slammed into the building, as well as the major structural damage that the facility suffered as a result.

The Ukrainian military later said it timed the strike to coincide with a meeting of Russia's naval leadership. On Monday, Kyiv's Special Operations Forces said 34 people were killed — including Adm. Viktor Sokolov, the commander of the Black Sea Fleet — and another 105 were injured. Insider was unable to immediately and independently confirm the claims.

It's not clear how much money was offered to the Russian officers, nor are the identities of these officers known. ATESH said it had access to activities of the Black Sea Fleet's leadership, though. The group said information was passed to state agencies such as the Security Service of Ukraine, known as the SBU, and the Ukrainian Main Directorate of Intelligence, known as the HUR — the latter of which told the Kyiv Post it had worked with partisans to help target Russian positions around Crimea.

"The Russian military is well aware of the existence of the partisan movement and throw all their forces and means to suppress it and identify our agents," the ATESH spokesperson said. "The growing resistance among the Crimeans confuses them very much."

A satellite image shows smoke billowing from buildings.
A satellite image of smoke billowing from a Russian Black Sea Navy HQ after a missile strike in Sevastopol, Crimea, on Friday.PLANET LABS PBC/Handout via REUTERS

The strike on the Black Sea Fleet's headquarters marked the latest in a string of Ukrainian attacks during the past few weeks targeting high-value Russian positions and assets around Crimea, which Kyiv has vowed to liberate from nearly a decade under Russian occupation.

These incursions include the destruction of multiple S-400 air-defense systems, attacks on an air base and a command post belonging to the Black Sea Fleet, and a massive missile strike on a shipyard in Sevastopol. Western intelligence said the assault damaged two ships while also delivering a long-term blow to Moscow's maritime logistics and operations, and Ukraine's military said dozens of Russian sailors were killed.

"Crimea will definitely be demilitarized and liberated," Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, wrote on social media after the Friday strikes on the headquarters. "Merchant ships will return to the Black Sea. And the Russian warships will eventually take their rightful place, turning into an iconic underwater museum for divers that will attract tourists from all over the world. To a free Ukrainian Crimea."

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