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Ukraine opens case against Russian general in charge of guiding missiles towards civilian targets, as exposed in The Insider's investigation

The Main Investigative Directorate of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has released a notice of suspicion against the head of the Main Computation Center (MCC) of the Russian Armed Forces, Major General Robert Baranov.

As stated in the document (made available to The Insider), the Russian military commander is suspected of “violating the laws and customs of war, committed by prior conspiracy by a group of persons” (as per Articles 28 and 438 Ukraine’s Criminal Code), as well as the “violation of the laws and customs of war, coupled with premeditated murder, committed by prior conspiracy by a group of persons (as per Articles 28 and 438 Ukraine’s Criminal Code).

According to the Ukrainian investigation, Baranov and his subordinates were involved in the execution of the plan of the Russian military command to “create unsuitable conditions for the existence of the civilian population of Ukraine,” which violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is mainly concerned with protecting civilians in times of war.

As per the SBU, Baranov and the MCC intended to negatively affect Ukrainian civilians by launching “systematic missile strikes on cities and other populated areas throughout the territory of Ukraine, causing significant destruction and loss of life, as well as strikes on civilian infrastructure, in particular the facilities of the unified energy system of Ukraine, necessary for the survival of civilians, with the aim of intimidating the civilian population of Ukraine, halting the operation of industrial enterprises, and creating conditions for permanent tension in society, thus aiming to force the Ukrainian leadership to make territorial and political concessions favorable to the Russian Federation.”

At a time not specified by the investigation, but no later than early October 2022, Baranov was involved in the implementation of this plan. The MCC (often abbreviated as ГВЦ, or GVC), headed by Baranov, was assigned the following tasks:

  • Determine the list of civilian infrastructure objects on the territory of Ukraine to be targeted by missile strikes;
  • Determine the exact coordinates of these objects;
  • Determine the type and number of cruise missiles to be used to strike each specific object;
  • Develop flight missions and maps of cruise missile deployment.

According to the SBU document, Baranov, “together with other structural units of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces in accordance with the plan agreed upon by the political leadership of the Russian Federation and the Supreme Command of the Russian Armed Forces,” received orders to perform the above tasks in the period from at least early October 2022 to March 2023.

“Baranov R. P., as well as subordinate servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces GVC, whose identities have not currently been established by the pre-trial investigation, when working out flight assignments and maps for the use of cruise missiles against certain targets, as well as the programming of missiles, reliably knew and realized that the specified objects are civilian objects and are not military targets.”

The SBU stressed that Baranov acted in collusion with representatives of the Russian political leadership and the Russian Armed Forces senior command, the heads of other structural units of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, the commanders of the main commands of the Russian Navy and the Aerospace Forces, the commands of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Navy, and the Long-Range Aviation of the Russian Air Force.

The document lists energy infrastructure facilities (distribution and generation power plants and substations) that were hit by missile strikes, causing significant damage between October 2022 and March 2023. Sixty-one facilities are listed, along with six missile attacks on civilian targets, including residential buildings, which resulted in a total of 20 deaths.

In October 2022, The Insider, in collaboration with Bellingcat and Der Spiegel, published an investigation titled “Remote killers: Who is guiding missiles towards Ukrainian civilian targets and how?”

The report revealed a secret unit within the Main Computing Center (MCC) of the Russian Armed Forces, whose employees are engaged in drawing up flight orders for precision missiles. The investigation identified 33 military engineers who reported to the unit's direct commander, Colonel Igor Bagnyuk. A study of the metadata of the phone calls made by the head of the MCC, Robert Baranov, showed that before each launch of a cruise missile (known from open sources), he received a phone call from a specific number belonging to Colonel Bagnyuk.

In December 2022, the UK imposed sanctions against Baranov. Later that month, the EU sanctioned 29 individuals mentioned in the journalistic investigation — including Baranov and Bagnyuk.

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