In­for­ma­tion na­palm

The Ukrainian Week - - SOCIETY -

Ro­man Burko started his per­sonal war against the Rus­sian ag­gres­sion dur­ing the oc­cu­pa­tion of Crimea. This war con­tin­ues to this day. Ro­man founded In­for­mNa­palm, the in­ter­na­tional vol­un­teer in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity. To­day, in­tel­li­gence staff from NATO mem­ber-states read its re­ports. Yet, Ro­man keeps quiet and doesn't at­tend TV shows. There­fore, his name is barely known in Ukraine.

All Ro­man had at the be­gin­ning was a Facebook ac­count, lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence in jour­nal­ism, com­puter skills and a strong de­sire to fight for what is fair. His posts on real life in Crimea were gain­ing more and more pop­u­lar­ity. He was later joined by an ex-Ge­or­gian military Irakli Ko­makhidze who helped Ro­man co-found In­for­mNa­palm. The two ac­tivists barely slept or ate as they col­lected data on the “lit­tle green men”, re­vealed their se­crets and iden­ti­fied the

ser­vice­men from spe­cific Rus­sian military units in­volved in Ukraine.

The Rus­sian military weren't very happy with this. One day, Ro­man al­most got shot by one of Putin's “po­lite men” as he was try­ing to film a takeover of a Ukrainian military unite in Crimea. Later, the FSB started a hunt for him.

Ro­man fled the Rus­sian ser­vices with a back­pack of Tshirts and a lap­top in 2014. He had no idea at that time that he would soon be­come a pain in the neck for the Rus­sians and some­one to be proud of for Ukraine.

Ro­man set­tled down in Lviv. That's where the name In­for­mNa­palm was born and the group's key pri­or­i­ties out­lined. Even­tu­ally, the web­site de­vel­oped into Ukraine's first open source in­tel­li­gence sys­tem, OSINT. An av­er­age blog grew into a pow­er­ful in­for­ma­tion source that re­veals Rus­sia's military and se­cu­rity se­crets in over 30 lan­guages. In­for­mNa­palm mem­bers in­clude peo­ple from all over the world, from Ge­or­gia to South Africa, from Canada to Ger­many. Its ma­jor ac­com­plish­ments in­clude the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of more than 75 units of the Rus­sian Armed Forces in Crimea and the Don­bas; the dis­cov­ery of the Krem­lin's agents in Euro­pean coun­tries; the col­lec­tion of proofs for il­le­gal trans­fer of ar­ma­ments to Iran; and the dis­cov­ery of or­gan­i­sa­tions in Western Europe that con­duct the Rus­sian World pro­pa­ganda and re­cruit peo­ple to fight on Rus­sia's side in Ukraine. At one point, In­for­mNa­palm pub­lished per­sonal data of 116 crew mem­bers of the Rus­sian Air Force in Syria. The Rus­sians re­ferred to this as a “leak of su­per-se­cret and dan­ger­ous in­for­ma­tion”, even though it was col­lected from var­i­ous video re­ports done by the Rus­sian me­dia, as well as from other open sources.

In 2016, In­for­mNa­palm's data­bases and video clips with spe­cific proofs of the Rus­sian ag­gres­sion in the Don­bas were of­fi­cially pre­sented at the lat­est PACE ses­sion and NATO Par­lia­men­tary As­sem­bly in Is­tan­bul. This data was trans­ferred di­rectly to the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of var­i­ous gov­ern­ments. Ro­man says jok­ingly that the best recog­ni­tion of his work is threats from the Rus­sian Pres­i­dent's press-sec­re­tary Igor Peskov and on­go­ing at­tacks against In­for­mNa­palm's web­sites by Rus­sian hack­ers.

De­spite this suc­cess, In­for­mNa­palm re­mains a vol­un­teer-based net­work. Un­like most other com­mu­ni­ties, it never joined any law en­force­ment agency in or­der to pre­serve its agility out­side of the bu­reau­cratic ma­chine and in­de­pen­dence in de­ci­sion-mak­ing. To­day, it's a net­work that is not bur­dened by red tape or for­mal hi­er­ar­chy, and com­prised of vol­un­teers who do the open source in­tel­li­gence, as well as trans­la­tors and in­sid­ers from the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries. In 2016, it formed a pow­er­ful co­op­er­a­tion net with the Ukrainian Cy­berAl­liance (UCA) known for #SurkovLeaks and many other mas­sive hack­tivist op­er­a­tions against Rus­sia. Ro­man's dream is to win the war and re­turn to the Ukrainian Crimea. But above all he dreams of turn­ing Ukraine into one of the most beau­ti­ful, pow­er­ful and de­vel­oped coun­tries in the world. A coun­try that could be proudly handed over to the next gen­er­a­tions. This may seem ide­al­is­tic, but Ro­man has done enough to de­serve such dreams.

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