russian troops in tank

Krasev Viktor/ (Licensed)

Did a Ukrainian newspaper dox 120,000 Russian soldiers?

Experts are urging caution


Mikael Thalen


Posted on Mar 1, 2022   Updated on Mar 2, 2022, 1:31 pm CST

A Ukrainian media outlet claims to have leaked a list containing the personal details of more than 120,000 Russian soldiers amid the ongoing conflict between the two nations.

In an article on Tuesday, the online newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda released what it alleged to be the names, registration numbers, and place of service for Russian servicemen fighting in Ukraine.

Examination of the data, however, shows that date of births, addresses, passport numbers, and even phone numbers are present as well.

The alleged leak highlights the continued escalation of information warfare coinciding with the kinetic conflict on the ground. As noted by Thomas Rid, Professor of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, such leaks have been repeatedly used throughout history in order to demoralize an opposing force.

“What’s the practical effect? We know from history that a leak of personnel names has a powerful psychological effect on the organization in question,” Rid stated. “It creates an acute sense of vulnerability, in a very personal way, for those in charge, and for those exposed.”

But given the digital fog of war, Rid as well as other experts, have urged the public to wait for further verification.

Dr. Ian J. Stewart, Executive Director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington, D.C., also noted that comparing the names of two Russian troops captured by Ukrainian forces to the list produced no matches.

“Ukrainian forces have been posting pics of captured / killed Russians in telegram channels,” Stewart wrote. “I picked two of those at random and searched for them on this list. I could not find matches. More work needed, but grounds to be hesitant about authenticity till confirmed.”

Since more than 120,000 troops have amassed on Ukraine’s border, it’s possible that the list is incomplete. But other questions have been raised given potential inconsistencies in the list’s metadata.

Rid revealed that the allegedly leaked data looked to have been created or modified between April and June 2021. One file’s metadata suggested it had been created as far back as 2006.

While the list could very well be genuine in terms of the information listed, the claim that all the soldiers are tied to the current conflict is murky at best.

“Alternative hypothesis: we’re looking at older, generic (and probably genuine) Russian army lists not directly linked to the invasion,” Rid added.

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*First Published: Mar 1, 2022, 1:29 pm CST