In early April, the Telegram channel Belaruski Gayun, which has been monitoring military activity in Belarus since February, reported that Russian soldiers were sending large packages to Russia through a courier service. Journalists from the project believe the packages contain items the soldiers stole in Ukraine. In an effort to help hold Russian soldiers “responsible for stealing from and murdering people in Ukraine,” the channel published the names and phone numbers of 16 Russian soldiers.
The first report of Russian soldiers mailing large packages was published on Friday, April 1. Belaruski Gayun wrote that “Russian soldiers were seen unloading wrapped-up bundles of things from Russian military KAMAZ vehicles outside the CDEK courier service office in Mazyr.” On Saturday morning, the channel reported that soldiers were shipping things “right now” — they could be seen from the CDEK website’s livestream, which was left running until the evening.
The following day, Belaruski Gayon uploaded more than three hours of video from the same camera, claiming the footage had been recorded in the CDEK office between 11:30am and 3:00pm on April 2. The video shows the office crowded with boxes and plastic-wrapped bundles as people in military attire appear to pack things up and give their personal information to a CDEK employee. Some of the clearly-visible items include an electric scooter, air conditioning units, bottles of alcohol, car batteries, and bags with the name and logo of the Ukrainian shopping center Epicenter.
On April 4, Belaruski Gayon published the names of 16 people who allegedly sent packages weighing between 50 and 450 kilograms (about 110-990 lbs) (Russians brought a total of more than two tonnes (2.2 U.S. tons) of items to CDEK for shipping on April 2). Every name was accompanied by a phone number, some of which likely belong to the soldiers’ family members as these were presumably the contact numbers given for the shipments; the packages’ approximate contents; and the shipping destination. The source of the information wasn’t revealed; Belaruski Gayun said only that it had received a “considerable array” of personal data. According to the list, many of the packages contained spare parts, tools, clothing, and televisions. Also included were a car trunk lid, a table, fishing equipment, and a tent.
11 of the 16 people listed sent packages to Rubtsovsk, a city in Russia’s Altai Krai with a population of about 140 thousand people. The city has its own Rosgvardia, or Russian National Guard, unit, and servicemen have been sent from there to participate in the war in Ukraine — local media sources reported in March about a “Package to a Soldier” initiviate, which was organized to “support the military servicemen from Unit 6720 who are currently taking part in the special military operation to denazify and demilitarize Ukraine.” Local sources also reported that at least one serviceman from the unit had been killed.
Meduza was able to find several social media accounts that appeared to belong to the people on the list, though most of the accounts had not been updated for several years. We were unable to confirm that the accounts belong to the people named by Belaruski Gayun.
The channel didn’t reveal how many total Russian soldiers have used CDEK to ship packages from Mazyr. According to the reports, the soldiers spent more than one day spending packages, so it’s not clear how many of the people named on the list appear in the video (though both sources include an electric scooter and air conditioning units).
Belaruski Gayun also reported that Russian soldiers have been actively buying things such as home appliances and makeup in stores in Mazyr. According to a CDEK employee who spoke to a journalist from Zerkalo, some of the soldiers said on April 2 that these items are “cheaper to get” in Belarus than in Russia. “When we asked an employee whether these items were bought in Belarus, we were told that employees don’t ask that when filling out the shipping forms,” wrote Zerkalo.
Mediazona.Belarus discovered other soldiers sending packages (including an office chair) on a livestream from a CDEK office in Novozybkov in Russia’s Bryansk region.
Gayum’s reports were published on the same day as numerous reports of civilian murders in Bucha and other suburbs of Kyiv, all of which were occupied until the end of March by Russian troops — who then retreated to Belarusian territory. In several statements — including one from Ukrainian Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov, who spoke about his work identifying war criminals using facial recognition technology — Russian soldiers who sent large packages home were identified as the same people who killed civilians.
Since the war began, there have been consistent reports of Russian troops looting and robbing. In addition to eyewitness accounts from Ukrainian citizens, looting has been mentioned by Russian soldiers in intercepted telephone conversations published by the Ukrainian authorities (Meduza had no way to confirm their authenticity). For example, in this recording, a Russian soldier says his fellow soldiers are “dragging everything around in bags,” while he himself “snagged a few makeup samples, some women’s sneakers, and some clothes,” explaining that “an athletic family lives here.” According to Ukrainian officials, Russian soldiers also store spare parts, shipping containers, household appliances, dish sets, and cutlery from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
On April 5, The Guardian published a report from the Ukrainian city of Trostianets, which spent 30 days under Russian occupation. The city’s residents told the reporter about widespread robbery — according to them, Russian troops took things ranging from laptops to underwear. One beauty salon owner reported that soldiers slept in her shop; when they left, all of her equipment, furniture, shampoo, lightbulbs, and wall decorations were missing.