Critical thinking as a way to maintain informational hygiene at the proper level

UPDATED — see Conclusions (11)

On September 14, 2018, a website called Bellingcat published the first part of their “investigation” concerning the identification of the suspects in Skripal’s alleged poisoning. The following detailed review will explain why this opus does not stand to any criticism (which is the reason to put the word investigation in quotes). So let us check out this opus step by step.

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«An ongoing Bellingcat investigation conducted jointly with The Insider Russia has confirmed through uncovered passport data that the two Russian nationals identified by UK authorities as prime suspects in the Novichok poisonings on British soil are linked to Russian security services. This finding directly contradicts claims by the Russian president on 12 September 2018, and by the two men in an interview broadcast on RT one day later, that they are civilians who traveled to Salisbury for a tourist getaway».

The first thing that catches one’s eye is the use of a specific wordings. “On British soil” — widely accented by the MSM, this formulation is intended to “aggravate” what happened, artificially expand the scale of the incident, give additional importance, weight and “significance” to the incident. In such a formulation, the incident is no longer just a local inconspicuous incident (every day someone is being killed, raped, robbed, criminal gangs arrange their showdowns, someone settles scores with each other in the most incredible ways etc.), but, in fact, “the invasion of something alien and dangerous onto the territory of a sovereign state”. The “seriousness” of the threat thereby “legalizes” the scale of possible responses and give the authorities a wide space to maneuver in the international affairs.

This is a kind of 25th frame — audience reads and do not pay attention to the wordings, although at the subconscious level the information accumulates in the required form. Repeating exactly the same phrases and wordings insensibly “convinces” people of the “danger” and “scale” of what happened.

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Bellingcat using these very wordings is no surprise. Being just one of the tools of the Western propaganda, the “online investigators” (as they call themselves) goes just in concert with MSM’ narrative (whose bias is far beyond doubt).

Second — poisonings. Bellingcat wrote poisonings. Not just poisoning (i.e. one case), but poisoning(i.e. a few cases). What cases do we know happened “on British soil”? (1) Sergei Skripal, Yulia Skripal and police sergeant Nick Bailey (2) A couple from Amesbury — Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley (3) Anna Shapiro and Alex King — though, this case was so rediculous and fake that even British media prefered to abandon it (4) In early March, Associated Press reported about “21 people sought treatment after ex-spy poisoning” — the number 21 includes both Skripals and police sergeant Nick Bailey, so 18 other people “sought treatment”.

Mentioning “the Novichok poisonings, Bellingcat as if casually hinted that the “suspects” were involved in all the cases. This correlates perfectly with the wording “on British soil”. The use of the word ‘poisoning’ in the plural unnoticeably reinforces the narrative about “the invasion of something alien and dangerous onto the territory of a sovereign state”. Lunatic The Sun directly called it “a reckless and obscene act of terrorism”:

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Attributing responsibility for all cases to a chosen “suspects” does not allow this narrative to “crumble” into several cases unrelated to each other, in which there could be different unrelated to each other suspects. Bellingcat knows well what they write, intentionally using seemingly inconspicuous methods of influencing the minds of the audience.

In general, the following squeeze can be made from the first paragraph:

«Bellingcat investigation <…> has confirmed <…> that the two Russian nationals <…> are linked to Russian security services«.

Remember this. Now let’s go further.

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«Original Russian documents reviewed by Bellingcat and The Insider confirm definitively that the two men were registered in the central Russian resident database under the names Alexander Yevgenievich Petrov and Ruslan Timurovich Boshirov, respectively, and were issued internal passports under these names in 2009. However, no records exist for these two personas prior to 2009. This suggests the two names were likely cover identities for operatives of one of the Russian security services. Crucially, at least one man’s passport files contain various “top-secret” markings, which, according to at least two sources consulted by Bellingcat, are typically reserved for members of secret services or top state operatives».

Bellingcat claimed they reviewed “original Russian documents”. Seems there’s no need to explain that original documents means original documents — i.e. authentic physical copies of documents. Sometimes it could be notarized copies of original documents, or verified digital versions (scans) of original documents, or validated photos of initial original documents etc — but in all these cases still these are not the original documents themselves. The originality (authenticity) of the documents is extremely important. Although, somewhat lower in the text, the “online investigators” decided to clarify what is meant by “original Russian documents” which they reviewed:

«Bellingcat and The Insider have reviewed original records from the central Russian passport and residential registration database…».

Thus, it is not about the authentic physical documents, but about some data from Internet databases. This in itself implies a greater likelihood of information tampering. It is at least imprudent to consider the Internet a source of reliable information (seems it is not necessary to cite as an example the videos of the “White Helmets”, selflessly “saving” the inhabitants of Syria). In Russia, there are no legal databases (mean, with important confidential information like personal data etc) freely available to citizens. Such databases can theoretically be purchased on the black market, or hacked by hackers. In any case, it is illegal acquisition of data. If Bellingcat claims the originality of the information they used, then the database(s) used was supposed to be a database(s) supervised by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation (in Russia a passport issues are the responsibility of this Ministry). Only one such database is publicly and legally available. Regarding this only database, on the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation it’s indicated:

«This service is informational, the information provided is not legally relevant. The source of the information service is a daily updated list of invalid passports, which can be used by any interested person or organization whose activity is related to the need to check the validity of a passport. The list is also posted on the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia in the format of open data, is impersonal and does not violate the current legislation in the field of personal data. If necessary, it can be built into various information systems».

Here is a link to this database (it’s in *.csv format, the size is 1,3Gb, archieved file size is 411Mb). This database contains invalid passport numbers of the Russian residents. Number of the internal Russian passport consists of a passport series (4 characters — xxxx) and the passport number itself (6 characters — xxxxxx). Taking the passport number from the mentioned database and checking it on the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation (see link above), the result is as follows:

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The system checks whether the passport is valid, and the response briefly informs the result of the check (“Your passport is not among the invalid” / “Your passport is invalid”). The system does not display any detailed personal data or photos. Obviously, this only legally accessible database was not used by the “investigators”.

For some reason Bellingcat didn’t even mention the source(s) of their data, but one can obtain this information on The Insider’ website:

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On the presented b/w photo of Alexander Petrov there is an entry: Источник информации: СПО СК: АС “Российский Паспорт” — in English it reads as Source of information: SPO SC: AS “Russian Passport”. Juridical social network ‘9111.ru’ reported that СПО СК АС (SPO SC AS) is an information base (analytical system) of the State Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation on migration issues.

Bellingcat is silent about the fact if/that they used the information system СПО СК АС “Российский Паспорт” (SPO SC AS “Russian Passport”), although this information is contained in the Russian version of the “investigation” (on The Insider’ website). It is unlikely that The Insider “by mistake” would have placed information with such a specific abbreviation as SPO SC AS “Russian Passport”. Therefore, most likely this database was used.

Let’s pay attention to the very first sentence in The Insider’ version of the “investigation”:

«If you look at the data of Alexander Petrov in the FMS database, it seems that he was «born» in 2009″.

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This is very significant. First, because this is, in fact, the only hint on where the “investigators” presumably obtained their information. Bellingcat does not mention any specific sources of information at all. The Insider mentioned “the FMS database”. Second, because The Insider (= Bellingcat too) writes about the possibility of viewing the FMS database as something routine and easily accessible. “If you look at the data…” — it sounds like an offer to open a Google searcher and find the weather forecast for tomorrow — it’s easу and simple. In reality it is notThird, the information itself on the FMS is false, because by the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of April 5, 2016 No.156 “On the improvement of public administration in the field of control over the circulation of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors and in the field of migration” the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation (FMS) was abolished (it came under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs). In other words, the FMS in Russia has not existed since 2016. Hardly The Insider (= Bellingcat too) did not know about it. If all the same The Insider (= Bellingcat too) is not lying and it was the FMS database that they used, then it has to be the old database of the period until 2016. Again, such a database can only be obtained on the black market by illegal means, which, in turn, raises serious doubts about the originality and authenticity of the information obtained in this way.

But then it comes even more interesting thing. The mentioned above database contains publicly available information (numbers of invalid passports), and is only a small part of the AS “Russian Passport” information system (which was administered by the FMS until 2016). This bigger (main) database is a serious information resource, access to which is strictly limited. Automated System “Russian Passport” (AS “Russian Passport”) allows to search, view and receive information about the issuance of a passport of a citizen of the Russian Federation and information about the identity of the owner of the passport and his place of residence. At the same time, the full history of issuing passports of a citizen of the Russian Federation (of all previously issued passports) is kept. This is exactly what Bellingcat says on their website — that is, in fact, it is AS “Russian Passport” that Bellingcat describes, referring to the storage history of all previous issued internal (domestic) and foreign passports of a person:

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«A standard passport file – <…> – contain a history of previous, expired ID documents (called domestic passports), international passports issued to the person (both expired and current), as well as previous address registrations«.

By this link on the official website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation (the one which absorbed the FMS in 2016), the user goes to a page called “Granting access to employees of state authorities and organizations to the AS “Russian Passport”. The page contains two download links: first one is called ‘Requests for access‘ (*.docx file), the second one is called ‘Access Regulations‘ (*.pdf file):

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The study of these documents is quite interesting, because makes it possible to understand whether the “investigators” from Bellingcat and The Insider actually accessed data from AS “Russian Passport”.

Let’s open ‘Access Regulations’ *.pdf file. This is a 13-pages official document with four genuine signatures of high-ranking officials on the title page. The full title of the document is “Regulations for granting access to employees of state authorities and other organizations to the automated system “Russian Passport”. The title itself already contains an indication that only employees of the Russian government bodies can get access to this system. At the very beginning of the document are the “General Provisions”:

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I. General provisions

  1. These regulations define the procedure for granting access for employees of state authorities and other organizations to the automated system “Russian Passport”, as well as the procedure for providing information on the facts of searching or viewing information in the AS “Russian Passport” for employees of state bodies that are a component of the forces and means of ensuring the security of the Russian Federation.
  2. Access to AS “Russian Passport” for state authorities and other organizations is provided only with the existence of appropriate legal grounds.

The II section is called “Terms and abbreviations”. The III section is “Granting and Extension of Access”. In particular, this section indicates that the AS “Russian Passport” uses a two-factor user authentication system. Authenticators are the user’s password and his e-signature key. This section also indicates that “The state authority or other organization for receiving or extending access to the AS “Russian Passport” sends a written request with the attached application”. The IV section is called “Restoring access to AS “Russian Passport”. The V section is “Providing information about the fact of the search or view information in the AS “Russian Passport”. The VI section is “Final Provisions”. At the end of the document are the Appendices,  in particular, a sample of a written application for granting access to AS “Russian Passport”:

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In general, the document contains an extremely detailed procedure for obtaining access to AS “Russian Passport”. The fact is that access to this information system is strictly regulated and limited. It involves a complex procedure for obtaining permission to access, requiring a written application, as well as specially made electronic access keys. All actions in this system are monitored and reported. Access to this system can be obtained only by employees of state authorities of the Russian Federation.

It is quite clear that neither Bellingcat nor The Insider could access this system. Mean, legally. So why does The Insider mentions on its website that AS “Russian Passport” was used (Bellingcat is generally silent about this)? If this database was actually used, it means only one thing — that it was obtained by hacking or acquiring on the black market.  In the latter case, it is no longer possible to talk about the authenticity of the information.

In this regard, the comments of the “investigators” themselves are very indicative. The fact is that they are confused in the testimony. Thus, on September 14, Roman Dobrokhotov (The Insider’s editor in chief) posted a response to the post of the Russian MFA’ spokesperson Maria Zakharova on Facebook. Maria Zakharova suggested that the “investigators” hacked the FMS database. In his response, Dobrokhotov wrote, in particular, the following:

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«Maria, it is very pleasant that you paid attention to our investigation. This, by the way, is only the first part, the second will be on Monday. But I have to upset you, neither Bellingcat nor The Insider Russia hacked anything. Databases, including passport databases, are freely sold on the radio market, on the darknet and anywhere. And they are traded — you will be surprised — by the very valiant employees of the FMS and law enforcement agencies. You don’t have to be an agent of the Mi-6 to buy an extract from the FMS <…>».

I.e., The Insider, in fact, says directly that the FMS database was acquired on the black market. By the way, Bellingcat denied too that the FMS database was hacked:

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But still a statement from The Insider contradict the words of Bellingcat, which they wrote on the same day on September 14:

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The Insider says that the data was bought, in fact, on the black market, though Bellingcat says that a certain “source in the Russian police” was looking for this data for them. A rather strange discrepancy in the testimony. Someone from the “investigators” is lying, most likely Bellingcat. It was shown above that access to the AS “Russian Passport” (passport database managed by the FMS until 2016) is provided only to a certain narrow circle of people (employees of state bodies of the Russian Federation) under strict control, and implies a complicated procedure for obtaining a special admission (written applications to obtain admission, electronic access keys, report on actions in the system etc). It is very unlikely that a certain “source in the Russian police” would risk his/her entire career in order to provide confidential data to some Western bloggers. This is very improbable. Imagine an analogy — some Russian journalists or bloggers will turn to the American police (by the way, how — call the US police, write a letter, meet some US policeman in private?) with a request to provide some confidential data from a closed database. Complete nonsense. Most likely what The Insider declared — mean, data acquisition on the black market. But, to repeat, this in itself casts serious doubt on the originality (declared by Bellingcat) and reliability of the information — the database could be sold and resold a hundred times, changes could be made to it (including intentionally), etc.

But let’s go back to Bellingcat’s text. Speaking of the passport data on Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the “online investigators” says that they did not find earlier data:

«However, no records exist for these two personas prior to 2009″.

Strange statement. “No records exist”, or you simply failed to find the data? It is logical to assume the latter. It is also worth recalling that in the summer of 2018, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation gave a special explanation why about 1.5 million Russian passports were invalidated:

«The ministry explained that the passports of a citizen of the Russian Federation have been issued since 1997, until 2006 information about documents was included in different databases. It is worth noting that during this period, the base of passports was managed by the FMS, disbanded in 2016 (functions were transferred to the Ministry of Internal Affairs).

In 2006, in order to form and put into operation the unified information automated system “Russian Passport”, the previously disparate passport databases were merged. Due to the lack of proper technical capacity at that time, when downloading information from different counts, the status of some passports changed from “valid” to “invalid”».

Suspects receiving their first passports (in Russia, citizens get passports from the age of 14) falls in the range of 1997-2006. The information could be in different databases. When combining an array of information some data may have been altered or lost. Sometimes it happens that due to errors in the documents, people even have to prove that they are alive. Mean, there are many reasons why some kind of error may occur in the documents or information. Lack of data can also be explained by the banal features of administration. The fact that “online investigators” did not find the information (at least they say so) in one concrete database they used yet says nothing.

But Bellingcat does not stop there and continues to fantasize:

«However, no records exist for these two personas prior to 2009. This suggests the two names were likely cover identities for operatives of one of the Russian security services».

In this case (as in many other cases actually) Bellingcat falls into pure conspiracy. Allegedly the lack of information (only from the words of the “investigators”) about a person is a sign of belonging to a special services. Yes of course. Indeed, according to Bellingcat, there are no other explanations. Well, the reader may laugh here, but let’s keep it serious. The reader should pay special attention to the construction of a statement: “online investigators” failed to obtain some information (“no records exist”), but on this basis an extremely dubious assumption (“this suggests”) is being made that the suspects are intelligence officers (“were likely cover identities for operatives of one of the Russian security services”). Unsubstantiated assertion that “no records exist” is presented to the reader as allegedly a proven fact, on the basis of which a further assumptions are made. Moreover, Bellingcat does not even hide the doubtfulness of their further assumptions — the word “likely” was used. Probably, Bellingcat confused something, because today it is trendy to use the expression not “likely”, but “highly likely”™. Imperfection.

But then the reader is offered the most interesting. Bellingcat shares a “discoveries”:

«Crucially, at least one man’s passport files contain various “top-secret” markings, which, according to at least two sources consulted by Bellingcat, are typically reserved for members of secret services or top state operatives».

Not sure where it’s better to start to review this nonsense. Well, first of all pay your attention to the phrase “at least one man’s passport”. At least one man’s passport… while there are two men total (suspects). ‘At least’ means minimum. Between minimum and maximum of something there should be an interval filled with increasing values. This is the very meaning of the words minimum and maximum — they reflect the minimum and maximum values from the whole range of values, respectively. Is it Ok to use a phrase “at least” speaking of one man, while you have just two men total? Don’t know. Seems for the “online investigators” it is Ok. There are two men (suspects), at least one of them… Here it should be a facepalm meme. However, the use of such meaningless and inappropriate phrases is fully consistent with the competence of the “online investigators”.

By the way, Bellingcat’s attempt to create a semblance of “discoveries”/“findings” regarding the identification of Alexander Petrov is very curious:

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«Bellingcat and The Insider have reviewed original records from the central Russian passport and residential registration database and have identified the passport files belonging to the two suspects.

The person using the name Alexander Petrov does in fact have a passport file, under the name Alexander Yevgenievich Petrov, born on 13 July 1979 in Kotlas, a small town in northern Russia. The birth date coincides with that of the Alexander Petrov who flew on Aeroflot flight SU2588 on 2 March 2018, as seen in the passenger manifest reviewed by Bellingcat.

This person’s domestic passport photo matches the photos released by the UK authorities and the face of the person calling himself Alexander Petrov in the RT interview».

Apparently, no one told Bellingcat that one of the documents required for Russians to obtain a British visa is to provide a photocopy of their internal (domestic) passport:

To be sure, ALAFF contacted the visa center (agency) in Moscow that deals with the issuance of British visas, and asked if a Russian passport is required for a British visa. Here are screenshots, pay your attention to the lower right area — there is shown a chat, where the visa center operator promptly answered ALAFF’s question:

A chat only:

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The question: «Hello. Is a copy of a Russian passport required when submitting an application for a British visa?».

The answer: «Yes, make a copy of the first page».

On the first page of the Russian passport there is all the key information — b/w photo, series and number of a passport, date and place of birth of a person, etc.

The suspects entered the territory of Britain, which means they have a British visa. Which, in turn, means that the British authorities have all the data on the internal (domestic) passports of these two men — including b/w photos, birth dates and other stuff. By the way, the date and place of birth is also indicated in the electronic application form, which must be filled out when obtaining a British visa. In other words, all these data (full names, dates and places of birth, b/w photos, series and numbers of passports etc) were provided to the British side when the suspects were applying for a British visa.

But Bellingcat is surprised that Alexander Petrov (as a supposed “fictional personality”) indeed has a passport (“Alexander Petrov does in fact have a passport file <…>”), and that it is the name Alexander Petrov and his date/place of birth that are indicated in this passport (“<…> under the name Alexander Yevgenievich Petrov, born on 13 July 1979 in Kotlas <…>”). Bellingcat also makes a “discovery” that, it turns out, a b/w photo from Petrov’s domestic passport (which was provided to the British side) and the photo published by the British authorities (who received b/w photo from Petrov’s domestic passport) belongs to one same person. Truly fantastic conclusions, isn’t it?

Bellingcat pretends to have found some “original documents”, “compared” the dates of birth and photographs of the one whom the British authorities stated as a suspect with the one who flew to London on SU-2588 flight. The obtained “comparisons” allegedly allowed Bellingcat to “establish” that it is about one same person, and thereby “identify the suspect”… while the British authorities knows full well that it is about one same person, because they have photocopies of the Russian (domestic) passport of Alexander Petrov, which he provided when he applied for a British visa. By the way, is that why the British side is not in a hurry to recognize Bellingcat’s “findings” as a serious argument, preferring not to comment on the situation?

It is about a profanation of the “discoveries”/“findings”. It’s like your bank, where you took a loan, perfectly knowing your telephone number, would suddenly come up with a “revealing” statement that they have “found your phone number” using some data on the Internet and comparing them with the list of contacts in the phone book. And the bank will be genuinely “surprised” that the photos of the one who took a loan from them (i.e. you) and your photo means one same person. Truly fantastic.

Bellingcat is “surprised” that the dates of birth are the same for the one whose passport information they have “found”, and the one who flew to London on a SU-2588 flight (in particular, this “coincidence” allowed Alexander Petrov to be “identified”). Naturally birth dates coincide, because this is one person. In an interview with RT, Alexander Petrov (who gave that very data, including birth date, to the British Embassy) does not even try to deny that it was he who flew to London by that very flight SU-2588. Looking at his passport, Petrov indicated his birth date when filling out the electronic application form for a British visa. Buying tickets to London, he once again indicated his birth date, looking at his passport. It would be very strange if the dates of birth did not match.

Be “surprised” at elementary logical banal things is necessary for the “online investigators” to convince their readers of the “importance” of the “finds” they have made. By the way, one really must not exclude that the British authorities, having on hand the photocopies of Russian (domestic) passports of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, contributed to the “finding” of these data by brave “online investigators”. After all, it is unlikely that the curators would not have provided Bellingcat with such data.

But let’s go further to the more serious things. Bellingcat mentioned “various “top-secret” markings” on the documents. It is the most interesting part of the whole “investigation”.

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«Alexander Petrov’s passport dossier is marked with a stamp containing the instruction “Do not provide any information”.  This stamp does not exist in standard civilian passport files. A source working in the Russian police force who regularly works with the central database confirmed to Bellingcat and The Insider that they have never seen such a stamp on any passport form in their career.  That source surmised that this marking reserved for operatives of the state under deep cover».

Here is the very “stamp” mentioned by Bellingcat:

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The first oddity — Bellingcat describes in detail the content of the “original documents” on Alexander Petrov, but for some reason refuses to show the passport form in full. Instead, the “online investigators” pass on this passport form to the main British propagandists — the BBC corporation (aka “Bla Bla Channel”), which is publishing the article on the same day, showing the passport form in full:

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To see better the other oddities we have to zoom Bellingcat’s picture:

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The enlarged image clearly shows that the elements of two Russian letters (‘Е’, ‘Д’) in the Petrov’s name are translucent. There is no such thing in any other place in his passport form — the text is everywhere black and opaque. What’s wrong with these translucent places? Disappearing ink? Next, b/w passport form for some reason has gray places. On the enlarged image, the gray word is clearly visible in the area of the “stamp” (under the numbers — indicated by an arrow). The left end of a strange strip above the “stamp” is also gray/translucent. What’s this? No less curious is the difference in the writing of one same letter — at the top of the passport form in the Petrov’s name (‘Александр’), the Russian letter ‘Д’ — the one that has a translucent part — comes with a simple horizontal bottom line, but in two other places this same letter comes already in the standard academic form — the bottom horizontal line at its ends has strokes down:

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By the way, on the front side of the passport form, the Russian letter ‘Д’ in its standard academic form (with strokes down) occurs 4 times — 2 places are clearly visible, the other two places are hidden by “blurriness” (which, however, did not touch the strokes down). Four times a person wrote the letter in the standard way, but for some reason this same letter is written differently in the name ‘Александр’ — without strokes down:

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(ALAFF slightly processed the original image in Photoshop to “remove”/reduce the blur that hides the information — the Russian letter ‘Д’ under the blur became visible better).

One more oddity — that same letter ‘Д’ in one place looks very strange — the natural spelling of the letter is interrupted, and the strokes down for some reason are shifted to the left relative to the letter:

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Moreover, if you put the strokes “in place”, they actually don’t match with the letter (the thickness of the strokes differs from their “natural place” in the letter):

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But let’s carefully examine the “stamp” itself. To do this, first take a look at the original real blank form for obtaining a Russian passport (ALAFF gives it in comparison with the Bellingcat’s form):

Pay attention to the upper right corner of the original real passport form. There’s a printed text: “Приложение 1 к Инструкции о Применении положения о Паспорте гражданина Российской Федерации форма № 1П” — English translation is “Application 1 to the Instruction for the Use of the Regulations on the Passport of a Citizen of the Russian Federation, Form № 1П”. ALAFF took the upper right corner of the original real passport form with this text and resized it so that the scale was comparable to the text in Bellingcat’s passport form.

First, let’s take a close look at the word “Приложение” (“Application”) and note the oddities (click the image to enlarge):

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One can see in the picture explanations for all the marked oddities. In Bellingcat’s passport form the word “Приложение” (“Application”) has become 1) gray 2) completely unreadable. There are only some common nominal contours of the letters. What should have been done to mutilate the word this way?

But even more interesting is the following (click the image to enlarge):

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ALAFF noticed a few oddities:

  1. The word “Приложение 1” (“Application 1”) in the original real passport form is located approximately in the middle above the text, but for some reason it is significantly shifted to the left in Bellingcat’s form (orange line to green line). Although, ALAFF admits that the “displacement” can only be a feature of printing — different editions of the passport forms could differ slightly.
  2. The second line of the text: “паспорте гражданина Российской Федерации” — ALAFF underlined this text with a blue line. Pay your attention that in the original real passport form, the text above the line runs smoothly and parallel to this line. And now compare this with the text in Bellingcat’s passport form — the letters and words “float” up and down, up and down.
  3. Pay attention to the “stamp” itself. ALAFF made two parallel lines (below and at the top of the “stamp”) in light blue color. It is easy to see that black bold contours of the “stamp” are almost identical to parallel lines. This means that the “stamp” has to be put on the passport form perfectly accurate (without even the slightest inclines), which is almost impossible in reality, especially considering the “stamp” shape (it’s not round, but stretched horizontally). Seems only a robot could put such a “stamp” ideally horizontally without tilting it. No, of course, a person can too stamp so perfectly smooth, but for this you need to specifically try on, trying not to tilt the stamp. All the same, the natural way of putting a stamp on a document implies some “light negligence”. Just a few pictures found in the Internet to show the idea (horizontal stamp tilted):

It is also worth noting that the original real passport form is never sterile white (as in Bellingcat’s version). It can not be stated unequivocally, but one must not exclude that the “online investigators” used an intentional exposure of the document. It is well known that this editing technique allows you to hide some flaws and shortcomings (including those that could reveal the manipulation). ALAFF spent 10 seconds and made the exposure of the original real passport form, take a look and compare:

Sterile white is better, isn’t it? For someone it’s better. It shows no marks, artifacts and other “graphic garbage”. The Bellingcat’s text paragraph we are reviewing also includes a curious indication:

«<…> That source surmised that this marking reserved for operatives of the state under deep cover».

The key word is surmised. The source did not say confidently, for sure. He/she just made a guess. In other words, the source, in fact, has no idea what it is (Bellingcat: “A source working in the Russian police force who regularly works with the central database confirmed to Bellingcat and The Insider that they have never seen such a stamp on any passport form in their career). So he/she surmised. The absurdity of the source’s surmise, exposing his/her incompetence, will be shown below.

Well, this was only the front side of the passport form. Bellingcat in their “investigation” shows the back side also, this time in full, which is rather strange, given the refusal to show the front side in full. Here’s the back side of the passport form:

bellingcrap_passportform2_fake

Again, sterile white — i.e. seriously exposed, probably to hide unwanted details. Again, with that same “stamp” in the upper right corner. By the way, the “stamp” on this side is different in details from the one on the front side (click the image to enlarge):

bellingcrap_stamps_compare_all

Practically all letters differ slightly, ALAFF marked (with orange rectangles) only the most obvious differences between the letters/numbers. The appearance of the letters (including curvature) in itself raises serious doubts about the authenticity of the presented “documents”.

Talking about the back (reverse) side of the passport form, Bellingcat writes:

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«Adding additional credence to the hypothesis that Alexander Petrov’s persona is a cover identity comes from another page in his passport file, which is reserved for input of biographical data. In Mr. Petrov’s case, this page is left blank, and in addition to the same stamp “Do not provide information”, a hand-written note is added with the text “There is a letter. S.S.”. Per the same source interviewed for this story, S.S. is a common abbreviation for “sovershenno sekretno”, Russian for “top secret”«.

Remember, at the beginning of the text Bellingcat used the word “likely”. Now the word “hypothesis” is used. On the one hand, this is good, because the “online investigators” still indicate and remind their readers that all their reasonings are not a facts, but only an assumptions. On the other hand, words like “likely” and “hypothesis” (traditionally used in the absence of facts) somehow agree very poorly with what Bellingcat stated at the very beginning of the text. Remember this — “An ongoing Bellingcat investigation conducted jointly with The Insider Russia has confirmed through uncovered passport data that…”? Conjectures, assumptions, hypotheses… that confirm something? Interesting. This is something new. Scientists would be surprised.

ALAFF translated the blank passport form submitted by Bellingcat into English — this is necessary for understanding important details:

bellingcrap_passportform2_fake_eng

Why is it so important to know what is printed on this side of the passport form? That’s why: Bellingcat claimed this — “Adding additional credence to the hypothesis that Alexander Petrov’s persona is a cover identity comes from another page in his passport file, which is reserved for input of biographical data. In Mr. Petrov’s case, this page is left blank. As one can see on the submitted form translated by ALAFF, this side of  the passport form is intended for service notes only. This side of the passport form does not imply any “biographical data”, as Bellingcat claimed.

In case of the destruction of a passport (if a new one is issued, the old one is destroyed), the civil servant makes corresponding notes on this side of the passport form. In case of replacement of a person’s passport due to a change in the name, surname, gender, information about the date and(or) place of birth (this is not the case of Alexander Petrov), corresponding notes are also made there. The fact is that this side of the passport form does not imply any “biographical data”. Bellingcat is directly lying (assuming that the Western reader does not know the content/purpose of the passport form). One of two things: either deliberately misleading the public, or the manifestation of the same incompetence inherent in “online investigators”.

There’s also a good question — on the basis of what the reader should accept that the presented blank passport form “belongs” to Alexander Petrov, and not to someone else? In fact, the reader is invited to just believe it.

Again, let’s compare what Bellingcat suggest to their readers with the back side of the original real passport form:

Compare the appearance of the horizontal lines on the passport form. They should be clear, legible, uninterrupted and smooth. Bellingcat has obvious problems with this. Again, there is an inexplicable “leapfrog” in the printing of letters on the passport form presented by the “online investigators” (the letters and words “float” up and down, although they should go straight and parallel above the red line — see the image):

bellingcrap_passportform2_fake_letters_float

Then, pay attention to the titles in the upper right and lower right corners of the original real blank passport form. In the upper right corner it is printed: “Форма № 1П (оборотная сторона)” — in English it is “Form № 1П (reverse side)”. In the lower right corner the abbreviation “ДПК 604”:

passport_back_symbols

These are integral titles and are a must-have part of a real (genuine) passport form. Both of these titles must be present on the passport form. As one can see, Bellingcat’s “document” has neither the first (“Форма № 1П (оборотная сторона)”) nor the second (“ДПК 604”) title. Which in itself speaks eloquently about the authenticity of Bellingcat’s “document”.

Next, Bellingcat speaks about the abbreviation:

«Per the same source interviewed for this story, S.S. is a common abbreviation for “sovershenno sekretno”, Russian for “top secret».

“Online investigators”, themselves not possessing sufficient competence, obviously use sources that are also not sufficiently competent. The thing is that what source told Bellingcat is not true. A more correct English translation of the Russian phrase “Совершенно секретно” (“Sovershenno sekretno”) sounds like “Absolutely secret”, not “Top secret”. But more importantly, in Russia, the abbreviated version of “Совершенно секретно” (“Absolutely secret”) does not look like “S.S.”. The phrase “Совершенно секретно” (“Absolutely secret”) is either not shortened at all, or is shortened only slightly — sometimes it can be written as “Сов. секретно” (“Abs. secret”) or “Сов/Секретно” (“Abs/Secret”), sometimes as “С/секретно” (“A/secret”). Here are just a few examples of Russian declassified archival documents, where there is a mark “Совершенно секретно” (“Absolutely secret”):

No one in Russia writes a phrase “Совершенно Секретно” (“Absolutely secret”) abbreviated as “С.С.” (“S.S.”). English analogue of this phrase is “Top Secret”. Can’t  say with certainty, but it is unlikely that the United States uses the abbreviation “T.S.” for this phrase. Which is quite logical, because such a short abbreviation does not allow to understand the very meaning of the abbreviation. What makes Bellingcat think that things are different in Russia? Of course, with a special desire, someone can “reveal”/“understand” the meaning of the abbreviation “S.S.” as “Совершенно Секретно” (“Absolutely secret”). But one can just as well “uncover” this abbreviation as banal forename and last name — for example, Sergei Skripal, Semen Suvorov or Stepan Savinov (hundreds of variants). This abbreviation can also mean the phrase “Сделать Срочно” (“Make urgent”) or “Сделать Сегодня” (“Make today”). On the whole, there is a huge number of options for “decoding” of such abbreviation. The fact is that in Russia the abbreviation “С.С.” (“S.S.”) is not a “common abbreviation for “sovershenno sekretno”, Russian for “top secret” as Bellingcat claimed (reffering to its mysterious source). It is a lie.

Bellingcat used a false personal opinion of some unknown source to “tie” the notes on the passport form to a hypothesis that the suspects belong to a special services.

On the back (reverse) side of Alexander Petrov’s passport form not less interesting is a handwritten note “There is a letter S.S.”. To understand what’s wrong with this note we have to go ahead a bit and look at the passport form of another suspect — Ruslan Boshirov, whom Bellingcat “studies” in one of the following parts of their “investigation”, calling Boshirov a “GRU agent” named Anatoly Chepiga. So this is “Chepiga’s” passport form submitted by Bellingcat:

bellingcrap_chepiga_passport

What the reader should pay close attention to is the font with which “Chepiga’s” passport form is filled. Doesn’t it remind anything? Seems we have already seen it somewhere… On the blank passport form of Alexander Petrov. The one who fabricated the “documents” submitted by Bellingcat and The Insider made the note “There is a letter S.S.” on Alexander Petrov’s passport form in the same font that filled out “Chepiga’s” passport form. Or vice versa — “Chepiga’s” passport form was filled with the same font that was used to make a note on the back side of Alexander Petrov’s passport form.

ALAFF made a comparison of the similarity of letters. For comparison, five letters were taken from the phrase “Есть письмо” (“There is a letter”) — the Russian letters ‘е’, ‘с’, ‘и’, ‘м’ and ‘о’. It was these letters that were taken because these five letters from the phrase “Есть письмо” (“There is a letter”) appears on “Chepiga’s” passport form. Click the following images to enlarge and see the comparison:

bellingcrap_samefont_1

bellingcrap_samefont_2

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To show the obvious sameness of the font, ALAFF inserted both words from the phrase “Есть письмо” (“There is a letter”) written on Alexander Petrov’s passport form into the “Chepiga’s” passport form submitted by Bellingcat:

bellingcrap_passport_words_added4

Without knowing in advance where these two words stand, it is rather difficult to say that there is something wrong with the filled passport form:

bellingcrap_passport_words_added5

After a detailed review of the features of the front and back sides of Alexander Petrov’s passport form, ALAFF would like to say a few more words about the stamp “Do not give information”. The fact is that this stamp itself does not make any sense. “Do not give information”… to whom? When applying for a passport, a filled passport form is intended for the relevant departments (FMS, MIA, Police etc). The passport form is filled in by the applicant himself.

Alexander Petrov was given a passport form already stamped “Do not give information” (i.e. a stamps were put on a blank passport form before Petrov began to fill it)? That is, he was as if instructed “to not fill out” this form (i.e. to not write anything there)? But what — without this “instruction”, he did not know that he should not fill the form (in the “GRU” they did not instructed him)? But why then the front side of the passport form is filled, if there is also a stamp “Do not give information”? It turns out that Petrov ignored a stamp and filled out the front side of the passport form, but then he decided to pay attention to the stamp, and left the back side of the form blank. A complete absurdity.

In case the “Do not give information” stamp was placed on a passport form after Petrov filled out this passport form, then for whom was this stamp? For the relevant departments (FMS, MIA, Police etc)? The passport form (back side) was left empty — according to Bellingcat, Petrov did not fill it, i.e. there was no information there anyway. Why then put a stamp “Do not give information” on an empty passport form? How can you “not give” someone already missing information? It turns out that someone gave someone absolutely “empty”, meaningless instruction/command, putting such a stamp.

This is some truly meaningless farce. Not even mentioning the very fact that one same stamp, in fact, was put on both sides of the passport form. Who in their right mind puts two identical stamps on both sides of the same small piece of paper? For what? Those who made (fabricated) this stamp did not even understand what they were doing without worrying about the meaning of this stamp.

But the main essence is as follows. Without having the necessary competence, the “online investigators”, on the basis of the presented “documents”, make fundamentally false conclusions. Presenting a blank passport form with a strange “secret notes” and “stamps”, Bellingcat states that this indicates that the suspects belong to a special services. Such an idea of the work of a special services has nothing to do with reality. This is the mindset of comic-books and Hollywood action movies. The very essence of intelligence work implies maximum stealth and secrecy, maximum “merging” with others in terms of appearance, behavior, and so on. In no way “stand out” and not attract attention to yourself — this is one of the key characteristics of special services agents.

In this regard, a comment of the former deputy head of the Federal Migration Service (FMS) of the Russian Federation Vyacheslav Postavnin is very characteristic. A former high-ranking official gave an interview to the “Komsomolskaya Pravda” newspaper, the article was published on September 15, 2018. ALAFF translated this interview in full (“Komsomolskaya Pravda” newspaper — KP, Vyacheslav Postavnin — VP):

Passport profiles of Russians Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov published by Bellingcat cause serious doubts about authenticity, ex-deputy head of the Federal Migration Service of Russia Vyacheslav Postavnin told “Komsomolskaya Pravda”.

VP: «Special service passports for classified employees, of course, exist, but you will never distinguish them from real ones. The same applies to the passport questionnaires, — explained Postavnin. — There will never be an empty biography, as in the published questionnaires of Petrov and Boshirov. On the contrary, there will be a specially composed biography.

The special passport is made in the general order. No one brings a separate folder for everyone to understand: “Hey, look, we register a spies”. At most, there will be a phone call for everyone to do, as quickly as possible, without noise and dust. But there will be no notes “Top secret” and “Do not give information”. That’s the point: the less attention you attract, the better. Those [Bellingcat’s] questionnaires that we were shown are rough, unprofessional work».

KP: On one of the questionnaires is a stamp with a seven-digit number and a note “Do not give information”. What could it be? American journalists, for example, claim that this is the [Russian] Ministry of Defense’ phone.

VP: «I have no idea. Never seen such a thing. In my opinion, these are all some flubs of the compilers of these [passport] forms».

KP: The investigation mentions the “secret” office of the FMS 770001, where only special agents and “thieves” receive passports. Does this office really exist?

VP: «This is the usual [FMS] office in Moscow. Passports are received there by everyone who is assigned to it at one’s place of residence. These are tens and even hundreds of thousands of people. The fact that special services officials get their passports somehow in a special way is a myth. Being the deputy head of the FMS, I changed my passport in the general order at the place of [my] residence».

KP: How hard is it to access the FMS database? Who has access to it?

VP: «There is an instruction where the holders of access are clearly spelled out — employees of the FMS and other state services. But it cannot be said that the database is somehow very strongly protected. I judge by the fact that it constantly “retards”, breaks. I think any skillful hacker can easily hack it. Yes, you can buy it on the black market too, alas. This is another reason why no one will “display” secret agents in passport questionnaires [by leaving unfilled blank forms and “Top secret” markings]».

It is an exhaustive comment explaining all the key points. There is an interesting detail in Vyacheslav Postavnin’s biography — for more than 10 years (1981-1993) he served in the state security bodies of the USSR and Russia. This is a person who knows firsthand about the peculiarities of the work of the relevant state authorities (including special services). There’s also a very interesting comment from Alexander Vassiliev — a Russian journalist, writer, and espionage historian, who lives in London. He is a former KGB officer. Vassiliev commented to the “Komsomolskaya Pravda” newspaper on September 17, 2018:

«It is alleged that these are documents of the FMS. That “S.S.” means “Top secret”, that by this mark and stamp “Do not give information” it can be determined that Petrov has something to do with the Russian special services. That is, it turns out that any employee of the FMS, in principle, any official can familiarize himself with this [passport] form, and according to the stamp and “S.S.” mark, make a conclusion about Petrov’s belonging to some special service. That is, the secret service wants to classify its employee, but in fact declassifies him. Why Petrov could not register a passport as an ordinary citizen of Russia? Without marks and stamps? Without conspiracy? There is an idea that in this way they wanted to make him a “fake identity”. But they did it so that according to this questionnaire his affiliation to the special service is visible? Petrov and Boshirov are called GRU operatives. Why should the GRU operative [being a Russian] have a “fake identity” of a Russian citizen?»

It is clear that a former KGB officer (i.e. the one who knows for sure about special services’ work principles) seriously questions the version offered by Bellingcat and The Insider.

The fact is that no one in their right mind will leave the passport forms empty and put up some strange “stamps”/markings hinting at the possibility of belonging to a special structures. Call it a common sense. It is a common sense. The very essence of the special services irrefutably testifies to the fact that if a passport is made for a special agent, everything will be done to ensure that such a document does not stand out from the masses. A very detailed and credible agent biography will be developed, which will be placed on the passport form. No one ever will place such documents (with “Top secret” notes and a special “stamps”) in civilian databases precisely because of the possibility of data leakage or theft. To put such data in the database so that one day some bloggers could buy or hack it and thus expose a secret agent? You must be kidding. These are elementary things. This is a common sense. The basis of Bellingcat’s assumptions is a complete lack of understanding of the very principles and peculiarities of the work of a special services.

Approaching the end of the review, let us consider the issue of a flight. This issue contains a very important detail, which additionally destroys Bellingcat’s already shaky semantic construction.

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«Aeroflot’s passenger manifest, reviewed by Bellingcat and The Insider, discredits Petrov and Boshirov’s claims, made in the RT interview, that they had been planning their visit to Salisbury for a long time. The manifest records the times of booking, check-in, and boarding of each passenger. In the case of the two suspects, they made their initial booking – and checked in online – at 20:00 GMT (22:00 Moscow time) on 1 March 2018, the night before their short trip to London and Salisbury».

ALAFF specially revised the original RT interview several times to state with confidence that Bellingcat was misleading the readers. At 1’55 in an interview, speaking of the trip, Alexander Petrov says literally the following:

«From the very beginning, we planned to come to London and, roughly speaking, “to disport”. It was not a business trip, to be honest. We have planned out in such a way that we will visit both London and take a trip to Salisbury. Naturally, this all had to be one day.

(Further, Petrov explains why the trip to Salisbury has failed)«.

Some points should be clarified here. This may be (it is, in fact) obvious to the Russian-speaking person, but the Western reader may not catch the peculiarities. First, the phrase “From the very beginning” here means a word “Initially”, or “Originally”. In other words, Petrov just explains that the trip was essentially an entertainment, not a business trip. Second, the phrase “we planned to come to London” contains the word ‘planned’, but, again, this word does not mean that some “plan” was made in advance. The word ‘planned’ is used in the meaning of ‘was going’ (or ‘wanted’), i.e. “we planned to come to London” = “we were going to come to London” (“we wanted to come to London”).

The fact is that nowhere in the interview neither Alexander Petrov, nor Ruslan Boshirov say that they have been planning their trip for a long time. But this is what Bellingcat wrote:

«<…> Petrov and Boshirov’s claims, made in the RT interview, that they had been planning their visit to Salisbury for a long time«.

Bellingcat again lies shamelessly, inventing something that was not in reality, attributing to two men those words that they never said. Pay your attention to a curious detail: Petrov says bluntly that they were going (“planned”) to go to London, but Bellingcat claimed that the men were planning a “visit to Salisbury. It’s very convenient to distort the facts in favor of supporting your theory, isn’t it?

When lies about a “long-planned trip to Salisbury” disappears, two men buying tickets shortly before departure does not seem so suspicious. An ordinary weekend trip. Bought tickets at the end of the work week, rested for a couple of days somewhere (Bellingcat itself mentioned that is was a “short trip to London and Salisbury”), returned home on Sunday to go to work on Monday. Elementary things.

But the brave “online investigators simply can not resist the temptation to use cheap propaganda tricks. Mean, this:

«The two suspects flew back to Moscow on 4 March 2018, having taken two trips to Salisbury both on March 3rd and March 4th, the day on which the Skripals were poisoned«.

Speaking about the return of two men home on March 4, it is necessary, of course, to point out that this is “the day on which the Skripals were poisoned. Thus, the reader is being hinted — look, Skripal was poisoned on March 4, and on this same day the two men went home. Suspicious, isn’t it? The fact that the return home on Sunday (this day fell on March 4) is due to the banal need to go to work on Monday is tactfully silent.

Before making final conclusions, let’s consider the last interesting point. To do this, one have to go to The Insider’ website to see this wonderful nonsense. At the very end of their already short article, the “investigators” writes:

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«No less interesting are Russian passports. Firstly, they were issued by the FMSO 770001 in the city of Moscow — “ordinary mortals” do not receive passports there. In this FMSO, passports are received either by privileged persons for a bribe (for them it is synonymous with “special” car numbers), or by representatives of law enforcement agencies».

The Insider speaks about Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, and claims that their passports were issued in the FMSO (Federal Migration Service Office) with a department code number 770001 in the city of Moscow. The Insider assures its readers that “ordinary mortals don’t receive passports there”. Thus, the “investigators” are trying to convince the reader that the Moscow office of the FMS with the department code number 770001 is some kind of special, “elitist”, specially designed for “privileged persons” (officials, VIP persons, secret agents, etc.).

The Insider’s article was published on September 14, like Bellingcat’s. Everything was good, but something happened that the “investigators” did not expect — people on the Internet began to upload photos of their own passports issued just in this FMS office with the department number 770001, thereby ridiculing The Insider’s guess-work. Here are some of these photos:

Sources of photos, respectively: one, two, three, four, five.

Some people did not post photos, but simply wrote comments like this:

«Me too have the same [FMSO] number as most of the residents of New Moscow, who received passports in the migration center on Novoslobodskaya Street«.

New Moscow is the territory attached to Moscow in the course of a large-scale project to expand the territory of Moscow. It is worth noting that in the presented photos is a foreign passport of a citizen of the Russian Federation. The FMS office’ department code (presented on photos) — 77001 — contains 5 digits, including 2 zeros, though The Insider mentioned a 6-digit number, including 3 zeros — 770001. In this regard, some made claims that “these are different numbers” and therefore “do not testify of anything”. Even Bellingcat was not too lazy to point out “an error”:

bellingcrap_fmso_twitter

In the 1) Bellingcat indicated that the number should be 770-001, in the 2) Bellingcat wrote that the passport should be Russian internal, but not foreign.

I.e. Bellingcat tried to say that passports shown by different people “do not prove anything”, because are foreign (not internal) and with a five-digit number (not six-digit number). Well, dilettantes again showed a lack of competence. The 5-digit number 77001 and the 6-digit number 770001 are essentially the same — mean, these numbers belong to the one same Office of the Federal Migration Service of Russia for the city of Moscow. The difference is that a 5-digit number is assigned when issuing a foreign passport, and a Russian internal passport receives a 6-digit number. Here is the website of the Federal Migration Service Office, where, in particular, one can see what services the FMS office with a department code 770-001 provides. Among other services, issuing both internal passports and foreign passports are all duties of this FMS office. Therefore, in fact, there is no difference between the 5-digit number 77001 and the 6-digit number 770001 — they are issued by the same one FMS office. In other words, passports shown by people on the Internet are proof that the very “special” (for secret agents only) FMS office with a department code 770001 is a fiction, fake.

Probably, it is necessary to tell how the department code in the Russian internal passport is decrypted. It is a six-digit number. The first three numbers (in our case 770) indicate the subject of the Russian Federation: a republic, region or city of federal significance — Moscow or St. Petersburg. The remaining three numbers (in our case 001) indicate the status of the MOMI’ (Main Office of Migration Issues) department engaged in the paperwork. A few examples of codes of the regions of the Russian Federation: 77 is Moscow, 90 is Crimea, 78 is St. Petersburg, 69 is the Tver region etc. Full list of region codes can be found here. In the number 770-001 we are interested in, the first two digits 77 mean that the passport was issued in Moscow (77 is a regional code of Moscow). The third number in order (in our case it’s zero) indicates the authority that issued the passport. The value in this field is determined by the number:

  • “0” — FMS Office (now MOMI — Main Office of Migration Issues);
  • “1” — Passport and Visa Service (PVS), or the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Department of Internal Affairs or the Central Internal Affairs Directorate;
  • “2” — PVS of the district or city level;
  • “3” — PVS of rural or urban type.

The hierarchy descends from the federal level (“0”) to the regional local (“3”). Thus, in our number 770-001, a zero coming after 77 means that the passport was issued by the FMS Office (that is, the main body, but not some regional branch). The remaining three numbers in our number 770-001 refer to the passport office of the administrative units: Moscow or other cities of the Russian Federation, subjects of the country. These numbers may vary by city districs. ALAFF has already given a link to the FMS website where one can see which numbers correspond to the offices of the Federal Migration Service in each specific district of Moscow. Number 001 means only that the passport was issued by the central (main) FMS office in the city of Moscow. This central (main) office is coded 001, other branches of the FMS in Moscow have different numbers depending on the district of the city.

Here are some examples of other numbers. This one with the department code 770-008 means that the passport 1) was issued in Moscow — digits 77, by the capital FMS Office — digit 0, 2) was issued in the Presnensky district of Moscow — digits 008 (according to the list of Moscow districts and their respective FMS department numbers):

fms770001_internal_moscow4

These two ones with the department code 770-121 means that the passports 1) were issued in Moscow — digits 77, by the capital FMS Office — digit 0, 2) were issued in the North Butovo district of Moscow — digits 121 (according to the list of Moscow districts and their respective FMS department numbers):

This one with the department code 770-052 means that the passport 1) was issued in Moscow — digits 77, by the capital FMS Office — digit 0, 2) was issued in the Kosino-Ukhtomsky district of Moscow — digits 052 (according to the list of Moscow districts and their respective FMS department numbers):

fms770001_internal_moscow3

Some may ask — why pay so much attention to all these details? The fact is that the materials of the “investigators” like Bellingcat and The Insider are often based on the fact that readers do not know, or will not clarify the details. Thought, the devil is in the details. “FMS Office with the number 770-001 is only for privileged persons…” — who will be interested in and clarify that this is the most common branch of the FMS, where thousands of ordinary citizens make out documents every day? “We looked at the FMS database…” — who will be interested in and clarify that access to such a database have only employees of state authorities, and implies a complicated admission procedure? “S.S. in Russia is a common abbreviation of the phrase “Sovershenno Sekretno” (“Top Secret”)…” — who will be interested in and clarify that this statement has nothing to do with reality, and that in Russia no one shortens this phrase to “S.S.”? And so on…

But wait, The Insider and Bellingcat did not like the fact that all of the passports shown by people on the Internet were foreign, not internal? Well, here we can also please the “investigators”:

Gerard Depardieu — a truly great actor and, apparently, now one of the most famous Russians. Depardieu received Russian citizenship in 2013. His internal Russian passport was issued just in that same FMS office in Moscow with a department code 770-001. This is the head (main) office of the FMS in Moscow, a kind of Headquarters, Main directorate.

Sources of two other photos, respectively — one, two. Apparently, both Depardieu and these two are the “GRU agents”? But let’s beat the last nail in this coffin. Here are a couple (though there are more) of news video reports, showing the FMS office’ branch in Moscow on Novoslobodskaya Street — the very branch where people received their foreign passports with the department code number 77001 (those shown on the Internet and making fun of The Insider’s claims):

This is some really unusual “very special office of the Federal Migration Service”, which allegedly gives out passports “only to privileged persons”, and where “ordinary mortals don’t receive passports”, (according to The Insider and Bellingcat) — its branch has been shown on federal TV not once, where it was said that hundreds/thousands of citizens have problems in paperwork due to so-so work of this branch. The Insider’s ridiculous fantasies do not even reach the level of a cheap tabloid press. It is absolutely not clear where the “investigators” took the information about the alleged “privileged status” of the FMS’ branch with the department code number 770001 — they read it somewhere, heard it somewhere, or someone told them? The Insider did not bother to explain. That, however, was quite expected.

By the way, the issue of the department code number 770001 in suspects’ passports is very curious also because the reader may notice that there is no such material in the article on Bellingcat’s website — the “online investigators” do not say anything about the number 770001. Although the article on The Insider’s website talks about this number. Why did Bellingcat prefer to keep silent about it? Although on September 14, they bravely reported on this number:

bellingcrap_fms_database4

The “Komsomolskaya Pravda” newspaper reported that after people started posting their own foreign passports with the department code number 77001 on the Internet, thereby ridiculing the arguments of the “investigators”, Bellingcat hurried to edit its article and delete the paragraph about the department code number 770001 in suspects’ passports. It is likely that it was so, although it is now impossible to confirm (even the cached version of Bellingcat’s article will not say anything). Apparently, having understood the absurdity of the material, Bellingcat decided not to disgrace itself. However, in vain.

Conclusions.

The observations made allow us to conclude the following:

(1) It is not possible to confirm the authenticity of the documents submitted by Bellingcat and The Insider. In fact, the reader is asked to simply believe that these are “original documents”.

(2) The illegal nature of the acquisition by the “investigators” of the information provided is obvious. Disagreement of the “investigators” regarding the method of obtaining information also raises big questions — The Insider said, in fact, about the purchase of data on the black market, Bellingcat said about a certain “source in the Russian police”.

(3) ALAFF does not exclude that Bellingcat received some of the information from their curators. The British authorities have photocopies of Russian (domestic) passports of suspects on their hands — that is, all the data (b/w photos, date and place of birth, etc.) that Bellingcat “found in the databases”, “compared”, and thanks to which the “online investigators” were able to “identify” Alexander Petrov.

(4) The falsified nature of the submitted documents is obvious, including to a high-ranking official who directly worked in the FMS system of Russia. Documents submitted by Bellingcat and The Insider have all the signs of manipulation. In other words, these documents are fake. A strange and absolutely meaningless “stamp” with the inscription “Do not give information”, placed in the upper right corner of the passport forms is guaranteed to be a fake, intentionally placed on a documents (as well as a handwritten note “There is a letter / S.S.”) — an empty passport form was taken, on which a “special marks” were placed. Submitted documents of extremely poor quality, with “floating up and down” letters/words, unnatural “broken” lines of the passport form. The documents are seriously exposed — probably, to hide the unwanted details. “Curved/twisted” letters. Strange translucent parts in some letters. The word (in the “stamp” area), which should be black, suddenly for some reason became gray. Absence on the passport form (reverse side) of required typographic marks. The presence of strange black stripes/lines on the documents (seems to be made in Microsoft Paint graphics editor):

In fact, personal data of two civilians were “edited” in order to endow them with certain “elements” hinting at possible involvement in the special services, to support a bizarre narrative spread by the British authorities due to absence of facts and evidence worthy of serious consideration. At the moment, there is not a single sign that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov have at least some relation to the incident with “Skripal poisoning”. Yes, the couple was in Salisbury, and that is, in fact, the only thing known about them. Moreover, the couple themselves do not even try to deny that they visited the town.

(5) Other features of the documents mentioned in the “investigation” — passport numbers that “differ only in one last digit”, “special”/“VIP” number 770001 in suspects passports etc — were not even shown at all. It is not possible to establish whether the mentioned details exist at all.

(6) Bellingcat directly lied in two important moments:

  • when claimed that back (reverse) side of a passport form is “reserved for input of biographical data”.
  • when claimed that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov had a “long-planned trip to Salisbury”.

(7) It’s important to understand what Bellingact actually do — they not make a conclusion because of this kind of provided data (“special” passport forms), but they provided this kind of data (“special” passport forms) to make a [necessary] conclusion. This fits perfectly the method of work this kind of sources use. On this account, the famous meme has been walking on the Internet for a long time:

bellingcrap_work_method

To convince the reader of the improbable hypothesis that two civilians belong to special services, passport questionnaires were manipulated in order to create the appearance of “strangeness” and “unusual”. To support the hypothesis, Bellingcat used the erroneous personal opinion of some mysterious “source in the Russian police“ (the one who think that “S.S.” means “Top secret”), as well as Bellingcat’s own personal opinion, which is that it seems suspicious to Bellingcat that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov bought plane tickets on the eve of their departure.

(8) The anonymity of the sources also does not add confidence to Bellingcat’s opus. The online investigators practically nowhere in their article specifies their sources:

bellingcrap_source1bellingcrap_source2bellingcrap_source3bellingcrap_source4

Only in one place Bellingcat indicates a certain source working in the Russian police force who regularly works with the central database, but, again, does not indicate what it means — is this a man, or a woman, since what year this source has been working in the Russian police, what rank he(she) is in, and so on. The reader is invited, in fact, to simply believe some depersonalized source in the Russian police.

On this occasion, OffGuardian recently left a very accurate comment:

(9) Bellingcat’s reputation does not allow to treat with confidence the submitted materials. Just to remind the reader that this company, in its the most famous “investigation” of the crash of MH17 flight, used falsified data to try to “prove” the narrative about the fault of the Donbass militiamen, who allegedly used the Russian BUK. This large scale fake was brilliantly exposed back in 2015 (it is highly recommended to read carefully to anyone who has not done so yet). At a recent briefing by the Russian Ministry of Defense, the falsified nature of Bellingcat’s “MH17 evidence” was once again confirmed.

Repeat once again — the company deliberately used falsified data (videos, photos, audio recordings etc) to “prove” the required version of the event. To trust such a company in its new “investigation”? No, thank you.

(10) Remember again the main squeeze (made at the beginning of the review):

«Bellingcat investigation <…> has confirmed <…> that the two Russian nationals <…> are linked to Russian security services«.

The observations made in the course of this detailed review allow us to confidently refute the “confirmation” made by Bellingcat and The Insider.

(11) All the versions and “new details” of the incident are issued by the British authorities in doses and with a certain frequency to keep the topic (aka “Skripal case”) in the information space and maintain the anti-Russian course. Regular information “leaks” in the media space (through MSM, tools like Bellingcat ect) are designed to keep footdragging and protraction of the establishment of the truth. The incident is moving farther into the past. Details are gradually erased. The emergence of an increasing number of “versions” further keeps away the probability of finding the truth. Here’s how it works:

bellingcrap_versions

Of course, the scheme is conditional — there may be much more versions of what happened. But the scheme shows the essence — the green arrow reflects diminishing opportunities to find the truth (the more the most incredible versions appear, and the more time passes — the farther the truth is from us).

The British authorities took two civilians and decided to make them a “GRU agents”. The story takes some time. Then some accomplices are discovered, apparently, also special agents (of course, from the GRU, because according to the British authorities there are no other special services in Russia). Next, these accomplices will have some other accomplices — this, naturally, will take time to establish, then it will take time for propaganda tools like Bellingcat to “investigate” and “discover” some “revealing details”, then it will take time for media/society to react. Then these new accomplices, probably, will be implicated in some kind of criminal incidents around the world — and it will take time for media to suck’n’lick all these “new details”. It can go on forever, like the MH17 story. Meanwhile, the incident itself will go even further into the past, will become almost forgotten. Only a shell in the form of information noise will remain.

The task of the reader is simple — to comply with informational hygiene, not allowing to fool yourself. To do this, the reader only need to avoid questionable sources like Bellingcat or The Insider. After all, “sofa experts” can not teach you anything good.

UPDATED [2.11.2018]:

It happened exactly what ALAFF said. It’s about the appearance of all new versions and various “details”. In the absence of any facts that would allow the two civilians to be “tied” to the incident in Salisbury on March 4, the British media are practicing the “investigation” of the surrounding circumstances. After all, the topic of the “Skripal case” should not be forgotten by the reader, this topic should be kept afloat by any means, and not allowed to be “lost” in the information space.

Back in early April(!) 2018, the British media already wrote ridiculous stories about several places in Russia, where the “Novichok” was allegedly made. Some pointed to a laboratory in the Yasenevo district in Moscow, others claimed that the secret production was in the closed city of Shikhany. Then this topic was quickly forgotten. But a couple of days ago, The Mirror decided to reanimate the “forgotten sensation”. After all, the reader must have at least something so that the “Skripal case” is not forgotten. There are no new “sensational data” yet (invention takes time), so the media poets decided to take on the old — they again got the story of “closed laboratories” from the archives.

Apparently, this practice of “returning to the past details” will continue, pushing the establishment of the truth further away from us according to the aforecited scheme.

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