Operation Atesh: Spying in Occupied Crimea

A man, known as Agent One, is part of a group called Atesh, meaning fire in Crimean Tatar, and is involved in spying on Russian forces in occupied Crimea. He details the dangers and risks involved in his secretive work to the BBC, including moments when he narrowly avoided detection by Russian servicemen. Atesh claims to collect information on Russian military movements, aiding in high-profile Ukrainian strikes on Crimea. The group operates in secrecy, communicating through messaging apps and handlers to avoid detection. Atesh’s agents, who are unwilling to reveal their identities for fear of arrest, describe the dangerous reconnaissance work they carry out to gather intel on military sites. The group’s ultimate goal is to end Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukrainian land. While Russian military bloggers dismiss Atesh as an online invention of Ukrainian intelligence, the group’s presence is reported by Russian media and is seen as a threat by the Kremlin. Atesh claims to have grown from a small group to “thousands” and is keen to publicize its work to unnerve the Russians and recruit more agents, but the group’s priority remains bringing an end to Russia’s invasion.

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