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Former U.S. Navy officer runs pro-Russian account

Posted April. 18, 2023 08:00,   

Updated April. 18, 2023 08:00

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A pro-Russian social media account responsible for disseminating classified documents leaked by Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old private first-class intelligence soldier of the Massachusetts National Guard, is reportedly operated by a former U.S. Navy petty officer. The involvement of another ex-military personnel in spreading the documents has raised concerns about the U.S. system for protecting classified information, as initially, only a few people could access the leaked documents when Teixeira released them in a private chat room on the gaming chat platform Discord.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Sunday that the pro-Russian Telegram channel 'Donbas Debushka,' which first spread some of the leaked documents on social media, was operated by Sarah Bils, 37, a former U.S. Navy petty officer. The channel, meaning "Donbas girl," has been active in pro-Russian activities since the Ukrainian conflict, raising funds for pro-Russian forces in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine, and has amassed over 65,000 members.

The report revealed that on April 5, four documents leaked by Teixeira, including information on Russian casualties, were uploaded to the channel. As other pro-Russian social media channels began to disseminate the documents widely, the U.S. Department of Defense detected the classified documents leak for the first time on April 6th, subsequently requesting an investigation from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Bils, the Telegram channel operator, had previously served as a first-class petty officer responsible for aviation electronics technology at the U.S. Navy air base on Whidbey Island, Washington State. She was honorably discharged as a corporal after being demoted by two ranks in November of the previous year. The WSJ, citing colleagues, reported that she had access to classified information during her time in the Navy.

The Washington Post reported on the same day that, according to classified documents from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Russian authorities internally noted that only 1% of fake social profiles operating on Telegram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok for information warfare are caught.


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