Shortly after the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine a number of pro-Kremlin propaganda sites sprang up on social media, extolling the virtues of the invaders, their glorious leader and the righteousness of their cause.

One such site was called “Donbas Devushka” (Donbas Girl), apparently belonging to a woman who claimed to be Russian Jew from the occupied Ukrainian city of Luhansk. Her Twitter, Telegram and YouTube channels have been broadcasting Kremlin propaganda for months and raising money for the Russian cause through the sale of merchandise.

Known by a number of pseudonyms, she has secured more than 130,000 subscribers to her video podcasts, which are broadcast in English, using what is described as a faintly Russian accent.

Her real identity has now been revealed by the North Atlantic Fella Organization – NAFO – which devotes itself to raising funds for Ukraine and combatting disinformation. She is Sarah Bils (or Beals), a 37-year-old divorcee from New Jersey, as well as a US Navy veteran who served as an aviation electronics technician at Whitby Island, Washington until the end of 2022.

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In 2014, Donbas Devushka claimed to have traveled from the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don to Luhansk, in Ukraine, where she claimed to have witnessed the killings of civilians by the Kyiv “regime.” In reality she was undergoing a messy divorce in the state of Washington.

She was also a well-known “fish fancier” and had a business selling tropical fish and imported food from Poland. This was to lead to her unmasking.

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She appeared on a fish-related video podcast in June 2020. NAFO compared the footage, which was filmed inside her home and included her voice, with Donbas Devushka’s posts and concluded it was the same person.

 

The circumstances under which she left the Navy are unclear, although she claims that she was forced out of the service because of her left-wing views.

Interviewed over the weekend by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), she admitted she was one of 15 “administrators” running the Donbas Devushka accounts “around the world” and was host of the podcasts. She declined to name who else was involved.

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The WSJ claimed that it was the Donbas Devushka Telegram channel that was one of the first sites to disseminate the leaked Pentagon intelligence documents by reposting them onto a number of obscure online chat rooms.

She denied being personally involved: “I obviously know the gravity of top-secret classified materials. We didn’t leak them.”

On April 13, 21-year-old airman Jack Teixeira was detained on suspicion of leaking documents. Friends of his said that he had been sharing the documents since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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