During her year and a half of service during the war, Maria* heard countless things she wished she hadn't.

Her job, as an employee in one of Ukraine's key law enforcement agencies, was to listen to the vast array of intercepted phone calls between Russian soldiers and their friends and families.

Overcoming her anger and disgust, she listened to accounts of Russian military personnel looting homes and shops in captured cities, incidents of sexual assault against women, and the brutal torture of Ukrainian soldiers.

“They shared stories of how they taunted our soldiers, and even went as far as describing gruesome acts, such as throat-cutting,” she tells Kyiv Post.

“I remember one soldier boasting to his wife about how he slit a man's throat, and she responded with laughter, saying, ‘Well, as long as I get to do something like that.’”

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“It was horrifying.”

They shared stories of how they taunted our soldiers, and even went as far as describing gruesome acts, such as throat-cutting.

Horrifying as it can be, it’s a crucial job. According to Maria, intercepting conversations is one of the most effective and vital aspects of Ukraine's intelligence operations, and as a result, all of the country's law enforcement agencies are engaged in wiretapping.

Often, these conversations serve as sources of critical details that contribute to more effective military operations on the part of Ukraine’s Armed Forces.

“Different law enforcement agencies handle these operations, each having its own specific focus. They all play their part... NABU, HUR, BEB, SBU, the Police, and so on,” Maria said (Kyiv Post is not disclosing which agency Maria worked for).

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While sensitive intelligence gleaned from the conversations is not released publicly, Ukraine's Military Intelligence (HUR) regularly releases snippets of intercepted calls that give an illuminating and often shocking insight into the conditions Russian soldiers face on the front lines.

Some describe entire units being wiped out in senseless attacks. Some describe friendly fire incidents in which soldiers unable to cope with war, turn on their own. Others show the huge disconnect between reality and what Russian soldiers believe to be true.

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Russian media regularly dismisses the content of the calls, saying Ukraine is faking them, a claim Kyiv Post put to Maria. She said: "Yes, they all are real even though they might seem insane. Sometimes I can’t believe the words I’m listening to myself, but we have what we have."

Different law enforcement agencies handle these operations, each having its own specific focus. They all play their part... NABU, HUR, BEB, SBU, the Police, and so on.

And listening to them all, is a person like Maria. Uncovering valuable information within the countless hours of intercepted, often unsolicited conversations is an exceedingly challenging task, akin to searching for a needle in a haystack, she said.

“I had to listen to a wide array of content, from mundane conversations to even explicit details of phone sex.”

And there’s no easy way of filtering out the crucial information from the noise. There is often a common misconception that wiretapping is triggered automatically when a person utters a specific “code word.” However, this is not the case.

“There are no predefined trigger words that automatically activate voice recording, like shouting ‘BOMB,’” Maria said.

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“It doesn't work that way... First, they identify individuals suspected of wrongdoing, and only then do they start monitoring their conversations. There must be valid reasons for such actions.”

“And given that every military individual on the enemy's side is, by definition, an adversary and a potential threat, they all fall under suspicion for us, making them subjects of wiretapping.”

I had to listen to a wide array of content, from mundane conversations to even explicit details of phone sex.

Yet despite the huge volume of calls intercepted by Ukraine, over the course of the year and a half of her service, Maria only encountered one person who seemed to hold a rational view about the war in Ukraine.

“Out of the hundreds of conversations I listened to, there was only one individual who stood out – a woman, the wife of a military man,” she said.

“She attempted to reason with her husband, telling him that what they were doing was wrong, that they were taking lives. I was genuinely surprised. It was a sobering moment amidst all the disturbing content I heard daily.”

“I didn't believe it at first. I thought maybe she was joking or I had misheard something. But no, it turned out that she was indeed a rational, decent person. However, she was the exception rather than the rule.”

There are no predefined trigger words that automatically activate voice recording, like shouting ‘BOMB, it doesn't work that way... First, they identify individuals suspected of wrongdoing, and only then do they start monitoring their conversations. 

Not long ago, Maria transitioned to a different department within the same organization, no longer involved in wiretapping. She explained that she couldn't bear it morally any longer. With the change in her position, life has become considerably more manageable.

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“It became morally overwhelming for me. My day would start with me arriving at work, taking 15 minutes to compose myself, and then diving into my tasks. The state of the country, particularly immersing myself daily in this troubling content, took a toll on me. It was incredibly challenging.”

“Coming to work and being exposed to such negativity every day was toxic. After I moved to this new position, life became much more bearable.”

*Maria is a pseudonym.

Kyiv Post regularly highlights the most revealing and shocking intercepted conversations on a weekly basis.

You can read some of them by clicking on the links below:

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Comments ( 1)

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Ben Adrill
This comment contains spoilers. Click here if you want to read.

But how are they doing this? What equipment was used! Too tired did not read. LTE/GSM are ENCRYPTED??

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