Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) detained four Kyiv residents suspected of operating a bot farm to spread disinformation about the Crimea Platform summit on social media.

The suspects used 15,000 fake online accounts, the so-called bots, to write disparaging content about the results of the summit, posing as ordinary users of Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, SBU said on Aug. 28.

According to SBU, the alleged cybercriminals were backed by Russia. They received money from its territory through electronic payment systems that are banned in Ukraine. According to Ukraine’s National Bank, Ukrainians are not allowed to use Russian online payment systems like Webmoney, YooMoney, Qiwi Wallet and Wallet one.

The suspects’ office in downtown Kyiv had 300 modems to access the web, several thousand SIM cards of different mobile operators, dozens of mobile terminals and computers containing evidence of the scheme.

The photo shows the stacks of mobile terminals and SIM cards used by Russia-backed cybercriminals to set up a bot farm spreading fake news about the Crimea Platform summit that took place in Kyiv on Aug. 23.

The Crimea Platform took place in Kyiv on Aug. 23. This diplomatic summit convened leaders of 46 countries to bring global attention to Russia’s occupation of Crimea. Russia didn’t participate in the summit, where other countries’ representatives strongly criticized the Kremlin’s policy in Crimea.

Russian state officials have spread disinformation about the summit before and after it took place, calling the Crimea Platform “a provocation,” a “sabbath” and “anti-Russian event.” Russia regularly tries to insert such talking points into online discussions, as part of its information war with Ukraine.

Since 2018 Ukraine has been “among the top sources” of bot activity, according to a report by Facebook. Most of the bot farms originated in or were backed by Russia.

In March, SBU exposed a bot farm in Odesa used to create fake accounts spreading online propaganda and hate speech about Ukraine. A month earlier, Ukraine’s law enforcement uncovered a bot farm in Lviv that spread “destructive content” about Ukraine. The farm was operated by Russian intelligence. 


Russian bot farms pose a threat to the information security of many countries across the world. In 2016, for example, the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency, a giant ‘factory’ of bots, interfered in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.

Since then, Russia’s bot farm coordinators and hackers became more sophisticated and harder to detect, experts said.

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter