A dozen phone numbers starting with +44 were visible to surveillance equipment before the missile strike
Source: The Telegraph
British volunteer fighters are feared to have triggered a deadly airstrike on a Ukrainian military base after their phones were detected in the area, the Telegraph can reveal.
At least 35 people were killed, potentially including three British ex-special forces troops, when 30 Russian cruise missiles pulverised the Yavoriv facility, near the Polish border, on March 13.
The target on the base is believed to have been the International Centre for Peacekeeping and Security, where Ukraine has been training foreign civilian recruits for its international brigade.
Now, the Telegraph has learned that around 12 to 14 phone numbers starting with +44 were visible to surveillance equipment in the area in the hours before the missile strike.
Security sources said mercenaries paid by the Wagner Group, a secretive military company with links to the Kremlin, were suspected of operating on the ground at the time.
It has raised fears that the hired guns were able to use their own scanning equipment to intercept the numbers and pass them to Russian intelligence, which linked the details to former British military personnel and immediately ordered an attack.
Mobile phone numbers can become visible to snooping technology when the device pings a nearby phone mast to connect to the network so a user can make calls or send texts.
Russia is thought to have access to a vast trove of phone numbers linked to elite British units, compiled through secretive surveillance operations near military bases in the UK.
Many of the British men who have volunteered to join the resistance against Vladimir Putin’s invasion formerly served with these units, meaning their numbers would immediately set off alarm bells in the Kremlin if spotted connecting to a Ukrainian phone network.
A source said: “As soon as Moscow got any whiff of possible British presence on the base, they would have immediately ordered a strike.”
The attack on the base, one of Putin’s furthest forays west in the three-week-old war, lays bare the risks facing British recruits if they travel into the war zone, particularly if they fail to exercise caution with their electronic devices.