Crimean Resident Arrested under Accusation of Spying for Ukraine with RTL-SDR Dongles

Back in early 2014 Crimea was annexed from the Ukraine by Russian forces. Recently we've heard news that a Crimean resident was arrested by the Russian Federal Security Service under the suspicion of being a Ukrainian informant who was intending to transfer, or was transferring military data abroad using RTL-SDRs.

A video of the arrest has been uploaded to YouTube, and RTL-SDR dongles running with the Airspy SDR# software on his laptop can clearly be seen as having been photographed. The photos of the SDR# screen appear to show that he was monitoring the commercial aviation band with a scanner plugin.

The YouTube description is translated below:

Today it was reported about the arrest of a Crimean resident, either intending to transfer, or transferring military data abroad.

The FSB has published footage of the arrest. The time on the laptop caught on the video during the search of housing 07:40 date 06/22/21. The laptop is turned on, the AIRSPY radio frequency scanning program is running, the laptop is in the dust - only traces of pressing some keys are visible, and the touchpad was not used. There are many icons in the room, books on radio engineering, a Ukrainian flag, aircraft models, several pennants "Tavria 1958", an ICOM IC-R6 radio, maps.

The detainee transferred the information received to Ukraine on one basis, collected it on the other and intended to transfer it.

The court sent the man to the pre-trial detention center for 2 months. If his guilt is proven, then high treason "shines" and does not shine to see the will for 25 years.

According to an article on RadioFreeEurope, the man was detained as he was "collecting data on the flights of Russian military planes for Ukrainian intelligence".

It is unclear if the man was knowingly providing intelligence services, or is simply an aviation hobbyist caught up in politics. If anyone has more information about his story, please let us know in the comments.

UPDATE 29 June 2021: More information on the story at this link.

Украинский осведомитель был футбольным фаном. Болел за «Таврию»

Crimean resident arrested for using RTL-SDRs to monitor the airband
Commercial Aviation Frequencies Monitored

This is a reminder to those in politically dangerous situations to take care when using SDRs. In the past we have seen a Slovenian researcher almost jailed for performing University research with an RTL-SDR, a UN expert arrested for possessing an RTL-SDR in Tunisia, and SDRs come under fire when Trump tweeted a now-debunked conspiracy theory on how an RTL-SDR was being used as a close range scanner by the black lives matter protestor who was shoved to the ground on video by Buffalo police.

13 comments

  1. Val

    Terrible, simply terrible.
    The guy had his life destroyed for nothing. He has done nothing wrong at all. Listened to unencrypted radio traffic and shared it through a public web-service.
    Unfortunately, if you stay in a country like Russia, sooner or later this is going to happen to YOU. If you’re a radio enthusiast, leave while you still can. Not a joke.

    • Ladislav OK1UNL

      I am a fan of aviation, a few years ago, police officers confiscated in police raid my little one scanner from Uniden UBC30XLT + headphones. (NATO Days show on LKMT airport) Also officers unjustifiably required check photography on my SD card. (Some digital cameras has internal memory buffer or better of them use two memory cards :-))) ) For explain, I had scanner on the belt under the t-shirt. The TWR information is necessary for photographers and airspotters, like me. The use of scanners is on wide discuss and at a number of European countries and the European Union is prohibited. Also, public and sharing of frequencies and audio records, ADS-B data communication especially MODE-S, ACARS, HFDL, VHDL-2 too. This is not just a Russian specificity.
      Ladislav

  2. Mike

    I suppose that he was arrested not for using an SDR and a portable scanner (which is not prohibited in the most EU & CIS), but possibly for recording and placing service frequencies and convers on public in tematic groups or socials, as well as onboard telemetry of military aircraft and interacting infrastructure (who knows?, but which is also illegal in many countries) and not only Acars/ADS-B civilian fleet tranponders and convers

  3. Jack Seems Nice

    > he deserved it, the rest of you should just do as you’re told

    did… did The State write this?

    • Jack

      Dood’s baked..did you see the MASSIVE amount of incriminating evidence in his flat? If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime! If you want to stand in front of a tank…be my guest…..

  4. Hate Autocrats

    Why would you need to spy on aircraft when you have satellites and transponders can be turned off. This sound so stupid and ignorant but it guess it’s how autocratic governments behave. Someday the people will rise against agents of the state who do the bidding of corrupt politicians.

  5. Jack

    Book em’ Danno..
    Hang em’ high…
    It never ceases to amaze me. In a country that you know your ONLY right(s) are what the State see’s fit to “give you” at their whim, why poke the dragon. Unless you have a big long laser sword that’s going to slay it….other than that, caveat emptor. Silence is golden. You get what you pay for. You buy’s your ticket, you take’s your ride.

    • RF_Savage

      Yeah he does appear like a hardcore aviation enthusiast and a plane spotter.
      Sad to see a hobbyist vilified like this.

    • Billy

      To be fair, there probably are quite a few spy agencies around the globe that are using Airspy (and genuine RTL-SDR.com) hardware to actually spy, because the price you pay for the quality of the hardware is very good. And there is the whole plausible deniability thing as well.

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