Ukrainian researchers have identified a Russian soldier who pilfered a pair of AirPods from a Ukrainian home using Apple’s Find My feature and leaked military data. His name: Nureyev Roman Evgenievich.
Unlike past riches stolen in the fog of wars past, modern bounties come equipped with location trackers that, when monitored correctly, can reveal the identity and location of a shooter’s identity hundreds of miles away. Open-source-intelligence firm Molfar detailed that very scenario in its recently released report tracking the step-by-step location of a Russian soldier researchers say looted a pair of AirPods from Bucha. Russian forces invaded the town, located about 18 miles Northwest of Kyiv in early March 2022 before eventually withdrawing in April. During that time, multiple human rights organizations alleged Russian forces killed hundreds of civilians and committed a horrific assortment of war crimes, including the unlawful appropriation of property.
How Investigators Used Find My to Track a Russian Looter and Stolen AirPods
A Bucha resident contacted Molfar to ask if the firm’s researchers could identify the soldier responsible for making off with their headphones and other possessions. Using Apple’s Find My feature, the Molfar investigators were able to follow the AirPods on their journey from Bucha to Russia. Over the course of several months, the AirPods and their new owner traversed more than 600 miles, bobbing and weaving through parts of Ukraine before eventually settling down in a Russian town called Valuyki in the Belgorod region. The investigators were able to track the AirPods to a dense forest location where they believe the Russian forces were amassing in preparation for another ground assault.
The already long journey had actually just begun. Molfar investigators continued to track the AirPods as they traveled another 600 miles south to a town called Gelendzhik, where the looter appears to have visited a children’s development school. After just a one night stay, the location data shows the soldier getting back on the road to make a 57-hour drive east towards Siberia, ending in a city called Kemerovo.
The investigators were able to narrow down the device’s location to one of two homes in the city. From there, they used images with geolocation data matching houses pulled from Russian social network VK to identify names of people living in the house. One of those images was posted by a Russian woman whose son’s name was included in a leaked Russian military database of names. The soldier, Nureyev Roman Evgenievich, was part of the 27th detachment of the Kuzbass Joint Force where he served as a “shooter and hospital hospital assistant.” Public media reports show Evgenievich’s detachment was actively involved in the brutal Bucha invasion.
Armed with all that information, the investigators were then able to match a photo of the soldier’s house posted on social media with a Google Street View image. The Russian soldier also posted photos of himself in Ukraine during the time of the invasion, solidifying the connection even further. And with that, using only Apple’s Find My feature and publicly available data, the investigators were able to identify a soldier who they claim abetted and committed war crimes. If that level of access into people’s lives sounds concerning, Molfar suggests the severity of the soldier’s crimes justified the search.
“Roman Nureyev is the head of the family,” the Molfar investigators wrote. “In addition to going to war against a sovereign state for money, he committed a war crime, robbing a civilian house. He then brought the loot back to his home to show off to his family and enjoy the status of ‘hero of Russia’ and ‘war hero.’”
This isn’t the first time a lotted pair of AirPods has come back to bite Russian soldiers. Last year, a Ukrainian man named Vitaliy Semenets was reportedly able to track his looted headphones to gauge the general location of the advancing Russian armed forces. Semenets posted that data on social media to alert others who may potentially find themselves caught up in the military’s path. The stolen AirPods, and their new owner, eventually crossed the border into Russia.
“Thanks to technology, I know where my AirPods are now,” Semenets wrote. “It was looted by Russian orcs from my home.”