KEY POINTS

  • Russians are using Ukrainian children in sabotage activities via a mobile game: Officials
  • Two teenagers were detained after taking photos of checkpoints and transport routes
  • The mobile app can be accessed by an IT company controlled by Russian special services

The Russian military is now turning to mobile applications to locate the Ukrainian army and strategic facilities in the country, according to Ukrainian officials. 

The Security Service of Ukraine on Tuesday revealed that Russians are using a smartphone game to recruit Ukrainian children and use them in sabotage activities. In the mobile game, participants are asked to look for "boxes" containing virtual prizes, which can later be exchanged for electronic money. 

To locate the boxes, participants are required to take photos of their surrounding area, including military and critical infrastructure. The participants are then asked to upload the photos on geolocation to the app’s database. 

In one incident noted by the Security Service, two teenagers from the Kirovohrad region were detained by the Ukrainian officials after they were caught taking photographs of checkpoints, grain elevators and transport routes.

In addition, the teenagers also forwarded the coordinates of their finds to third persons via the Telegram app. It is unclear who the third persons were, but the Security Service said they may be connected to Russians. 

The mobile app can be accessed by an IT company allegedly controlled by Russian special services. The company, which the Security Service did not name, is registered in a European country and is said to distribute interactive platforms. 

The Security Service’s report comes as Russian forces have taken over the town of Svitlodarsk in the eastern Donbas region. It is believed that there are at least 10,000 civilians remaining in the town. 

"About 10,000 civilians remain in occupied Svitlodarsk," Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk regional military administration, said Tuesday. "No more than 30% of the population left the city. Today, May 24, the Russian army entered Svitlodarsk in the Donetsk region. Russian flags have already been hoisted there."

Kyrylenko said Russian forces surrounded Svitlodarsk on three sides but noted that there had not been intense shelling prior to the occupation. However, he added that Lyman, a city further north in the region, is experiencing constant fire from Russian troops. 

"Their main goal is to take the center of the community of Lyman. The estuary is now partially under control, they enter, then they are kicked out, heavy artillery drives in, and tanks enter the outskirts of the city to conduct shelling and occupy the entire center and the entire Lyman community," Kyrylenko added.  

Service members of pro-Russian troops carry leaflet shells in the Luhansk region Service members of pro-Russian troops carry leaflet shells at their combat positions in the Luhansk region, Ukraine May 24, 2022. Photo: Reuters / ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO