This photo was retrieved by Strike Source from a VK page highlighting a donation to Russian forces in Ukraine. The caption on the photo is “Continue to help the front and the administration of the city of Orel. With the support of the Social Cluster, the humanitarian cargo was delivered to our fellow artillerymen, who today are performing combat missions in the Kharkiv direction. The parcel included: walkie-talkies, camouflage nets, two night vision devices, two control units for UAZ BU S 105, ballistic helmets, body armor, uniforms and tactical shoes, construction tools and materials, chainsaws, insect protection sprays, personal hygiene items, food, cigarettes, medicines, and much more. The cargo was personally delivered to the fighters by the first deputy mayor of Orel, Irina Velnerievna Provalenkova”. Based on our analysis, we have identified the following items of interest from the photo.
- The body armor plates are manufactured by Holis Shanghai Industrial Co., Ltd. This company produces NIJ Level 4 body armor, which is capable of stopping an AK47 round.
- The headphones, Cross Eye Tactical 6S, are manufactured by Shenzhen Alex Technology Co., Ltd. They are available for purchase on Ali Baba as individual items and in bulk. These headphones cancel out damaging noises from gunfire and explosions while allowing for conversation or radio communication.
- The helmets pictured appear to be FAST high cut bulletproof helmets manufactured by Hunan Zongtai Special Equipment Co. Ltd.; however, it could be produced by a different company. This type of helmet is generally rated to stop .32 ACP or 7.62x17mm pistol rounds. Some are also capable of stopping a 9mm pistol round.
- Plate Carriers from an unidentified manufacturer
- Radio and charger- appears to be a 2-way UHF radio from an unidentified manufacturer.
- The two flags on the right side of the screen are the flag of the Russian Federation and the Orlov/Orlovskaya Oblast. This region is directly north of the Kursk Oblast. Kursk was one of the regions from which Russian forces began their invasion of Ukraine near Sumy. The city of Oryol. the capital of Orlovskaya Oblast, is home to the Military Unit 28793- More on this unit later.
- The poster or flier in the bottom right of the photo shows a fully equipped soldier with a Russian flag waving in the background. Superimposed over the image is the phrase “Victory will be Ours!”. This is a famous phrase from the Soviet period, and is attributed to Deputy Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR V. M. Molotov prior to the USSR’s entrance into WWII. The rallying symbol of the Russian military in Ukraine “Z”, allegedly comes from this phrase.
This picture does not contain everything detailed in the Provalenkova press release.
The Orel Social Cluster
The Orel Social Cluster was formed in 2021 and is associated with the Orel Regional Branch of the Office of the Pension Fund of the Russian Federation. It is headquartered at 22 Leskova Street, Oryol, Oryol Region, 302040. The Social Cluster is fairly active, providing supplies to servicemembers as well as their struggling families back home. As recently as 12 June 2023 it organized community support for Russian families evacuated from the Belgorod region. It even helped open a park for children with disabilities at the end of June 2023.
The Orel Social Cluster does a lot of community and charity work within the region. The citizens of the region support the organization with donations of food, clothing, and money. In line with the larger Russian Federation, part of their community initiative is supporting the “special military operation” in Ukraine. As seen in the headline photo, the Social Cluster provided military technology to Russian forces. This was most likely paid for with the funds and items donated by the Orel community. A recent shipment was provided in concert with the Russian Orthodox church.
Military Unit 28793
As promised in The Rundown, we have identified which unit most likely received this round of donations. Military Unit 28793 is part of the Russian National Guard, headquartered in the city of Orel. It is a Special Police Unit Spetznaz unit (SOBR) and is subordinate to the Russian Interior Ministry (MVD). It is responsible for counter terrorism and counter organized crime operations. It is currently commanded by Police Colonel Sergei Sorokin. The Orel headquarters of SOBR is in the same block of buildings as the FSB’s headquarters in the region- this office is responsible for Anti-Terrorism as well. Military Unit 28793 returned from combat in Ukraine on June 21st, 2023 to a commemorative lunch where they were hailed as “defenders of the fatherland.”
Social support for the military is nothing new; soldiers have always received care packages from loved ones and community groups. However the care packages provided by the Orel Social Cluster consist of building supplies, body armor, and communications equipment. The shipment captured in this photograph is not the first nor the last one that Orel Social Cluster will send.
This supply of Chinese made military equipment means a few things,
1) the Russian military supply system is not providing its soldiers with the basic equipment needed to protect themselves.
2) Chinese companies are knowingly sending military equipment to Russian organizations which have a history of supporting front line troops in Ukraine.
3) Elite units, such as the one identified in this article, are unable to procure basic military equipment like helmets through normal channels.
This picture was published as a “feel good” story about the community level support for the Russian war effort in Ukraine. Yet, when viewed as part of the larger conflict it reveals systemic issues with the current start of the Russian military.