The Russian Aviation Squadron’s Chief of Staff: “What, Did I Press the Button, or Was I Sitting in the Plane?”

Russian servicemen, who may have been involved in a missile attack on a residential building in Dnipro, avoid Important Stories' questions

16 Jan 2023
The Russian Aviation Squadron’s Chief of Staff: “What, Did I Press the Button, or Was I Sitting in the Plane?”

On January 14, a Kh-22 cruise missile struck a residential building in Dnipro, Ukraine, killing 45 people, including six children. Another 79 people were injured, and 25 remain missing as the rescue work continues.

On January 16, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced that it had identified the Russian soldiers involved in the missile attack. SBU opened criminal proceedings against them under Article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (violation of the laws and customs of war). 

Six of these soldiers, whose data were published by the SBU, are members of Russia’s 52nd Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment, which is based out of the village of Shaikovka, Russia, in the Kaluga oblast. IStories tracked down and reached out to the six soldiers accused by the Ukrainian authorities. Two agreed to answer our questions.

Colonel Oleg Timoshin, 51 years old

Oleg Timoshin is from the city of Olenegorsk, Russia, in the Murmansk oblast. According to the SBU, he’s the commander of the 52nd Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment.

PHOTO: from Oleg Timoshin’s social media

Major Alexey Ivanenko, 35 years old

Alexey Ivanenko is from the city of Morozovsk, Russia, in the Rostov oblast. According to the SBU, he’s the commander of an aviation detachment within the 52nd Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment.

In a conversation with IStories, Ivanenko said he didn't know what happened in Dnipro, because he doesn’t follow the news. “I retired from the army three years ago after I got hit in the head. I retired, now I work in sanitation [septic management],” Ivanenko said.

When asked what he thought about the fact that the SBU had opened a criminal case against him for shelling Dnipro, Ivanenko replied: “Fine, should I surrender now?” 

Ivanenko doesn’t know anything about Oleg Timoshin, and he “hasn’t heard from the rest [of the people] on the SBU’s list in a long time.” He has no thoughts on Russia’s war in Ukraine, “There’s nothing to think with,” [referencing his head injury].

PHOTO: from Aleksey Ivanenko’s social media

Dmitry Golenkov, 44 years old 

Dmitry Golenkov is from the village of Pogara, Russia, in the Bryansk oblast. According to the SBU, he is the chief of staff of an aviation unit within the Shaikovka Aviation Group. Ducking a question about his involvement in the Dnipro attack, Golenkov countered, asking IStories’ correspondent: “Is Crimea [part of] the Russian Federation or not? [...] I, for example, think that Crimea is Russia, always has been, and will be.

“I wanted to ask you what you think about the shelling of Dnipro.”

“Hold on about the shelling of Dnepropetrovsk (the old name of for Dnipro city.Editor’s note). I understand what you want to ask me. But I’m a man of the Russian Federation – the Constitution of the Russian Federation is very important to me. I want to ask you, as a journalist, why you are calling me and telling me that Crimea is not… No. You should say: “Crimea is Russia.” Why don't you say that?” Golenkov replied.

“I said that the four [annexed] regions and Crimea are ours. What does Ukraine have to do with it? I haven’t touched Ukraine. Ukraine is another independent state. (A voice, probably from a friend, is overheard in the background.Editor’s note.) It’s Ukraine bombing the territory of the Russian Federation, Donetsk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia regions, Crimea are being shelled. Why don't you ask me about that? [...] You, miss, are probably from Ukraine. In Russia, journalists don't ask such questions. Journalists don't ask questions at all.”

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After several attempts by the correspondent to get an answer from him about the Dnipro attack, Golenkov was indignant: “What, damn it – did I press the button or was I sitting in the plane? [...] Crimea is still ours and everything else is ours. What do you want from us?"

“Do you personally feel sorry for the people who died in Dnipro? 40 people have already died, many are still under the rubble.”

“What people? What are you talking about, I don't understand?”

Another man, next to Golenkov, starts shouting, and Golenkov echoes: “You [Ukraine] are a region of Russia. Just one region of Russia. There won’t even be distinct regions [in Ukraine].” Finally, Golenkov added: “And everything else will be ours. Goodbye, miss."

PHOTO: from Dmitriy Golenkov’s social media

Dinar Nazirov, 37 years old

Dinar Nazirov was born in 1985 in the city of Bugulma, Russia, in the Republic of Tatarstan. In 2021, he served as a squadron assistant navigator, with an official annual salary of 110,000 rubles. According to the SBU, he’s a navigator with the 52nd Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment. 

In an interview with Kirov-TV in 2019, Nazirov said that he decided he wanted to join the military when he was in elementary school. He went on to graduate from the Chelyabinsk Aviation Navigation School (likely referring to the Chelyabinsk Higher Military Aviation Red Banner Navigation School) and was "delighted" during his first flight, in his second year of training.

When asked about his involvement in the shelling of Dnipro, Nazirov, against a background of other male voices, replied that he was a “forester from the forestry service.” 

“Don’t walk in my forest and don’t scare the squirrels,” he advised. Then he hung up.

PHOTO: from Dinar Nazirov’s social media

Evgeny Potseluev, 41 years old

Evgeny Potseluev was born in the village of Vyazovka, Russia, in Volgograd oblast. According to the SBU, he is an aviation armament engineer with the 52nd Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment. 

In a story about the anniversary of the regiment, Kirov-TV reported that Potseluev and his wife and children have been living in Shaikovka for more than 20 years. He graduated from the Krasnodar Aviation Institute (likely referring to the Krasnodar Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots). He decided to enter the military while still in school.

PHOTO: from Yevgeniy Potseluev’s social media

Denis Grigoriev, 40 years old

Denis Grigoriev was born in 1982 in Kostanay, Kazakhstan (a part of the USSR named Kazakh SSR at that time.Editor’s note). According to the SBU, he is a navigator in the 52nd Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment.

PHOTO: from Denis Grigoryev’s social media

Potseluev and Grigoriev did not respond to our questions.