Ukraine war: Bungling FSB agents mocked over Sims mix-up

Bungling Russian FSB agents appear to have mixed up their sims while staging the arrest of a ‘neo-Nazi gang’ accused of plotting to assassinate Putin’s propagandist.

Moscow’s secret service posted footage online late Monday showing what they claimed was the arrest of six men they say were working with Kyiv to kill Vladimir Solovyev, a familiar face on Russian state media with close ties to the Kremlin.

But alongside Swastika t-shirts, a picture of Hitler, packets of meth, weapons and other paraphernalia that one might expect to find inside a fascist terrorist’s hideout, viewers were struck by the inclusion of three copies of The Sims 3 computer game.

That sparked speculation that the agents had been ordered to put together the lair themselves and include ‘three SIMS’ in staged photos – meaning phone SIM cards – but got confused and instead included The Sims video game.

Russian FSB agents have been accused of bungling staged photos of a neo-Nazi hideout by including three copies of The Sims video game - having apparently misunderstood an instruction to plant 'three SIMS' in the picture

Russian FSB agents have been accused of bungling staged photos of a neo-Nazi hideout by including three copies of The Sims video game – having apparently misunderstood an instruction to plant ‘three SIMS’ in the picture

In an apparent admission of the fumble, a later version of the video published on the FSB's YouTube channel had blurred out the video games along with other items on the bed

In an apparent admission of the fumble, a later version of the video published on the FSB’s YouTube channel had blurred out the video games along with other items on the bed

Russia says the neo-Nazi group were acting on orders from Kyiv to assassinate state propagandist Vladimir Solovyev, which Ukraine firmly denies

Russia says the neo-Nazi group were acting on orders from Kyiv to assassinate state propagandist Vladimir Solovyev, which Ukraine firmly denies

Confused about whether ‘three SIMS’ meant three copies of the game or the third edition of the Sims series they appear to have tried to cover both bases by getting three copies of The Sims 3 – which would have been clever, if it weren’t so stupid.

In an apparent admission of the foul-up, a later version of the video posted on the FSB’s YouTube page blurred out the games along with other items on the bed.

Still, un-muzzed versions of the image quickly did the rounds online where they were roundly mocked.

Illia Ponomarkenko – the Kyiv Independent’s defense reporter – wrote: ‘A Hitler portrait, a swastika flag, a Neo-Nazi publication, some meth, and Sims 3 discs are exactly what you would take with yourself for a high-profile mission to assassinate a top-ranking war propaganda pundit in Russia. Totally makes sense.’

Elliot Higgins, founder of investigative website Bellingcat, added: Classic saboteur checklist: Explosives, check. Guns, check. Mein Kampf, check. Nazi Flag, check.

‘The Sims Expansions, check, check, check.’

For the avoidance of doubt, he then added: ‘I genuinely believe this is a dumb FSB officer being told to get 3 SIMs.’

Matthew Champion, world news editor for VICE, also wrote: ‘Russia produces world class trolls but terrible spies.

Photos of the neo-Nazi 'lair' show other items one might associate with fascist terrorists, including a Swastika armband (burred centre) and a sawn-off shotgun

Photos of the neo-Nazi ‘lair’ show other items one might associate with fascist terrorists, including a Swastika armband (burred centre) and a sawn-off shotgun

Other photos included a photo of Hitler tacked to a computer speaker and a Totenkopf military patch associated with SS units that guarded Nazi death camps during the Second World War

Other photos included a photo of Hitler tacked to a computer speaker and a Totenkopf military patch associated with SS units that guarded Nazi death camps during the Second World War

Included in the crime scene photos were Ukrainian passports, which Russia said were issued to the men so they could flee across the border after their mission was complete

Included in the crime scene photos were Ukrainian passports, which Russia said were issued to the men so they could flee across the border after their mission was complete

‘The idea that someone somewhere misunderstood an order for three sim cards with three copies of the Sims 3 is actually eminently believable.’

The agents were also mocked for including an inscription on the inside cover of a copy of a book by a well-known Russian neo-Nazi, which was signed with the words ‘signature unclear’.

Observers initially believed the agents had been instructed to make the signature illegible and had taken the order too literally, but it later transpired ‘signature unclear’ is a common sign-off for a group associated with the author.

Solovyev has been at the head of Russia’s information war against Ukraine since Vladimir Putin gave the order to invade, pushing Kremlin narratives of a ‘special military operation’ to ‘de-Nazify’ the country on the Russian public.

As the invasion has flooded and Russian losses have mounted Solovyev’s narratives have become more alarmist, and he now frequently tells viewers of the risk that Russia will be forced to use nukes and that they are at war with NATO.

On Monday the Kremlin began pushing another Solovyev narrative – namely that he was the target of a western assassination plot targeting Russian ‘journalists’.

Putin was first to mention the plot, telling a meeting of Russian prosecutors that the FSB had recently foiled an attempt to kill a top media personality.

Russian state media said the plot had been orchestrated from Kyiv, as Putin accused Ukraine of threatening journalists (Putin pictured with Solovyev in 2013)

Russian state media said the plot had been orchestrated from Kyiv, as Putin accused Ukraine of threatening journalists (Putin pictured with Solovyev in 2013)

RIA Novosti, the state news wire, then named Solovyev as the target and said a gang of neo-Nazis acting on order from Kyiv had been set to carry out the killing.

In videos released Monday, alleged members of the terror group said they had been told by Ukraine’s secret service to murder Solovyev ‘as soon as possible.’

Ukraine has denied having any plans to kill Russia’s most-prominent propagandist.

Having got word of the ‘plot’ against him, Solovyev took to TV on Monday evening to mock Zelensky over it – saying he had been ‘talking about it for years.’

‘I’ve haunted him for a long time,’ Solovyev claimed. Referencing Zelensky’s past TV work, he added: ‘Once, Zelensky tried to get a job on our channel, as a presenter.

‘But he wasn’t talented enough to become a presenter on our channel. He was only talented enough to become the leader of a [fascist] nation.

‘Obviously he still has a complex.’

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