UPDATED: Feds Investigating Former Sailor Behind Pro-Russian ‘Donbass Devushka’ Accounts

April 17, 2023 10:11 AM - Updated: April 18, 2023 6:42 AM
The ‘Donbass Devushka’ avatar and former sailor Sarah Bils. USNI News Graphic

The Department of Justice is investigating a former Navy non-commissioned officer for her role in social media accounts that posted a series of leaked Pentagon documents, two U.S. defense officials told USNI News on Monday.

Sarah Bils, 37, a former aviation electronics technician 2nd Class who was last stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., according to her official Navy biography, is allegedly behind a pro-Russian series of social media accounts under the banner of “Donbass Devushka,” The Wall Street Journal first reported. The people behind the Donbass Devushka network allegedly posted at least four of the classified documents, leaked by Massachusetts Air Guardsman Jack Teixeira, to their Telegram social media channel.

Bils is an administrator for the Donbass Devushka properties, which is now a network of 15 people, she told The Wall Street Journal. It’s unclear if Bils, who had a security clearance as part of her Navy career, used it to access classified documents. The handle is a combination of the contested Donbass region in eastern Ukraine and the Russian word for “young lady.”

Bils told The Wall Street Journal that another administrator on the accounts posted four of the documents to the Donbass Devushka Telegram channel. Several Pro-Russian social media accounts picked up the documents after they were shared. The Donbass Devushka social media accounts are the largest English-speaking, pro-Russian accounts that engage in “Russian–style information warfare,” Bils told the Journal.USNI News was unable to reach Bils using listed numbers on Monday.

Bils was identified as one of the personas behind the Donbass Devushka social media account by the North Atlantic Fella Organisation (NAFO) – an open source intelligence group that specializes in exposing Russian misinformation.

The Department of Justice declined to comment. Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh referred all questions on Bils to the Navy or the Department of Justice.

Bils is originally from New Jersey and enlisted in the Navy in 2009, according to her Navy bio obtained by USNI News. After completing “A” school at Naval Aviation Technical Training Center in Pensacola Fla., she was a student at the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit in Lemoore, Calif., and reported to Fleet Readiness Center Northwest, Whidbey Island, Wash., in June 2011. She worked in different roles at the air station until her discharge in November. From Febuary 2021to March 2022 Bils was assigned to a Whidbey Island-based EA-18G Growler forward maintenance team that deployed to work on the electronic attack aircraft. While mostly carrier-based, the Navy has deployed Growler squadrons to bases ashore to support joint missions, USNI News understands.

Her awards included two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, four Good Conduct Medals and the National Defense Service Medal.

Bils officially separated on Nov. 27, 2022, just over nine months after Russia invaded Ukraine. She was frocked as an chief aviation electronics technician, but left the service as an E-5. A Navy spokesman, when reached by USNI News on Monday, was unable to provide details on the reduction in rate.

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
Follow @hmongilio

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