Shameful network discovered a network of Telegram channels that make money from bullying children and teenagers
31 March 2024

One morning in March Daryna, 13, from Lviv і knows the girl’s real surname received a message from her friend with a link to the telegram channel “Suschnost Lvova | 2024”. When Daryna opened the link, she saw a freeze-frame from her own TikTok video, in which she was drinking water from an alcohol bottle as a joke. The photo was accompanied by an obscene caption.

It turned out that this channel was quite popular at her school – almost everyone she met there that morning had seen the post. At that time, the channel “Suschnost Lvova | 2024” had been around for about a month, had thousands of subscribers, and posted dozens of photos of Lviv teenagers with rude captions every day.

In desperation, Daryna wrote to the administrator of the anonymous Telegram channel asking him to remove the offensive post. In response, he demanded that she pay 200 UAH. After Daryna transferred the money to his card, the post was indeed removed. For another 300 UAH, the administrator promised to reveal the contacts of the offender, the one who submitted her photo and the comment.

Daryna’s parents still don’t know what their daughter spent her pocket money on. She says she’s afraid they’ll disapprove. Still, as discovered, there is a whole network of similar Telegram channels flourishing in the Ukrainian Telegram segment. Naturally, we tried to find out who makes money from bullying children and teenagers.

A “business idea” behind bullying

At the time the post about Daryna was published, the “Suschnost Lvova | 2024” Telegram channel had nearly 6,000 subscribers, including around 1,300 Lviv schoolchildren who joined a chat room where they were discussing victims of bullying. They were doing it non-stop and without any censorship.

The scheme was simple. Anyone could publish anything anonymously and free of charge. Administrators earned money from deleting posts and selling customer’s contacts. We are using the past tense because this channel had already been closed. However, the business itself has not disappeared, and there are still channels and chats on Telegram with the same “business idea”, the total audience of which has already exceeded 55 thousand subscribers. All of them are administered by Ukrainians of different social statuses, such as a pianist, an active member of the Armed Forces, or a communications specialist. was able to identify some of these people. In addition, with a high degree of probability, we can assume that the real curators of this network are Russian special services.

Telegram octopus

The Russian-language channel “Suschnost Lvova | 2024” was one of the network – in general, a month ago there were at least a dozen channels on Telegram with the word “Suschnost” and the name of a city in its name. There were and still are channels in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Dnipro, etc.

The blocking and changing of the channels’ names is probably related to the activities of the cyber police, which opened a criminal case against one of the “Suschnost” in Dnipro. According to the police, in late February, the channel “Suschnost Dnepra | 2024” with more than 8,700 subscribers was blocked by joint efforts of parents and teachers.

“When there is an obvious violation, i.e., the content displayed on the channel has signs of violating Telegram’s rules, then the administration can consider a complaint even from one person. Most likely, in this case a screenshot with such a clear violation was sent,” explained Dmytro Danchenko, head of the technical support division of the Cyber Police Department in Dnipro region, who participated in the investigation.

During the investigation, found that the Telegram channels of this network are constantly migrating, changing names and accounts – apparently, due to the high probability of blocking. However, all channels are administered by the same people. Moreover, they turn the closure or renaming of a channel into another opportunity to make money on teenagers.

For example, one day, the Suschnost Lvova | 2024 posted an announcement claiming the channel had been hijacked by alleged hackers, who immediately announced “promotional discounts” for victims of bullying. Now they had to pay only 200 UAH for the offenders’ contacts instead of 300 UAH.

An journalist who had previously joined the Suschnost Lvova | 2024 channel under several fake accounts discovered that both the former managers and the “hackers” used the same bank card, which means that the same person was the recipient of the money in both cases.

This experiment proved that there was no actual hijacking. The administrators simply created an artificial hype to make extra money from the victims of harassment. They also decided to make money by selling traffic, launching a campaign calling for people to subscribe to other Telegram channels and Instagram and share content for a financial reward.

All the channels of the “Suschnost” network have chats, where they not only continue to harass victims, but also offer and sell drugs, or at least allow drug dealers to use these platforms. We traced several dialogues of that kind in “Suschnost Kieva” and “Suschnost Lvova” chats.

In general, these chats are overflowing with obscene language, threats, and calls for violence. Сhild porn in gifs and photos of dismemberment happen too.

Chats play an important role in retaining the audience. When channels are blocked or deleted, they remain the main source of communication between administrators and subscribers. It is through chats that subscribers learn new “Suschnost” addresses and receive secret links.

Who makes money on this?

Today, most of the “Suschnost” continue their activities in the group “All About You Ukraine: What people think about you”. It hosts channels from Dnipro, Kyiv, Lviv, and Odesa, as well as a new all-Ukrainian chat. This time, the project owners decided not to bother with separate channels for each city, but rather combine them into a single group. So, from now on, teenagers can be in touch with each other on a larger scale. Kharkiv was an exception. The Suschnost Kharkova was not very popular, so the administrators are actively promoting it under the new name, “Secrets of Kharkiv | What People Think About You”, posting links on other channels and in online chats. journalist tested the system of posting and removing posts in the group. There is a single fee for victims of all-Ukrainian bullying: UAH 200 for deleting a post and the same amount for the offender’s contact details.  And most importantly, she received the same card number from the managers of “All About You Ukraine” that she had previously been given by the managers of Lviv “Suschnist”.

The account was opened at the Ukrainian Sense Bank, formerly Alfa-Bank that nationalized in 2023. This bank is not known for its online banking, so we could only see the recipient’s name by paying through the bank’s cash desk.

Receipts show that the money was received by a Ukrainian citizen, Danyil Stepanenko, 22. On his page on the Russian social network VKontakte he claims to be an Adventist (one of the Protestant denominations) and preaches the approaching end of the world. Stepanenko also turned out to be a pianist, and a few years ago he even ran a YouTube channel where he posted his covers.

Danyil Stepanenko, 22 (photo from Telegram)

Danyil Stepanenko, 22 (photo from Telegram)

According to GetContact і a mobile application that allows you to see how a certain phone number is recorded in the address book of other users Stepanenko’s interlocutors identify him not only as “Adventist” or “Danik” but also as “Danuk Lead Exchange”. “Leads” are potential customers who have shown interest in any offer. And lead exchanges, respectively, are trading platforms where you can buy or sell leads or traffic. The same traffic that the administration of Suschnost seems to have been selling before the channel was closed in Lviv.

Stepanenko did not want to talk on the phone, but responded on Telegram. He denies any involvement in the network of bullying projects, saying that he does not even have an account with Sense Bank. However, it turned out that his name was almost unique. There is only one other boy in Ukraine with the same name and he is only 15. And you can’t open a fully functional bank card at Sense Bank until you turn 18.

Stepanenko says that he works as a cryptocurrency business development specialist, namely Market Making Pro. He is originally from the village of Yampil, Sumy region. When the full-scale invasion started, he moved to safer regions. For example, some time ago he was working as a waiter in Ivano-Frankivsk. identified another administrator of this network, Valentyn Belitsky, 20, who went by the nickname “Valentin,” and was in charge of the “Suschnost” channels and chats in Kyiv, Dnipro, and Lviv. He turned out to be an active serviceman of the electronic warfare unit of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade of the Ukrainian Navy based in Mykolaiv.

Valentyn Belitsky, an active serviceman of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (photo from Telegram)

Valentyn Belitsky, an active serviceman of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (photo from Telegram)

He wasn’t hiding his involvement with the network. For example, on February 20, he posted a video in the Lviv “Suschnost” chat room in which he commented on the news that Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets contacted the police and government over a new type of bullying of children through Telegram channels. “We are now ready to communicate with law enforcement and Lubinets, and I will be happy to tell you why we decided to create this public channel,” Belitsky openly stated at the time.

However, in a conversation with a journalist from, he started explaining himself and said he didn’t support humiliation of people. According to him, he hadnothing to do with the “Suschnost” project, and only agreed to moderate chats for free in his spare time at the request of his friends from Dnipro.

“When I was away at work, I didn’t have the opportunity [to moderate], but the military is not always at the frontline,” he says. – “I just came in two or three times a week, infrequently, and deleted posts from kids who sent contents with pornography and dismemberment”.

However, Valentyn Belitsky is clearly lying – it was he who recruited new admins to work for the newly created “All About You Ukraine: What people think about you”. In addition, in his Telegram profile, he provides a link to the chatbot of this channel.

Belitsky assures he does not know who the owner of “Suschnost” is and that this is the first time he has heard Stepanenko’s name, and that he communicated with other project participants only virtually. However, it was he who gave him the contacts of the “real” administrator named Denys.

Trukha: true colors revealedWho really stands behind the largest network of anonymous Telegram channels in Ukraine and how much it costsreal owners of Trukha network Denys, who goes by the nickname Stakan in the “Suschnost” universe, noted that he is not just one of the channel’s administrators, but literally “the chief moderator of all Telegram channels.” He frankly said that the staff of Suschnost has now been greatly reduced, from 10 moderators before to 3-4 now.  Denys says that he has never met the project owner – their communication is purely virtual.

Denys Stakan (freeze frame from GIF)

Denys Stakan (freeze frame from GIF)

Moreover, according to Denys, the goal of Suschnost is very noble: to draw attention to bullying of children. And the money earned from teenagers will be donated to the Armed Forces.

“When I met [the owner of the channel], he had a small chat with maybe 500 people. And he told me that he wanted to create some kind of group so that we could communicate. The main idea was not that we were offending anyone. The idea was to draw the attention of the police, parents, principals, and teachers to the problem of bullying and cyberbullying. When children write to us, we ask that their parents contact us if possible, and we communicate with them via chat or phone. We’ve had a lot of gratitude from parents,” Denys says.

He claims that about 40% of the money earned by the project is given to various fund-raisers for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and the rest goes to the owner to further develop the network. Denys flatly refused to name the owner of the network. was also unable to identify him.

Legal consequences and the Russian trail

“The nature of the bullying will determine whether the perpetrator will be brought to administrative or criminal responsibility,” says lawyer Svitlana Ilnytska. “Accordingly, the owners of the channels that organize bullying will obviously be criminally liable for organizing a platform for bullying children. That is, if there are several people involved, then if there are certain signs, it can even be qualified as the creation of a criminal organization.”

“You won’t believe it, it’s a shock!”Russian security services attack famous Ukrainians on TikTokManipulations on TikTok In the case of “Suschnost”, the network’s management may even face treason charges. However, all the channel administrators we spoke to, deny any supervision from Russia. However, the manager of the Lviv project had the nickname “vortecya_lviv”. Fortress Lviv” was a trend on Russian psyop і psychological operation , which was promoted on social media in the summer of 2023.

In addition, before the Lviv channel was removed, the profile of its manager was registered to the Russian phone number +79059187325. The same number was the contact number for the manager of the Moscow-based channel Suschnost. And most importantly, this number is now used by the manager of the all-Ukrainian group “All About You Ukraine: What people think about you”. The former manager of the Odesa project also had a Russian number, +79318503488.

Psychological consequences

Parents may not recognize that their child has become a victim of cyberbullying in time, and that’s why it’s dangerous. For example, parents of Daryna, 13, still don’t know that their daughter was being bullied.

Natalia Yakovleva, a psychotherapist in the field of child, youth, and family psychology, told that the consequences of such bullying can be tragic. “There will be a moral factor, a psychological factor, and then a physical factor. Because if a child does not have an opportunity to remove this comment, (s)he will be anxious. Not many children can afford the fee charged. These feelings lead to withdrawal, apathy, depression, and in this context, obsessive suicidal thoughts often appear,” the psychologist says.