Colombian intelligence spied on Russian and Cuban diplomats, reports claim

Russian embassy in Bogota, ColombiaCOLOMBIAN INTELLIGENCE CARRIED OUT surveillance operations against Russian and Cuban diplomats stationed in Colombia between 2016 and 2019, according to media reports that surfaced earlier this week. The reports claim that Colombia’s National Intelligence Directorate (DNI) was behind the operations, which involved physical, as well as electronic, surveillance.

One of the operations was reportedly codenamed CATEDRA, and targeted three senior staff members of the Russian embassy in the Colombian capital Bogota. In addition to the diplomats themselves, DNI agents allegedly spied on the diplomats’ spouses and their children. In some cases, DNI agents disguised themselves as “street vendors” in order to spy on the homes of the diplomats. The agency also planted electronic devices in hotels around Colombia —notably in the resort town of Melgar in central Colombia, where over a dozen staff members of the Russian embassy holidayed in 2017.

Allegedly, Operation CATEDRA also involved the interception of communications of at least two Russian diplomats. These were identified as Denis Viktorovich Khromov, who served as the second secretary at the Russian embassy in Bogota, as well as Aleksandr Nikolayevich Belousov, who in late 2020 was declared persona non grata and expelled by the Colombian government on charges of espionage. Colombian media said at the time that Belousov had been outed as an intelligence officer, following a two-year DNI operation codenamed ENIGMA.

The DNI also spied on at least 10 Cuban diplomats and other members of the embassy of Cuba in Bogota, according to the same reports. The operation, codenamed MATIAS, investigated alleged “Cuban interference” in Colombia, and took place while the Cuban government was hosting peace talks between the Colombian government of then-president Juan Manuel Santos and leaders of the country’s largest militant groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).

According to the reports, the DNI recruited a Cuban embassy worker, instructing her to “install [surveillance] devices and extract information from the building where control targets [were] located”. This eventually enabled the DNI to gain “access to security cameras and rooms throughout the building” of the Cuban embassy, the reports claim. Operations MATIAS and CATEDRA were reportedly concluded in 2019.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 18 January 2023 | Permalink

One Response to Colombian intelligence spied on Russian and Cuban diplomats, reports claim

  1. Pete says:

    Colombia’s National Intelligence Directorate (DNI) is comparatively small in personnel size and intelligence database to run an operation against Russian and Cuban diplomats stationed in Bogota.

    Highly likely the local representation of DNI’s American allies were closely involved – even the driving force – with a hope that a future agent like Ogorodnik could be encouraged.

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