Ukraine, Belarus expel diplomats following espionage claims

Ukrainian embassy in BelarusUkraine fired its deputy-head of foreign intelligence and expelled a Belarussian diplomat a day after the government of Belarus claimed that it busted a Ukrainian spy ring that recruited local agents. The chain of events began on October 25, when the Belarussian Committee for State Security (KGB) arrested a Ukrainian journalist. The journalist, Pavlo Sharoyko, is based in the Belarussian capital Minsk and works as the Belarus correspondent for the National Radio Company of Ukraine —the country’s public broadcaster. Even though Sharoyko was arrested in October, his imprisonment was not publicly announced by Belarus until last Saturday. On Tuesday, November 21, at a press conference held at the KGB headquarters in Minsk, KGB spokesman Dmitry Pobyarzhin told reporters that Sharoyko was arrested for engaging in espionage on behalf of the Ukrainian government.

According to Pobyarzhin, Sharoyko is an undercover intelligence officer masquerading as a journalist. His real employer, said Pobyarzhin, is the Chief Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. While based in Minsk, the Ukrainian radio correspondent allegedly built an extensive network of spies, consisting of Belarussian citizens who carried out espionage tasks in exchange for financial compensation, said Pobyarzhin. The KGB spokesman also claimed that Sharoyko was not officially associated with the Ukrainian embassy in Minsk, but he had a spy handler there. The alleged handler, a Ukrainian diplomat by the name of Ihor Skvortsov, had been confronted by the KGB and expelled from the country for engaging in espionage, said Pobyarzhin.

Late on Tuesday, The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said that Sharoyko had worked there as a spokesman before 2009, but rejected the charges against him. However, on Monday, a day after Sharoyko’s arrest was announced, Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, dismissed the deputy director of the country’s Foreign Intelligence Service, V. Sinkevich, from his post. It is not known whether the surprise dismissal is connected to the announcement by the Belarussian KGB. On Tuesday, Kiev announced that it had expelled a Belarussian diplomat from the embassy of Belarus in the Ukrainian capital, in response to the expulsion of Skvortsov the day before. The Ukrainian government did not name the expelled Belarussian diplomat.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 24 November 2017 | Permalink

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News you may have missed #885

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Lithuania charges state employee with spying for Belarus, Russia

Belarus and LithuaniaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Prosecutors in Lithuania have charged an employee of a state-owned airline navigation services provider with spying for neighboring Belarus, though it is presumed the compromised information may have also been shared with Russia. Lithuanian government prosecutor Darius Raulusaitis told reporters at a news conference on Monday that the man charged was a Lithuanian national living and working in capital Vilnius. He has been identified only with his initials, which are R.L. The alleged spy is being accused of collecting information relating to Lithuania’s military strength with the intention of sharing it with unregistered agents of Belarus. He has also been charged with passing information on what the Lithuanian prosecutor described as “strategically important companies” in the Baltic republic. His alleged targets are said to include Oro Navigacija, Lithuania’s state-owned aviation company, for which he worked. Court documents accuse R.L. of surreptitiously photographing documents in his office at Oro Navigacija’s headquarters, and then transferring them to facilities belonging to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Belarus. Raulusaitis told reporters that R.L. had been charged with “spying against the Lithuanian Republic on orders of intelligence services of the Belarus Republic”. He added, however, that Lithuania’s State Security Department (VSD) considered it likely that “any information obtained by the Belarus secret service” had been “shared with the Russian [intelligence] services”. At a separate news conference, VSD Director Gediminas Grina said that passing classified information to Belarus “is the same to us as spying for Russia”. Belarus is arguably Russia’s closest European ally; many international observers consider Belarus a supranational part of the post-Soviet Russian Federation. Regular intelNews readers will recall that in 2012 Belarus arrested a military attaché at the Lithuanian embassy in Belorussian capital Minsk, after accusing him of running an espionage ring allegedly incorporating an undisclosed number of Belorussian nationals. Lithuanian authorities said earlier this week that R.L. is one of two Lithuanian citizens arrested in 2013 following a three-year investigation by the VSD. The second suspect, who has not been named, is reportedly under “pre-trial investigation”, which is expected to take “weeks or months’ to complete. The announcement of the charges against R.L. marks the first time Lithuanian authorities have leveled charges of espionage against an individual since 2004, when the former Soviet republic joined the European Union. If found guilty, R.L. faces up to 15 years in jail.

Controversial ex-Mossad chief ‘fighting for his life’ following operation

Meir DaganBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An Israeli former intelligence chief, who has been voicing strong public criticism of Israeli calls for an all-out war with Iran, is allegedly “fighting for his life” following a transplant operation in Belarus. An announcement aired late on Tuesday by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Meir Dagan, who led Israeli covert-action agency Mossad from 2002 to 2010, had undergone a kidney transplant at a hospital in Belarusian capital Minsk. Lukashenko claimed that the former Mossad strongman, who was born in Russia, had decided to undergo the operation in the former Soviet republic after consulting with him personally. The Belarusian president claimed that, prior to traveling to Minsk for the operation, Dagan had asked American, German and Swedish doctors to perform it, but that they refused, allegedly because “no one wanted to carry out a liver transplant operation on a former head of the Mossad”. According to the announcement, the former Mossad Director was operated on over a week ago and initially seemed to be doing well. However, complications soon set in and he is currently “recovering in isolation”, while it appears that his body is not receiving the transplant well. Reputable Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz said that Belarusian media had directed several queries to hospital staff in Minsk, who apparently confirmed that an organ transplant had been performed on a patient who was a citizen of Israel. But they refused to give the person’s name due to patient confidentiality rules. It is not clear why Dagan had to leave Israel in order to undergo the operation, or why he failed to notify the Israeli embassy in Belarus. Israeli diplomats in Minks told Israeli media that they had no idea about Dagan’s medical procedure or even presence in the eastern European country. Read more of this post

Ukraine jails North Koreans in missile espionage case

One of the two North Koreans being led to courtBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A court in Ukraine has jailed two North Korean citizens on charges of trying to obtain secret technical information about missile engines. A Ukrainian government official said on Monday that the North Koreans had each been sentenced to eight years in prison, and that “they will serve their sentence in Ukraine”. Speaking to Russian-language Ukrainian daily Segodnya, the official said that Ukrainian authorities had expected that Pyongyang would request extradition of its two citizens, but that the North Korean government’s reaction had been “passive”. According to the paper, the two convicted men, who have not been named, were employed by the North Korean trade mission in Belarusian capital Minsk. It was from there that, several months ago, they arrived by train to Kiev, where they tried —unsuccessfully— to recruit a number of locals as informants. One of the latter tipped off Ukrainian authorities, who placed the two North Koreans under surveillance. Eventually, the two suspects were arrested in a rented garage in the Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk, while photographing technical documents with a pair of handheld miniature digital cameras. The Segodnya report stated that the documents consisted of doctoral dissertations, marked ‘confidential’, which described highly technical methods of designing effective solid- and liquid-fuel supply systems for missile engines. Some of the documents concerned the technical specifications of computer software to assist in the design of missile fuel supply systems, said the paper. The confidential documents had reportedly been taken from the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau, a cornerstone of the Soviet —and now the Ukrainian— space industry, which in the early 1960s developed the R-16 (known in the West as SS-7), the first inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) successfully deployed by the Soviet Union. Read more of this post

Belarus announces arrest of alleged Lithuanian spy ring members

Belarus and LithuaniaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The government of Belarus has announced the arrest of an espionage ring allegedly operating out of the Lithuanian embassy in Belarusian capital Minsk. It appears that the alleged ring consisted of at least one Lithuanian embassy official, identified only as “Mr. F” in Belarusian state documents, as well as an undisclosed number of Belarusian nationals. A brief statement published on the website of the Belarusian State Security Committee, the KGB, said that the Lithuanian official, who is said to be a military attaché at the embassy, was arrested along with several Belarusian members of the alleged spy ring. The arrests reportedly took place soon after members of the spy ring were caught in the act of exchanging information; the KGB press office added that “electronic equipment” and “spy gadgets” of an undisclosed nature were confiscated from the arrestees. Little is known at this point about the precise focus of the accused spies; the KGB claims that they were “engaged in efforts to gain information in the military sphere”. Media reports from Minsk suggest that the activities of the alleged ring were particularly focused on bilateral security arrangements between Belarus and Russia. Belarus, a former Soviet republic, is today one of Russia’s staunchest allies in Europe; since 1994, the country has been ruled by Russophile President Alexander Lukashenko, who often accuses other former Soviet republics —including Lithuania— of stooping to the West. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #743 (espionage edition)

Vladimir LazarBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Denmark professor jailed for spying. Timo Kivimäki a Finnish professor of international politics in Copenhagen, Denmark, has been sentenced to five months in prison for spying, following a trial held behind closed doors, from which even the verdict was not released. Several Russian diplomats left Denmark after the start of the spy case and, according to Danish media, Kivimäki’s lawyer, Anders Nemeth, had attempted to have them return to act as witnesses.
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