Mystery surrounds arrest of alleged Russian spy couple in Sweden

Russian Embassy SwedenNUMEROUS UNANSWERED QUESTIONS SURROUND the arrest of a Russian married couple in Sweden, on charges of espionage. The arrest took place in dramatic fashion in the early hours of Tuesday, November 22. According to the Swedish media, members of the security forces descended via tactical ropes from two Blackhawk helicopters, as startled residents in the typically quiet Stockholm suburb of Nacka looked on.

The raid was apparently conducted based on information received by Sweden’s counterintelligence agency, the Swedish Security Service (SAPO), coupled with tips from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The targets of the operation were Sergei Nikolaevich Skvortsov and Elena Mikhailovna Kulkova, a Russian-born married couple, who moved to Sweden from Russia in 1999. According to their identity documents, Skvortsov was born in Perm on July 28, 1963, and Kulkova in Moscow on May 22, 1964.

Both Skvortsov and Kulkova are university-educated, with a background in science, mathematics and cybernetics. Upon settling in Sweden, they worked in the import-export technology sector. By 2013 they had become Swedish citizens and had a son. Kulkova also had a daughter from a previous marriage. The Russian investigative source The Insider reports that Kulkova’s daughter’s boyfriend worked for Swedish military intelligence.

Swedish authorities allege that the two suspects migrated to Stockholm on orders of the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, known as GRU. The GRU allegedly did not activate them until after they had acquired Swedish citizenship. According to the court indictment, Skvortsov and Kulkova began to actively spy against the United States in 2013 and against Sweden in 2014.

Some sources claim that the case of the Russian couple may be connected to the recent arrests of Payam and Peyman Kia, two Iranian-born Swedish brothers, who were arrested in 2021 and are now facing charges of engaging in espionage on behalf of the GRU. Payam Kia worked for SAPO and had access to classified information from a host of Swedish government agencies. SAPO reportedly launched the probe in 2017, following suspicions that it harbored a spy in its personnel ranks.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 December 2022 | Research credit: A.G. | Permalink

Israel beefs up protection of its senior spies, as proxy war with Iran intensifies

Iran UAV droneISRAELI AUTHORITIES HAVE STEPPED up measures to protect its senior intelligence and security figures, over concerns they may be targeted by agents of the Iranian state, according to news reports. The news comes amidst widespread concerns that the ongoing shadow conflict between Israel and Iran is escalating in the shadow of the Russo-Ukrainian war.

On Thursday, Israel’s state-owned broadcaster and news agency, Kan, reported that  the government of Israel had implemented additional security measures to protect current and former members of its security and intelligence agencies. The report added that the measures are focused largely on current and former members of Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, as well as those associated with Israel’s intelligence and security apparatus that are living abroad.

The report comes amidst concerns among security observers that a clandestine war between Israel and Iran is growing in intensity. To a notable extent, this growth is being fueled by the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Iran’s supply of cheap and reliable attack drones appears to be enabling Moscow to subvert and outright destroy Ukraine’s national infrastructure. In what seems like a direct response to Iran’s actions, Israel war materiel is now flowing into Ukraine, reportedly through a NATO country.

There are indications that this proxy conflict between Israel and Iran is spreading in Europe and the Middle East. Seeing the success of the use of Iranian drones, some European countries with limited airstrike capabilities, like Serbia and Armenia, are reportedly considering purchasing drone attack systems from Tehran. Meanwhile, Israeli weapons exports to Arab states have skyrocketed since the normalization of Israel’s relations with a number Arab countries in recent years. According to a recent report, last year marked a historic record for the volume of Israeli military and security exports, which increased by 30 percent from 2020. Much of that increase is due to Israeli weapons exports to Arab states, such as Morocco, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 28 November 2022 | Permalink

Sweden charges two brothers with spying for Russian military intelligence

Säpo swedenAUTHORITIES IN SWEDEN HAVE charged two brothers, one of whom worked in a highly secretive Swedish intelligence unit, with spying for Russian military intelligence for a decade, according to news reports. The charges resulted from a six-year investigation led by the Swedish Security Service (SAPO), which is the country’s counterintelligence agency. SAPO reportedly launched the probe in 2017, based on suspicions that it harbored a spy in its personnel ranks.

The two brothers have been named by Swedish media as Payam Kia, 35, and Peyman Kia, 42. They were reportedly born in Iran and became Swedish citizens in 1994. It is also reported that Payam Kia worked for SAPO and had access to classified information from a host of Swedish government agencies. SAPO accuses the two men of having worked “jointly” to pass information to the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, known broadly as GRU.

According to Swedish authorities, the two men began spying for Russia in September of 2011 and continued until the fall of 2021. Peyman Kia allegedly acted as a courier, passing information and payments between his brother and his Russian handlers. Per Lindqvist, chief prosecutor for Sweden’s National Security Unit, told the Associated Press news agency that the Kia brothers case involved “extremely sensitive topics”, but did not elaborate. Some reports claim that Payam Kia had access to the files of Swedish spies operating abroad.

The younger of the two brothers was reportedly arrested in September of 2021. His older brother was arrested in November of the same year. They face up to life imprisonment. They both deny the charges against them.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 November 2022 | Permalink

Norway arrests alleged Russian illegal who spent years building cover in Canada

José Giammaria Mikhail MikushinAN ALLEGED RUSSIAN DEEP-cover intelligence operative, who was arrested by Norwegian police last week, spent years building his fake cover in Canada, while studying there as a Brazilian citizen, according to reports. Norway’s Police Security Service (PST) announced last week that it had arrested José Assis Giammaria, a 37-year-old Brazilian citizen, on suspicion of entering Norway on false pretenses. According to the PST, Giammaria is in fact a Russian citizen, who has been operating in Norway as a non-official-cover (NOC) intelligence officer.

According to Norwegian authorities, Giammaria worked as a researcher at the Arctic University of Norway. Known as UiT, the university is located in the northern Norwegian city of Tromsø. It has a worldwide reputation for research, and approximately 10 percent of its 17,000 students are international. While there, Giammaria was a volunteer researcher for a UiT GreyZone, a scholarly project that studies contemporary hybrid threats and grey zone warfare. His area of specialization appears to have been Arctic security.

Last Friday, the office of the Norwegian state prosecutor said it believed the suspect’s actual name is Mikhail Mikushin, a Russian citizen born in 1978. In a press statement, a Norwegian government representative said authorities were “not positively sure of his identity”, but it was clear that he was not a Brazilian national. Later on Friday, the Oslo-based Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang (VG), in association with the investigative website Bellingcat, reported that Mikushin is a military intelligence officer, who holds the rank of colonel in the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, known as GRU. The newspaper claims that Mikushin left Russia in 2006 with a cover, a term that refers to a fake operational identity used for purposes of espionage. Read more of this post

A dramatic kidnap case in Malaysia may point to changes in Mossad’s tactics

Kuala Lumpur MalaysiaREPORTS FROM KUALA LUMPUR SUGGEST that Malaysian agents operating in the service of Israeli intelligence carried out the kidnapping of a Palestinian engineer, Omar al-Balbaisi, on September 28. According to the Malaysian newspaper The Straits Times, the kidnap operation was orchestrated by the Israeli external intelligence agency, the Mossad.

Omar al-Balbaisi completed a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the Islamic University in Gaza, where he allegedly joined the Izz-ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, specializing in hacking mobile phones. In or around 2020, al-Balbaisi left the Gaza Strip for Istanbul, where, according to reports, a Hamas secret intelligence and cyber unit was established in 2020. The unit allegedly operated on instructions from the Hamas leadership in Gaza, without the knowledge of the Turkish authorities.

When al-Balbaisi was kidnapped, he was reportedly returning from lunch with another Palestinian expatriate. According to the report, a white van drove toward the two men. Four people emerged from the van, grabbed al-Balbaisi and dragged him into the vehicle, while yelling at him: “our boss wants to talk to you”. The other Palestinian tried to help al-Balbaisi, but was warned to stay away from the scene. He subsequently filed a report at a police station, reportedly about 40 minutes after his friend was kidnapped.

According to the reports, the kidnapped Palestinian was taken bound and blindfolded to a safe house, where his Malaysian captors tied him to a chair. They then called two men, allegedly Israelis, who told the abductee: “you know why you are here”. According to another report, al-Balbaisi was interrogated, allegedly by two Israelis, believed to be Mossad agents, via a video call. However, the video call was disconnected when Malaysian police officers broke into the safe house.

Upon receiving the information about the kidnapping, Malaysian police immediately sought to locate al-Balbaisi. They subsequently managed to raid the house where the Palestinian was being held, while his interrogation was underway. A source told the Malaysian newspaper that “the Israelis wanted to know about [al-Balbaisi’s] experience in the field of software, about the strengths of Hamas in this field, and the members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades that he knew”. Read more of this post

More on Russian alleged spies expelled from the Netherlands and Belgium

Kremlin KootAs intelNews reported earlier this week, a joint investigative effort by Dutch and Belgian media exposed details about a group of alleged Russian intelligence officers, who were expelled by Belgium and The Netherlands in March 2022. Dutch state broadcaster NOS and its flagship current affairs program, Nieuwsuur, aired the names, photos and backgrounds of 17 Russian intelligence officers, who were expelled from the Netherlands in March of this year. According to the Dutch government, the expelled diplomats were involved in counterintelligence and in espionage targeting the country’s high-tech sector.

According to the reports, at least 20 Russian official-cover officers were active in the Netherlands in early 2022. The reporters said they spoke with intelligence sources and the Dossier Center. That organization is financed by banned Russian oligarch and Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and claims to have access to leaked databases that contain information about the education and background of Russian intelligence officers.

Eight of the expelled officers work for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), while the other nine work for the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff (GRU). Some of them presented themselves as trade representatives in Amsterdam, as military attachés, or as diplomats at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Read more of this post

Journalists reveal names of Russian diplomats expelled by Netherlands for espionage

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AN INVESTIGATION BY A consortium of journalists from the Netherlands and Belgium has revealed the identities of 17 Russian diplomats, who were expelled in April by Dutch authorities for allegedly engaging in espionage. The expelled diplomats were among hundreds of members of the Russian diplomatic corps, who were expelled from all over Europe in March and April of this year, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As intelNews reported on April 4, the diplomats who were expelled from the Netherlands were serving at the Russian embassy in The Hague. Some of them also represented Russia at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) headquarters in The Hague. Russia responded on April 19, by announcing the expulsion of 15 Dutch diplomats from the embassy of the Netherlands in Moscow. As is customary in such cases, neither the Netherlands nor Russia revealed the names of the expelled diplomats.

Now, however, the identities of the expelled Russian diplomats have been revealed, thanks to an investigation by of a group of Dutch and Belgian journalists. The investigation was conducted under the auspices of the Dossier Center, a London-based Russian-language organization that specializes in investigative reporting. The conclusions of the invesgitation were first reported by Belgian newspaper De Tijd and by Netherlands public television, NOS.

According to the investigation, eight of the 17 expelled Russian diplomats were employees of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, known as SVR. The remaining nine were employed by the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, which is commonly known as GRU. At least six of the expelled diplomats worked as encryption specialists. They handled the communications systems that the Russian intelligence personnel who were stationed in the Netherlands used in order to exchange secret information with Moscow. A smaller number worked in counterintelligence, and were tasked with preventing efforts by adversary intelligence services to recruit Russian diplomatic personnel stationed in the Netherlands.

The report by the Dossier Center includes information about the identities of the Russian diplomats, as well as photographs and detailed biographical data about their background. According to the authors of the report, all information included in the report was collected from open sources, including from social media accounts that were maintained by the expelled Russian diplomats.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 October 2022 | Permalink

Germany ‘erroneously’ granted entry visa to known Russian intelligence officer

BfV GermanyLAST SUMMER, GERMAN EMBASSY staff in Russia issued an entry visa to a Russian national, despite warnings by at least two European security agencies that he was a known intelligence officer, according to a report. The incident has fueled persistent allegations that Berlin’s counterintelligence posture against Russia is ineffective.

According to the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, it was in July of this year when the German Embassy in Moscow received an application for an entry visa to Germany by a Russian national. The application included an official invitation issued to the visa applicant by the Russian Consulate General in the eastern German city of Leipzig. However, the application prompted a strong counterintelligence warning by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic security agency. According to Spiegel, at least one more European intelligence agency warned against allowing the Russian national to travel to Western Europe. The reason for the warnings was that the visa applicant was known to operate internationally under diplomatic cover, on behalf of a Russian intelligence agency.

The counterintelligence warnings were examined and caused the visa application to be rejected. However, a month later the applicant submitted a second application for an entry visa to Germany. Remarkably, the German embassy approved the second application, after “no longer recogni[zing] any suspicion of espionage” in association with this case. One possible reason, according to Spiegel, was that Russian officials had applied pressure on the German government, asking for a review of the application. When the issue was raised in Berlin, an internal review was launched. It reportedly found that the espionage warnings had been “overlooked due to an [administrative] error”. The visa was thus promptly canceled. Der Spiegel claims it is “possible that the accidental visa issue was related to [Berlin] wanting to show good will to the Russian side”.

What does that mean? Back in April, Germany expelled 40 suspected Russian intelligence officers, in response to Russian war crimes in Ukraine. As expected, Russia promptly expelled an equal number of German diplomats in a tit-for-tat move. The Russian Foreign Ministry made sure to point out that it would respond in a similar fashion, should Berlin choose to expel more Russian diplomats in the future. Such an eventuality, according to Spiegel, would run the risk of decimating Germany’s diplomatic presence in Russia, given that its size is considerably smaller than that of Russia’s in Germany. Germany, in other words, is not prepared to risk a complete breakdown in its diplomatic relations with Russia.

Some claim, however, that the current arrangement between the two countries is being exploited by the Kremlin. Der Spiegel notes that, according to intelligence experts, no European country hosts more Russian intelligence officers under diplomatic cover than Germany. It is estimated that at least 100 bogus diplomats are currently stationed in Russia’s diplomatic facilities throughout Germany.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 October 2022 | Permalink

Tip by Belgian spy agency helped US foil Islamic State plot to kill George Bush

George W. BushA TIP BY BELGIAN intelligence helped the Federal Bureau of Investigation foil a plot by Iraqi nationals to kill former United States President George W. Bush. American news outlets reported in May of this year that the FBI had prevented a scheme by an Iraqi national to smuggle Islamic State operatives into the United States, with the aim of killing the former president. Soon afterwards, the Department of Justice announced that the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force had arrested Ahmed Shihab, an Iraqi national, who was the alleged mastermind of the operation.

Shihab, 52, had applied for political asylum in the United States. However, he had reportedly joined the Islamic State in secret, and had devised a scheme to kill Bush during a speech that the former president had been scheduled to deliver in Dallas, Texas. For several weeks, Shihab had allegedly surveilled Bush’s Texas homes in Dallas and Crawford, capturing footage in cellphones and video cameras. Shihab had the support of thee other alleged Islamic State supporters, who had traveled to the United States from Iraq through Denmark, Egypt and Turkey.

In a report that aired late last week, Belgium’s Flemish-language state broadcaster VRT, said that the plan to kill Bush had been foiled thanks to a tip shared with the United States by Belgian intelligence. Specifically, the information was reportedly shared by the State Security Service (VSSE), Belgium’s counterintelligence and counterterrorism agency. According to the VRT, the VSSE gave actionable intelligence about Shihab to the United States Secret Service, which then worked with the FBI to foil the alleged plot. The VRT report suggests that the VSSE was able to collect the intelligence through its systematic monitoring of Belgian Islamists, who fought in the Middle East between 2014 and 2016, before eventually making their way back to Belgium.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 19 September 2022 | Permalink

Austrian pro-Kremlin officials planned to launch shadow spy agency, report claims

Austria Foreign Affairs MinistryTHE AUSTRIAN STATE HAS launched a probe into an attempt by alleged pro-Russian government officials in Vienna to create a brand new intelligence service in 2018, according to news reports. The effort did not succeed. Some claim, however, that, had it become operational, the new spy service in this European Union state would have been under Russian influence. There are also questions about whether Austria’s foreign minister at the time, Karin Kneissl, was aware of this effort, which appears to have emerged from within her ministry.

The alleged effort to create a new intelligence agency in Austria occurred during the government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, a conservative politician belonging to the center-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP). Having failed to secure a majority in parliament in the 2017 national election, Kurz’s ÖVP formed a government through an uneasy coalition with the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), a rightwing populist alliance of euro-skeptics, anti-immigration campaigners and strong critics of Islam. In joining Kurz’s governing coalition, the FPÖ was successful in installing Kneissl as Austria’s Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs.

Although previously a supporter of the ÖVP, Kneissl had worked closely with the FPÖ —though never officially joined it— in the run-up to the 2017 national election. Prior to that, she had spent nearly a decade with Austria’s Foreign Office, where she had been able to utilize her near-fluent command of English, French, Spanish, and Arabic (she had spent much of her childhood in Jordan, where her father worked as a pilot). Even prior to heading the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Kneissl —and the FPÖ as a whole— was seen by her critics as being too close to the Kremlin. At her wedding in 2018, the list of guests included Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kneissl stepped down from her ministerial post in the summer of 2019. She has since blogged for the Kremlin-funded Russia Today television channel, while also serving —until earlier this year— on the board of the Moscow-headquartered energy company Rosneft. Read more of this post

Tip by confidential human source guided FBI search of Trump’s home, reports claim

Mar-a-Lago MULTIPLE NEWS OUTLETS CLAIMED on Wednesday that Monday’s search by authorities of a Florida residential compound belonging to former United States President Donald Trump was based on information provided to the Federal Bureau of Investigation by a confidential human source. The source reportedly gave the FBI details about a number of classified documents that were allegedly hidden in Trump’s Florida estate, as well as their precise location.

America’s troubled political waters turned stormy once again on Monday morning, when around 35 FBI special agents and technical support personnel arrived at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in a convoy of unmarked vehicles. The FBI team proceeded to execute a search warrant, which authorized them to confiscate government files that were allegedly in storage at the luxury estate. According to the 1978 Presidential Records Act, these files belong to the state and should have been deposited to the National Archives upon Trump’s departure from the White House in January of 2021.

On Monday afternoon, the FBI staff reportedly left Trump’s residence with between 10 and 15 boxes of documents. In the ensuing hours, a number of commentators pointed out that, as per Trump’s attorney Lindsey Halligan, who observed the search in person, the FBI focused on just three rooms, ignoring the rest of the sprawling mansion —namely Trump’s office, a bedroom and a storage room. That, according to some, points to the strong possibility that the FBI special agents had prior information about the location of the files.

On Wednesday morning, Newsweek said it could confirm that the FBI had prior information about the precise location of the files. The news outlet cited two senior government officials, including “an intelligence source” who had “direct knowledge of the FBI’s deliberations” in the days leading up to the search. According to the sources, during the first week of August the government prosecutor in charge of the case was able to secure a search warrant by a West Palm Beach judge. The prosecutor reportedly did so by providing the judge with “abundant and persuasive detail” about the files, which “proved that those records were contained at Mar-a-Lago […] in a specific safe in a specific room”.

On Wednesday evening, The Wall Street Journal also reported that the FBI had been approached by “someone familiar with stored papers”. The source allegedly provided government investigators with information about the precise location of “classified documents” at Mar-a-Lago. The paper added that the FBI confidential source had direct access to the documents.

The US attorney general’s guidelines [PDF] define FBI confidential human sources as individuals who are “believed to be providing useful and credible information to the FBI for any authorized information collection activity”. They further stipulates that the FBI expects or intends to obtain “additional useful and credible information” from confidential human sources in the future, thus it usually builds a long-term relationship with these individuals. The guidelines also note that, given the sensitivity of the role of confidential human sources, their “identity, information or relationship with the FBI warrants confidential handling”.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 11 August 2022 | Permalink

Ukraine war prompts European Union to overhaul counter-surveillance practices

European Commission buildingTHE POLITICAL FALLOUT OF the Russian invasion of Ukraine is prompting the European Union (EU) to radically upgrade the security of its facilities, according to a series of internal memoranda. On July 14, the EUObserver, an EU-focused news agency based in Brussels, said it had seen an internal EU document that describes the creation of a new anti-surveillance unit. The unit’s mission will reportedly center on providing security for closed-door EU meetings, using counter-measures standards employed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

According to EUObserver, EU member states have agreed to establish a so-called “CSC-TSCM Expert Group,” which will spearhead the formation of this new unit. In security parlance, TSCM stands for technical security counter-measures, a method of counter-surveillance. In their most basic form, TSCM operations are carried out by teams of technical experts trained in the use of anti-bugging equipment. These are able to detect radio emissions, which are generated by most surveillance devices —commonly referred to as ‘bugs’.

The internal memorandum stipulates that the “CSC-TSCM Expert Group” will be officially set up after July 25. It will consist of experts from several EU states. The resulting unit’s mission will be to “prevent, detect and potentially neutralise eavesdropping of information in any physical or electronic form,” the memorandum states. Counter-measures operations will include regular inspections of “facilities and vehicles and the protection of classified meetings” in buildings that house the EU Council, EU Parliament, and the European Commission.

The forthcoming formation of the “CSC-TSCM Expert Group” appears to be closely linked to news, published earlier this month, relating to the construction of a new facility. The new facility is described in the media as an EU “secure bunker.” According to the EUObserver, the €8 million ($8.07 million) enclosed space will operate as a designated EU sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF). The term denotes a secure area within a larger building, which is used to discuss sensitive topics and process classified information. Read more of this post

Newspaper discloses names of Russian alleged spies expelled from Belgium

Russian embassy in BelgiumA BRUSSELS-BASED NEWSPAPER has publicized the names and backgrounds of nearly two dozen Russian diplomats, who were recently expelled by the Belgian government on suspicion of espionage. A total of 21 Russian diplomats were expelled from Belgium in April, in co-ordination with dozens of European governments. The move was part of a broader European wave of diplomatic expulsions of Russian diplomatic personnel, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Like other governments in Europe, the Belgians carried out the expulsions of Russian diplomats in secret, and employed a “no comment” policy in response to media requests. Such an approach is customary when it comes to diplomatic expulsions. It allows the government ordering the expulsions to expect a similar level of discretion if and when its own diplomats are expelled in a possible tit-for-tat move by an adversary. It is therefore highly unusual for information concerning expelled diplomatic personnel to be made public. And yet that is precisely what happened earlier this week, when the EUObserver, an English language newspaper based in Brussels, published information about the names and backgrounds [PDF] of the 21 expelled Russian diplomats. The paper said the information was leaked by a source, but did not elaborate.

According to the newspaper, all 21 expelled diplomats were men. It further alleged that 10 of them were intelligence personnel of the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff. A further nine diplomats worked for the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR, Russia’s equivalent to the United States Central Intelligence Agency), while two were employees of the external service of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Most were in their 40s, though at least one was in his early 60s and one was in his late 20s. The EUObserver said that some of the information about the alleged spies was unearthed by The Dossier Center, a British-based open-source information outlet, which is similar to Bellingcat. The Dossier Center is funded by the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is a critic of the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Read more of this post

Dutch intelligence disrupts Russian effort to infiltrate International Criminal Court

International Criminal CourtON JUNE 16, THE Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) announced that it prevented a Russian military intelligence officer from gaining access as an intern to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The ICC is of interest to the GRU because it investigates possible war crimes committed by Russia in the Russo-Georgian War of 2008 and more recently in Ukraine.

The GRU officer reportedly traveled from Brazil to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam in April 2022, using a Brazilian cover identity, making him a so-called “illegal”. This means the intelligence operative was not formally associated with a Russian diplomatic facility. He allegedly planned to start an internship with the ICC, which would have given him access to the ICC’s building and systems. This could have enabled the GRU to collect intelligence, spot and recruit sources, and possibly influence criminal proceedings inside the ICC.

On his arrival at Schiphol, the AIVD informed the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND), after which the officer was refused entry to the Netherlands and put on the first plane back to Brazil as persona non grata. The AIVD assessed the officer as a “potentially very serious” threat to both national security and the security of the ICC and Holland’s international allies, due to his access to the organization.

In a first-ever for the AIVD, the agency also released the contents of a partially redacted 4-page document that describes the “extensive and complex” cover identity of the officer. It was originally written in Portuguese, “probably created around mid-2010” and “likely written” by the officer himself. According to the AIVD, the information provides valuable insight into his modus operandi. The cover identity hid any and all links between him and Russia. According to the AIVD, the construction of this kind of cover identity “generally takes years to complete”.

In the note accompanying the document, the AIVD says that Russian intelligence services “spend years” on the construction of cover identities for illegals, using “information on how other countries register and store personal data”. Alternatively, they illegally procure or forge identity documents. Information in the cover identity “can therefore be traceable to one or more actual persons, living or dead” as well as to forged identities of individuals “who only exist on paper or in registries of local authorities”.

AuthorMatthijs Koot | Date: 17 June 2022 | Permalink

Many see Israel behind May 22 killing of Iranian paramilitary leader in Tehran

IRGC IranA GROWING NUMBER OF security observers point to Israel as the most likely culprit behind the assassination of a leading member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s powerful paramilitary force. Brigadier General Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, who was killed in broad daylight in Tehran on May 22, served as deputy director of the Quds Force, a major branch of the IRGC. The mission of the Quds Force is to carry out unconventional warfare, especially in support of IRGC operations against adversaries abroad.

Observers regularly describe the IRGC as a ‘praetorian guard’ that operates inside Iran’s governing apparatus. Today the IRGC is a military force with a command structure that is distinct from Iran’s regular Armed Forces. It maintains its own army, navy and air force, has its own paramilitary and political protection units, and oversees Iran’s nuclear program. The IRGC’s weapons development falls under the duties of the Quds Force, in which Khodaei was a leading figure. He was also known to have been closely mentored by IRGC Commander Qasem Soleimani, who was assassinated by the United States in 2020.

Kodaei was assassinated in broad daylight on May 22, as he was heading home from his office in downtown Tehran, located a few blocks from the main building of Iran’s Consultative Assembly. According to eyewitness reports, Kodaei’s vehicle was rapidly approached by two individuals riding on a motorbike. They sped away seconds after shooting Kodaei five times, killing him almost instantly. The entrance to the street where Kodaei was attacked was allegedly blocked by a white van, which also sped away following the shooting.

Israel is known for carrying out assassinations of Iranian officials using motorbikes, which can move with relative ease in the congested streets of Tehran. IntelNews regulars will recall that Israeli intelligence claimed last month to have detained and interrogated an alleged Iranian assassin named Mansour Rasouli. A video of his alleged testimony emerged, which was reportedly filmed at a Mossad safehouse somewhere in Iran. Meanwhile, Kodaei’s assassins remain at large.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 May 2022 | Permalink

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