Turkey announces arrest of Russian and Israeli alleged spies following crackdown

MIT Turkey

THE GOVERNMENT OF TURKEY has announced the arrest of 21 individuals, among them foreign citizens, whom it accuses of “political and military espionage” on behalf of Israel, and of planning assassinations ordered by Russia. Turkish authorities released separately two statements on Thursday, announcing the arrests of alleged spies for Israel and Russia respectively. The two sets of arrests do not appear to be connected, despite the fact that they were announced on the same day.

Six alleged assassins operating under Russian command were arrested on October 8 in Antalya, a tourist resort located on Turkey’s southern coast. Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) said the group includes four Russians, a Ukrainian and an Uzbek. They allegedly planned to kill a number of Chechen separatists who live in Turkey. In preparation of the alleged assassinations, group members “were in the process of obtaining weapons”, according to Turkish government prosecutors.

A court in Istanbul has reportedly ruled that the members of the alleged assassination team should remain behind bars, pending a trial for espionage. Meanwhile the a Russian government spokesman said on Thursday that the Kremlin was “not aware” of any Russian citizens having been arrested on espionage charges in Turkey, adding that the Russian embassy in Ankara had not been informed of any such arrests.

Meanwhile, in a separate announcement issued on Thursday, the MİT disclosed the arrests of 15 members of an alleged spy ring for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. Turkish media reports said the 15 individuals had been arrested in a series of raids that took place across four Turkish provinces on October 7, following a year-long counterintelligence operation. Turkish authorities claim that the spy ring monitored the activities of Palestinians living in Turkey and provided the information to the Mossad, in return “for tens of thousands of dollars and euros”. The Israeli government has not commented on these reports.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 October 2021 | Permalink

Mystery arrest of Russian mercenaries in Belarus ‘was US-Ukrainian sting operation’

Belarus KGB

THE BIZARRE CASE OF the arrest of three dozen Russian mercenaries in Belarus in 2020, allegedly for trying to destabilize the country, was in reality a joint Ukrainian-American sting operation that went awry, according to a new report. IntelNews readers will remember the puzzling July 2020 announcement by Belarusian authorities of the arrest of 33 Russians, who were said to be employees of Wagner Group, a Kremlin-backed private military firm.

The 33 Russians were charged with terrorism against the government of Belarussian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, who was then seeking a sixth term in office. Soon afterwards, the Belarussian State Security Committee (KGB) said the Russians had entered the country as part of a 200-strong group of mercenaries working for Wagner, in order to “destabilize the situation during the election campaign” of Lukashenko. That, however, made little sense, given that Lukashenko is one of Moscow’s strongest international allies. To add to the mystery, the Russians were quietly released from custody just a few days later.

What was behind that mysterious case? According to the American news network CNN, the bizarre incident was part of an international sting operation set up by the Ukrainian intelligence services with the support of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Citing three former high-ranking Ukrainian military intelligence officials, CNN claims that the sting operation aimed to lure, and eventually arrest, Russian mercenaries who have participated in the Kremlin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine since 2014.

The news network claims that the Ukrainian intelligence services set up a fake Russian private military company and used it to advertise $5,000-a-month contracts to provide security for Venezuelan oil facilities. Hundreds of Russian would-be contractors sent in applications. When quizzed by the fake company about their bona-fides, the applicants freely provided evidence of their participation in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War.

The ultimate goal of the sting operation was to sign up the Russian contractors and offer to transport them to Turkey, from where they would supposedly fly to Caracas and begin working. In reality, however, the Russians would be transported to Ukraine, where they would face arrest and potential imprisonment for war crimes. However, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented their transportation via air. Instead, the sting organizers chose to transport them by bus to neighboring Belarus, from where they planned to transport them to Ukraine. However, the presence of 33 burly Russians in a hotel sanatorium outside of Minsk raised suspicions, and led to their eventual arrest by the Belarussian security forces.

The report by CNN claims that the CIA provided the Ukrainian intelligence services with “cash, technical assistance and advice”. But the news network also says that United States officials “deny having a direct role” in the sting operation.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 13 September 2021 | Permalink

Russia denies rumors that its chief security official met with CIA director in India

Russian embassy India

A RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN has denied reports Moscow’s Security Council Secretary met secretly this week with the director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency in the India. The United States, however, has not commented on the reports.

As intelNews and others reported yesterday, General Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, arrived in Delhi on September 7, “for high-level consultations on Afghanistan”, according India’s Ministry of External Affairs. General Patrushev, who is Russia’s highest-ranked security official, traveled to India at the invitation of his counterpart there, National Security Adviser Ajit K. Doval.

Interestingly, The Hindu, one of India’s two newspapers of record, reported on Tuesday that “an American delegation of intelligence and security officials” were visiting Delhi, and had already “held consultations” with officials. According to the newspaper, the American delegation was led by no other than CIA Director William Burns, who is said to be touring the region, and is also expected to visit Islamabad in the coming days.

Like General Patrushev, Burns met with National Security Adviser Doval about “issues arising from the Afghanistan evacuation effort and Taliban government formation”, said The Hindu. But unlike the Russian delegation’s visit, which was announced by the Indian government, the alleged American delegation’s visit remains speculative, and has not been officially confirmed by either Delhi or Washington.

It was not long before Indian media began to report that the American and Russian teams had met in secret, allegedly in order to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, however, a spokesman for the Russian Security Council flatly refuted the rumors of a meeting between Burns and Patrushev. The Russian-government owned TASS news agency quoted Russian Security Council spokesman Yevgeny Anoshin as saying that “Patrushev did not plan to, and did not meet, with the CIA head in Delhi”.

The United States government has yet to comment on these reports.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 September 2021 | Permalink

High-level American, Russian intelligence delegations visit India on the same day

Nikolai PatrushevHIGH LEVEL DELEGATIONS OF intelligence officials from the United States and Russia visited India on the same day this week, for talks with Indian officials about the situation in Afghanistan, according to news reports. This development highlights the frantic pace with which Moscow and Washington are maneuvering around the region, following the dramatic takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban last month.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs announced on Tuesday that General Nikolai Patrushev (pictured), Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, would be in Delhi “for high-level consultations on Afghanistan” between September 7 and 8. General Patrushev —Russia’s highest-ranking security official— is traveling to India at the invitation of his Indian counterpart, National Security Adviser Ajit K. Doval, according to the announcement. He was scheduled to meet with, aside from Doval, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishanka.

Late yesterday, however, the Chennai-based English-language newspaper The Hindu reported that “an American delegation of intelligence and security officials” had visited Delhi on Tuesday, and had “held consultations” with officials there. According to the newspaper, the American delegation was led by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Burns, who is touring the region and is also expected to visit Islamabad in the coming days. The report also said that Burns spoke at length with Doval about “issues arising from the Afghanistan evacuation effort and Taliban government formation”.

It is worth noting that India’s Ministry of External Affairs and the embassy of the United States in Delhi declined to confirm or deny the news about the CIA director’s visit to the country.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 08 September 2021 | Permalink

UK names Russian intelligence operatives who allegedly poisoned Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT HAS announced sanctions against seven Russian intelligence operatives who, according to London, participated in the poisoning of the Russian blogger and political activist Alexei Navalny. Navalny, 45, remains in prison after being arrested last year by Russian authorities, who accused him of violating his parole. His arrest occurred as soon as he arrived in Russia from Germany. He had gone there to receive emergency treatment after he was allegedly poisoned during a domestic Russian flight that originated from Siberia.

While in Germany, Navalny was in a comatose condition for over three weeks, and then spent a further 32 days recovering in hospital. Medical examiners concluded that he was most likely poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent. Many Western biomedical experts believe that Navalny, a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was poisoned with a so-called Novichok substance —a technical term that describes a category of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Novichok agents are typically designed to asphyxiate their host by paralyzing the muscles they come in contact with.

On Friday —the day that marked the first anniversary of Navalny’s alleged poisoning— the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced that it would impose sanctions against seven Russian citizens. They were named as: Ivan Osipov, Alexei Sedov, Vladimir Panyaev, Kirill Vasilyev, Vladimir Bogdanov, Alexey Alexandrov and Stanislav Makshakov. All are believed to be employees of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which operates as the country’s primary counterterrorism and counterintelligence agency.

British authorities released a statement to explain their decision to impose the sanctions against the seven Russians. The statement notes that the seven alleged FSB officers were identified using “phone and travel records”. These suggest that they were “involved in the use of a chemical weapon in the attempted assassination of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny during his August 2020 visit to Siberia”, the statement said. In an accompanying statement, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, urged Moscow “to declare its full stock of Novichok nerve agents”. The Russian government has dismissed all allegations that it tried to kill Navalny.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 23 August 2021 | Permalink

Alleged spy at British embassy in Berlin aroused suspicion by not using bank account

British embassy BerlinAn employee of the British embassy in Berlin, who was arrested last week on suspicion of spying for Russia, drew the attention of the authorities after he stopped using his bank account, according to reports. The man, who was arrested on August 10 by Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), has been identified in German media as David Smith, 57. His arrest is believed to have come as a result of a joint investigation by British and German authorities.

Smith is a longtime resident of Potsdam, a city located southeast of Berlin, and was married for 20 years to a woman from Ukraine, who is believed to have Russian heritage. According to some reports, however, his wife has not been living with him for some time. It has also been reported that Smith had been working for the British embassy in Berlin “for three or four years” in the period leading up to his arrest last week. It is also believed that he had previously served in the Royal Air Force and the Germany Guard Service (GGS). The latter is a joint British-German civilian volunteer force with roots in the Cold War, which provides security support to British Forces stationed in Germany.

Last week, several German news outlets said that Smith first aroused suspicions among British and German counterintelligence experts, after they noticed that he had not made use of his debit or credit cards for several months. His sudden lack of withdrawals from his bank accounts caused them to think that may have secured a cash-based source of income —possibly from a foreign intelligence agency. Citing anonymous intelligence officials, German media report that Smith passed on “low-grade information” to his Russian handlers, including lists of names of visitors to the British embassy. He was arrested, however, after British and German authorities allegedly feared that he was preparing to give Moscow more sensitive information in his possession.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 August 2021 | Permalink

Employee of British embassy in Berlin charged with spying for Russia

British embassy in BerlinAn employee of the British embassy in Berlin has been arrested by German authorities, who charged him with spying for the intelligence services of the Russian Federation, according to reports. The German newsmagazine Focus said on Wednesday that the employee is a 57-year-old British citizen. He was reportedly arrested on Tuesday by Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). His arrest took place in Potsdam, a city located southeast of Berlin. His arrest is believed to have come as a result of a joint investigation by British and German authorities.

There appears to be some confusion about the man’s position at the British embassy. In some reports, he is referred to as a “liaison officer”, a term that describes diplomatic personnel whose job is to exchange security-related information with the relevant authorities of the host-country. However, other reports suggest that the man is locally based in Berlin, and was working as support personnel at the British embassy, without having been granted diplomatic status. This would mean that he does not have diplomatic immunity in Germany or elsewhere.

It is also believed that BKA officers searched the man’s home and workplace. According to Focus, he has been charged with carrying out espionage activities on behalf of Russian intelligence. German prosecutors said he began working for Russian intelligence in November of 2020 at the very latest. During that time, he allegedly provided classified information to his Russian handlers on at least one occasion, in exchange for cash. Media reports suggest that the information he allegedly gave the Russians relates to counter-terrorism operations. No further information is known about the case at this stage.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 12 August 2021 | Permalink

New report sheds light on Russian private military group’s operations in Libya

Khalifa HaftarA new documentary aired on Tuesday by the BBC offers new evidence of extensive involvement in Libya by the Wagner Group, a secretive security firm believed to operate on behalf of Russian military intelligence. After first appearing in Ukraine in 2014, the company has been seen to operate around the world as a private paramilitary entity. Its mission is allegedly to afford the Kremlin “plausible deniability” capabilities for operations in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe. As intelNews has explained before, there is evidence that the Kremlin provides payments to Wagner. But concrete information about the secretive firm is hard to come by, and the Russian government strongly denies having links to it.

Now, however, a new television documentary produced by the BBC claims to have uncovered reliable evidence of extensive involvement by Wagner in the Libyan conflict —as well as links between Wagner and the Russian military. Wagner personnel first appeared in Libya in April of 2020, when they were seen operating in support of the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army, commanded by Field marshal Khalifa Haftar. In the spring of 2020, as the conflict was winding down, Wagner group forces retreated from areas south of the city of Tripoli, which were eventually occupied by Haftar’s rival, the Government of National Accord.

The documentary, co-produced by BBC News Russian and BBC News Arabic, is titled “Haftar’s Russian Mercenaries: Inside the Wagner Group”. It is based on the discovery of a Samsung Galaxy tablet, which was left behind in the Tripoli area by a retreating Wagner fighter. According to the BBC the information recovered from the tablet provides “unprecedented insight” into Wagner’s operations in Libya. It includes maps of the terrain in the Russian language, as well as a list of codenames used by Wagner personnel during their operations in the North African country.

Another series of documents recovered from the tablet list weapons used by the group during its operations in Libya. Acceding to the information released online by the BBC, the weapons lists include state-of-the-art radar and other military equipment, which experts claim are “only be available from the Russian military”. The documentary also lays out allegations of war crimes conducted by Wagner personnel in Libya, which include mining and even booby-trapping civilian areas.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 August 2021 | Permalink

Moscow denounces ‘NATO propaganda’ as Albania probes alleged Russian spies

DEFENDER-Europe 21

THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT HAS accused media in Albania of channeling “propaganda”, as authorities in the Balkan country are investigating alleged military espionage by two Russian citizens. The case centers on DEFENDER Europe 21, a large-scale multinational military exercise, which is held every year under the auspices of the United States Army and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). A portion of the exercise, which brings together nearly 30,000 troops from 26 nations, took place in Albania in April and May of this year.

Late last month, reports in the Albanian media said that the Office of the Prosecutor in the capital Tirana was investigating two Russian and five Czech citizens, who may have engaged in espionage activities. According to the reports, one of the Russian citizens had entered Albania on May 12, and traveled to Durres, Albania’s second most populous city, which is centrally located along the country’s Adriatic coast. Durres is the closest urban center to the site of the DEFENDER Europe 21 exercise. A few days later, the Russian citizen was found deploying a drone, according to the Tirana prosecutor.

The Albanian authorities then began looking into the case of another Russian citizen, who had entered the country in March, and was based in Orikum, a small coastal town southern Albania. Like Durres, Orikum is in close proximity to military training facilities. Albanian authorities have not disclosed any information about the fate of the five Czech nationals. But they said last week that a criminal case had been opened against the two Russians.

Last Friday, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the Albanian media of “fueling the hype” about the two Russians, adding that the case was “an exercise in NATO propaganda”. Meanwhile, the Russian embassy in Tirana said that it had sent a formal inquiry about the criminal case to Albania’s Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Relations between the former Warsaw Pact allies are currently at a low point. In January of this year, Tirana expelled a Russian diplomat, accusing him of ignoring safety protocols relating to COVID-19. In 2018, two Russian diplomats were expelled from Albania after they allegedly engaged in espionage. Shortly afterwards, Moscow expelled two Albanian diplomats in return.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 12 July 2021 | Permalink

Kremlin spy participated in secret meeting to fund Italian separatist party

Kremlin, Russia

AN ALLEGED EMPLOYEE OF Russian intelligence was present during a secret meeting in Moscow, in which politicians and investors discussed a plan to fund a northern Italian separatist political party. The party, Lega Nord (Northern League, or LN) was established in 1991 as an amalgamation of northern Italian separatist groups whose members seek greater autonomy and are opposed to Italy’s membership in the European Union. Under its current leader, Matteo Salvini, the LN has adopted an hard-line anti-immigration stance and has associated itself with United Russia, the political home of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In July of 2019, the investigative news website BuzzFeed released audio recordings of a secret meeting that allegedly took place in Moscow’s Hotel Metropol, between members of the LN and Russian emissaries of the Kremlin. The discussion reportedly concerned a plan to sell Russian oil to an Italian firm connected to the LN at a markedly discounted price, which would allow it to compete with Italy’s state-owned energy supplier and at the same time enrich the LN’s election campaign coffers by nearly $70 million.

According to an investigation by Italian authorities, participants at that meeting were Salvini’s former spokesperson, Gianluca Savoini, as well as two other Italians, who managed investment banks and were also supporters of the LN. There were also three Russian participants, including a Kremlin lawyer who works for the Russian Ministry of Energy, and a Russian former banker and tycoon with clsoe ties to President Putin. But the third Russian had not been identified. Until now.

The Italian newspaper L’Espresso, which has led the investigative reporting into the alleged scandal, reports that the Milan Prosecutor’s Office has identified the third Russian participant as Andrey Yuryevich Kharchenko, an alleged employee of Russian intelligence. The paper said that Kharchenko’s identity was supplied to the Italian government by “another Western state” that has been targeted by Russian intelligence in recent years. The investigation into the alleged scandal continues.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 29 June 2021 | Permalink

Germany arrests Russian PhD student on suspicion of spying for Moscow

University of Augsburg

A RUSSIAN DOCTORAL STUDENT in mechanical engineering, who is studying in a Bavarian university, has been arrested by German police on suspicion of spying for Moscow, according to official statements and reports in the German media. According to a press statement issued by the Federal Public Prosecutor General’s office in the city of Karlsruhe, the PhD student was arrested on Friday, June 18.

The student was subsequently identified by the German authorities only as “Ilnur N.”, in accordance with German privacy laws. On Monday, however, local media identified the suspected spy as Ilnur Nagaev, a doctoral candidate at the University of Augsburg, which is located 50 miles northwest of Munich. Nagaev reportedly works as a research assistant there, while pursuing his doctoral studies in mechanical engineering.

German authorities maintain that the suspect began working “for a Russian secret service” in early October of 2020, and possibly earlier. He is also accused of having met with an unidentified “member of a Russian foreign secret service” at least three times between October 2020 and June of this year. According to German federal prosecutors, Nagaev shared unspecified information with his alleged Russian handler, and received cash in return at the end of each meeting.

German police reportedly searched Nagaev’s home and work office looking for further clues about the case. In the meantime, a judge at the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice) in the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe, which is Germany’s highest court on matters of ordinary jurisdiction, ordered that Nagaev be kept in pre-trial detention, pending a possible indictment. Neither the Russian nor the German federal governments have commented on this case.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 June 2021 | Permalink

Russian actors had access to Dutch police computer network during MH17 probe

Flight MH17

Russian hackers compromised the computer systems of the Dutch national police while the latter were conducting a criminal probe into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), according to a new report. MH17 was a scheduled passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. All 283 passengers and 15 crew on board, 196 of them Dutch citizens, were killed.

Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, which revealed this new information last week, said the compromise of the Dutch national police’s computer systems was not detected by Dutch police themselves, but by the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD). The paper said that neither the police nor the AIVD were willing to confirm the breach, but added that it had confirmed the breach took place through multiple anonymous sources.

On July 5, 2017, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Belgium, Australia and Malaysia announced the establishment of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) into the downing of flight MH-17. The multinational group stipulated that possible suspects of the downing of flight MH17 would be tried in the Netherlands. In September 2017, the AIVD said it possessed information about Russian targets in the Netherlands, which included an IP address of a police academy system. That system turned out to have been compromised, which allowed the attackers to access police systems. According to four anonymous sources, evidence of the attack was detected in several different places.

The police academy is part of the Dutch national police, and non-academy police personnel can access the network using their log-in credentials. Some sources suggest that the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) carried out the attack through a Russian hacker group known as APT29, or Cozy Bear. However, a growing number of sources claim the attack was perpetrated by the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, known commonly as GRU, through a hacker group known as APT28, or Fancy Bear. SVR attackers are often involved in prolonged espionage operations and are careful to stay below the radar, whereas the GRU is believed to be more heavy-handed and faster. The SVR is believed to be partly responsible for the compromise of United States government agencies and companies through the supply chain attack known as the SolarWinds cyber attack, which came to light in late 2020.

Russia has tried to sabotage and undermine investigation activities into the MH17 disaster through various means: influence campaigns on social media, hacking of the Dutch Safety Board, theft of data from Dutch investigators, manipulation of other countries involved in the investigation, and the use of military spies. The Dutch police and public prosecution service were repeatedly targeted by phishing emails, police computer systems were subjected to direct attacks, and a Russian hacker drove a car with hacking equipment near the public prosecution office in Rotterdam.

The above efforts are not believed to have been successful. But the attack that came to light in September 2017 may have been. The infected police academy system ran “exotic” (meaning uncommon) software, according to a well-informed source. The Russians reportedly exploited a zero day vulnerability in that software. After the incident, the national police made improvements in their logging and monitoring capabilities, and in their Security Operations Center (SOC). It is not currently known how long the attackers had access to the national police system, nor what information they were able to obtain.

Author: Matthijs Koot | Date: 17 June 2021 | Permalink

France suspends aid to Central African Republic over espionage charges

Juan Remy Quignolot

THE GOVERNMENT OF FRANCE has suspended all civilian and military aid to the Central African Republic (CAR), after authorities there charged a French national with espionage and conspiracy to overthrow the state. The charges were announced approximately a month after the arrest of Juan Remy Quignolot, 55 (pictured), who was arrested in CAR capital Bangui on May 10 of this year. Following Quignolot’s arrest, CAR police said they found more than a dozen cell phones, machine guns, ammunition and foreign banknotes in his hotel room.

Speaking to reporters in Bangui on Wednesday, the CAR’s attorney general, Eric Didier Tambo, said that Quignolot had been charged with espionage, illegal weapons possession, as well as conspiracy against the security of the state. According to CAR authorities, Quignolot has been providing training and material support to anti-government rebel groups for nearly a decade. However, CAR authorities have not specified for which country or group Quignolot performed his alleged activities.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French embassy in Bagnui have not commented on Quignolot’s charges. When the French national was arrested in May, French Foreign Affairs Ministry officials said the move was part of “an anti-French campaign” orchestrated by Russia. Paris has been competing with Moscow for influence in this former French colony —a diamond- and gold-producing country of nearly 5 million people— which remains highly volatile following a bloody civil war that ended in 2016.

Earlier this week, France said it would immediately suspend its $12 million-a-year civilian and military aid to the CAR. The reason is that the African nation’s government had allegedly failed to take measures against “massive disinformation campaigns”, purportedly originating from Russia, which have “targeted French officials” in the CAR and the broader central African region. Despite suspending financial aid, France continues to maintain approximately 300 soldiers in the CAR. In recent years, however, France’s military presence in its former colony has been dwarfed by contingents of Russian military instructors, who are now training government forces.

Quignolot’s trial is expected to take place by December. Speaking about the Frenchman’s possible sentence, attorney general Tambo said on Wednesday that, “in cases of harming domestic security, you’re talking about lifetime forced labor”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 June 2021 | Permalink

Russian spy activity has reached Cold War levels, say Germany’s intelligence chiefs

Thomas Haldenwang Bruno Kahl

RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITY in Germany has reached levels not seen since the days of the Cold War, while espionage methods by foreign adversaries are now more brutal and ruthless, according to the country’s spy chiefs. These claims were made by Thomas Haldenwang, who leads Germany’s Agency for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), and Bruno Kahl, head of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), which operates externally.

The two men spoke to the Sunday edition of Die Welt, one of Germany’s leading newspapers. Their joint interview was published on June 6. Haldenwang told Die Welt am Sonntag that the presence of Russian spies on German soil reflects Moscow’s “very complex intelligence interest in Germany”. Accordingly, Russia has “increased its [espionage] activities in Germany dramatically” in recent years, said Haldenwang.

The counterintelligence chief added that Russia has a “large number of agents” that are currently active in German soil. Their goal is to try to “establish contacts in the realm of political decision-making”. One of many topics that the Kremlin is intensely interested at the moment is the future of Russia’s energy relationship with Germany, according to Haldenwang.

At the same time, Russia’s espionage methods are becoming “coarser” and the means that it uses to steal secrets “more brutal”, said the spy chief. Kahl, his external-intelligence colleague, agreed and added that Germany’s adversaries are “employing all possible methods […] to stir up dissonance between Western states”. Their ultimate goal is to “secure their own interests”, concluded Kahl.

However, despite Russia’s increased intelligence activity in Germany, the most serious threat to the security and stability of the German state is not Moscow, but domestic rightwing extremism, said Haldenwang. Notably, the German spy chief discussed the unparalleled rise of rightwing rhetoric on social media and websites. Such propaganda is being spread by people that he termed “intellectual arsonists”. Their “hate-filled messages” are essentially anti-democratic, said Haldenwang.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 07 June 2021 | Permalink

Polish counterintelligence arrest man for giving military secrets to Russia

Poland ABW

POLAND’S COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AGENCY HAS announced the arrest of a Polish citizen, who reportedly admitted spying for Russian military intelligence. The 43-year-old man has been named only as “Marcin K.”, in compliance with Polish law. He was reportedly arrested on May 5 by officers of the Internal Security Agency (ABW), Poland’s domestic counter-intelligence agency.

According to ABW spokesman Stanisław Żaryn, the accused spy had been handing over classified “information and materials” to the Russian secret services. Much of the classified information reportedly related to the “military field”. The Russians also received sensitive information relating to “Polish entities and citizens”, according to government prosecutors. The Polish government described the information as “extremely important for Russian operations […] and to the detriment of the Republic of Poland”. No further information has been provided about the case.

Importantly, Polish authorities have not shared information about Marcin K.’s possible Russian handlers, who are likely to be employees of the Russian embassy in Warsaw. Regular intelNews readers will recall that Poland was among several European countries that expelled Russian diplomats last month, following a call for solidarity by the Czech Republic. Prague issued the call after it expelled 18 Russian diplomats in protest against an explosion that totaled a remote munition depot in the east of the country, which the Czechs claim was part of a Russian intelligence operation. In addition to expelling a number of Russian diplomats, Poland joined Hungary and Slovakia in issuing a joint statement decrying what it described as “deplorable act[s] of aggression and breach of international law committed by Russia on European soil”.

According to news reports, Marcin K. has been placed in pre-trial detention for three months, as investigators are interviewing witnesses and gathering material evidence for a pending trial.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 18 May 2021 | Permalink

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