Slovakia expels three Russian diplomats in connection with 2019 murder in Berlin

Russian embassy in SlovakiaThree Russian diplomats have been ordered to leave Slovakia, reportedly in connection with the killing in Germany of a Chechen former separatist, which many believed was ordered by Moscow. On Monday, the Foreign Ministry of Slovakia confirmed media reports that three Russian diplomats had been declared ‘unwanted persons’ and ordered to leave the country.

The three diplomats are stationed at Russia’s embassy in Bratislava. They are believed to be intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover. A spokesman from the Slovak Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Monday, citing “information from the Slovak intelligence services”, according to which the three Russians engaged in “activities [that] were in contradiction with the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations”. Additionally, said the statement, Slovak authorities had uncovered “an abuse of visas issued at the Slovak general consulate in St. Petersburgh, and in this connection a serious crime was committed on the territory of another European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization member state”.

The statement did not elaborate on the specifics of the “serious crime”, but Slovak media report that it refers to the killing last August of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a leading figure in the Second Chechen War, which pitted the Russian military against groups of Muslim fighters in the North Caucasus between 1999 and 2009. Khangoshvili, a Muslim born in Georgia, was a bodyguard of Aslan Maskhadov, the self-described leader of the Muslim separatists in the Northern Caucasus. In 2015, Khangoshvili sought political asylum in Germany after two men tried to kill him in Tbilisi. The German authorities initially placed him on a terrorism watch list, but removed him after he began to collaborate with German counterterrorist agencies and participate in programs designed to de-radicalize Muslim youth. He was shot in broad daylight in Berlin by a man wearing a wig and carrying a pistol fitted with a silencer. Officials from the Berlin prosecutor’s office said at the time there were “indications the deed was pre-planned and may have political motives behind it”. It is now believed that at least one of the men suspected of involvement in planning Khangoshvili’s killing had traveled from Russia to the European Union on a visa issued by the Slovakian consulate in St. Petersburgh.

The three Russian diplomats have reportedly been told that they have until this coming Sunday to leave Slovakia. The Russian embassy in Bratislava said it would not comment on the expulsions. Kremlin officials have strongly denied that the Russian government had any ties to the killing of Khangoshvili. Moscow has vowed to expel an equal number of Slovak diplomats from the Russian capital in the coming days.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 August 2020 | Permalink

Authorities in Eastern Europe warn about rise of heavily armed paramilitary groups

Night Wolves SlovakiaSecurity agencies in Eastern Europe have voiced concern about the rise of far-right paramilitary groups whose members have access to heavy weaponry, including in some cases armored vehicles and tanks. The most recent warning came on Sunday, when the Czech daily newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes published excerpts of a leaked security report on the subject. The report was authored by analysts in the Security Information Service (BIS), the country’s primary domestic intelligence agency. It detailed the recent activities of a group calling itself the National Home Guard, a far-right, anti-immigrant militia that some experts say consists of around 2,000 members throughout the Czech Republic. Although this is officially denied, the group is believed to be the armed wing of National Democracy, a far-right nationalist political party that received 36,000 votes in the 2017 legislative election.

The BIS report states that the National Home Guard has 90 branches across the nation and is now in possession of significant quantities of weapons, some of which have been smuggled into the Czech Republic from Libya. Many of the organization’s largest branches, in the cities of Prague, Ostrava, and elsewhere, organize regular weapons training sessions in secret locations. In some smaller cities around the country, where police presence is limited, National Home Guard is now holding regular armed patrols, in which immigrants —especially those from predominantly Muslim countries— are targeted. Additionally, the group has recently started to recruit heavily from the ranks of the police and the Czech Armed Forces, according to the BIS report.

The Mlada Fronta Dnes revelation comes only a month after a report by the BBC said that two far-right militias in Slovakia had begun training at a paramilitary base that contains armored personnel carriers and tanks. The base belongs to the Night Wolves, a biker gang that is known for its anti-immigrant and anti-European Union stance. Recently, however, the Night Wolves have been training in paramilitary tactics in coordination with two other groups, the Slovak Levies and NV Europe, said the BBC. Located in the village of Dolna Krupa, 45 miles north of the Slovakian capital Bratislava, the base contains several tanks and other armored vehicles. The Night Wolves claim that the facility hosts a World War II museum, which explains the presence of the military vehicles. But the BBC said that the group is suspected of using the base to train pro-Russia Ukrainian separatists and other Eastern European paramilitary groups. The BIS report states that far-right paramilitary groups in Czech and Slovakia —which until 1993 were regions of unified Czechoslovakia— maintain regular contact with each other.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 06 September 2018 | Permalink | Research credit: J.R.
IntelNews thanks J.J. for helping to ensure the factual accuracy of this report

 

 

Communist-era spy allegations surface in Czech political wrangling

Andrej BabišBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Allegations that a senior Czech political figure was a government informant during the country’s communist period may disrupt the emergence of a national governing coalition. The Social Democratic Party won 20.5 percent in last October’s parliamentary election, emerging as the leading party in the Czech Republic’s fragmented political scene. The center-left party has said it is planning to form a governing coalition by reaching out to the centrist Christian Democratic Union, as well as a new center-right party calling itself ANO 2011 (Ano stands for ‘yes’ in Czech). The new party says it aims to end corruption in the country, abolish immunity from prosecution for elected parliamentarians, tackle unemployment, and improve the Czech Republic’s crumbling infrastructure. The party has also said it is willing on principle to join a wider government coalition, providing it is offered control of the country’s finance ministry. A leading contender for the ministerial position is ANO’s founder and main financial backer, Andrej Babiš. A business tycoon, who made his fortune importing and exporting fertilizers, Babiš is the Czech Republic’s second richest man, with an estimated fortune of $2 billion. His spectacular entrance into Czech politics was confirmed when ANO, which he founded in 2011, came in second in last October’s elections, receiving 18 percent of the national vote and gaining 47 seats in parliament. However, plans for a three-party coalition have been halted by allegations that Babiš may have been an informant for Czechoslovakia’s StB secret police during the 1980s. The claims first emerged in a Slovak newspaper shortly before last October’s elections, but failed to prevent ANO and Babiš from making a spectacular entry into Czech national politics. Later, however, the media allegations were substantiated by Slovakia’s Institute of National Memory, which provides public access to previously classified records of the StB and other Czechoslovak intelligence agencies during the country’s communist period. The Institute says that Babiš, who was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, had regular contact with the StB in the 1980s. At that time he was living in North Africa working for Petrimex, a Czechoslovakian government-owned international trade company. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #637

Dmitri Bystrolyotov

D.A. Bystrolyotov

►►South African spy boss to quit. Director General of the State Security Agency Jeff Maqetuka, who has been entangled in a never-ending war with Minister Siyabonga Cwele, is expected to step down this week, according to South Africa’s Sunday Independent. The paper claims that that plans are afoot to expedite Maqetuka’s departure from the country’s intelligence infrastructure by placing him on summer leave and then making sure he would not return to work in 2012.
►►Slovakian defense minister resigns over wiretap scandal. The interception of journalists’ telephone calls by the Slovakian Defense Ministry’s counterintelligence arm has cost the country’s Defense Minister, Lubomír Galko, his job. The scandal involved Slovakia’s Military Defense Intelligence (VOS). It has also emerged that the VOS operation involved wiretapping of the head of TV news channel TA3 and two senior Defense Ministry employees, according to leaked documents obtained by Slovak media outlets.
►►Book on Soviet spy Dmitri Bystrolyotov. Excerpt from Emil Draitser’s book Stalin’s Romeo Spy: The Remarkable Rise and Fall of the KGB Most Daring Operative (Northwestern University Press, 2010), about one of the 20th century’s most outstanding undercover operatives. Bystrolyotov acted in Western Europe in the interwar period, recruiting and running several important agents in Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy.

North Korean defector emerges in Austria after 15 years

Kim Jong Ryul

Kim Jong Ryul

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A defector, who was once a member of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s political protection team, has suddenly emerged in Austria, 15 years after faking his own death. Kim Jong Ryul is an East German-trained engineer who returned to North Korea in 1970 to work for Kim Il Sung, whose government tasked him with translating nuclear documents and making secret trips to the West. However, on October 18, 1994, while on a government-sponsored trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, he disappeared without trace. The North Korean government presumed he had been killed. But Kim had actually entered Austria, where he lived for 15 years as a defector. On Thursday, he gave a press conference in Vienna to promote a book about his life, written by journalists Ingrid Steiner-Gashi and Dardan Gashi, who based it on over 80 hours of interviews with Kim. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0221

  • Part 5 of CIA defector’s writings now available. Former FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Eringer has published the fifth installment of the writings of Edward Lee Howard, a CIA officer who defected to the USSR in 1985 (see here for previous intelNews coverage). In this part, Howard explains why Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), was a “good town for covert operations” and the KGB’s “favorite pad for launching agents into Western Europe”.
  • African Union investigates officials of spying. Two officials from the African Union Mission for Somalia (AMISOM) and the United Nations Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA) are reportedly under investigation for passing on sensitive information on AMISOM and Somalia to the US Defense Intelligence Agency and the South African Secret Service.

Bookmark and Share