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14/07/2022 | Newspaper discloses names of Russian alleged spies expelled from Belgium

Joseph Fitsanakis

A 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.

Interestingly, at least two of the Russian diplomats had put minimal effort into hiding their true identities, according to the EUObserver. Aleksei Kozhevnikov, 36, who was listed as an attaché at the Russian embassy in Brussels, had reportedly registered his personal vehicles at 56 Volokolamskoye Shosse, Moscow. That is the address of the 162nd Military Technical Information Center, which is a GRU signals intelligence unit. Another expelled diplomat is George Kuznetsov, 46, who served as Russia’s consul general in the city of Antwerp. He apparently listed as his home address as 5 Varsonofievsky Lane, Moscow, which houses the FSB’s Central Polytechnic. According to the newspaper, the address has been used for years by the Kremlin to conceal the real addresses of FSB officers.

Other expelled diplomats include a “deputy trade representative”, a “technician”, an “electrician”, a “custodian”, and of course several “attachés”. It is worth noting that, alongside the 21 who were expelled, the Belgian government, in co-ordination with the European Union (EU), expelled another 19 Russian diplomatic representatives to the EU, which is headquartered in Belgium. A further eight Russian diplomats were expelled from Russia’s embassy to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2021. This leads to the question of how many accredited Russian diplomats are left in Belgium. According to the EUObserver, around 100 are left, “about half” of whom are intelligence officers.

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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