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03/07/2023 | Brazil launches investigation into illegal activities of Russian deep-cover spies

Joseph Fitsanakis

AUTHORITIES IN BRAZIL HAVE launched a nationwide probe into the abuse of the country’s citizenship documentation system by Russian spies, who are allegedly using it to build forged identities.

 

According to The Wall Street Journal, Brazil was placed “in an uncomfortable international profile” in the past year, after at least three alleged Russian deep-cover spies were outed by intelligence services in the Netherlands, Norway and Greece.

In June of 2022, authorities in the Netherlands expelled Sergey Cherkasov after he attempted to enter the country using a Brazilian-issued passport under the name of Victor Muller Ferreira. As intelNews explained at the time, Dutch and American counterintelligence outed Cherkasov as an intelligence officer of the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, which is commonly known as GRU. Cherkasov is alleged to have built his forged identity over several years, while operating in Brazil and the United States. Cherkasov is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence in Brazil for using forged identity documents. He is wanted in the United States for espionage. The alleged spy has reportedly admitted to the use of forged documents, but is denying he worked as a Russian intelligence officer.

In October of last year, the Norwegian police arrested another Brazilian citizen, José Assis Giammaria (pictured), accusing him of operating under deep cover on behalf o the GRU. According to the Office of the Norwegian state prosecutor, the suspect’s actual name is Mikhail Mikushin. He is believed to have been operating as a deep-cover spy in Brazil, Canada and Norway since 2006. Mikushin is now facing charges of “aggravated intelligence-gathering activity targeting state secrets”, which carry a maximum prison term of 10 years.

In early 2023, Gerhard Daniel Campos Wittich, a resident of Rio de Janeiro, disappeared while traveling abroad. A few months later, he was connected to Irena Shmyrev, a Russian deep-cover spy who was living in Greece under an assumed Greek identity, until she disappeared without trace, reportedly leaving the country in a hurry. According to Greek counterintelligence investigations, Wittich was Irena A.S.’s Russian husband who, like her, worked as a deep-cover intelligence operative out of Brazil.

According to The Wall Street Journal, an official investigation is currently underway in Brazil into how many Russian deep-cover intelligence operatives may be using forged Brazilian citizenship documents to “lurk undetected within the country or around the world”. The paper says that Brazilian investigators have shared “few public details about their probe”. However, it cites “people familiar with the matter” in claiming that the probe centers on “security gaps within Brazil’s documentation system”, which appear to be exploited by undercover spies. Such security gaps allegedly include the ability to obtain a Brazilian identity card and a passport with the use of a single document, namely a birth record.

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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