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04/03/2024 | Russian intelligence services intensify efforts to ¨liquidate¨ defectors: report

Joseph Fitsanakis

THE RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICES have been “bolstering the[ir] architecture” aimed at stopping potential defectors and “liquidating” those who have already defected and are living in exile, according to a new report.

 

In a leading article published on Sunday, The Wall Street Journal said that the list of “unsolved deaths” of the Kremlin’s Russian critics is “lengthening” and may have surpassed 50, according to some accounts.

Since the current phase of the invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022, Russian defectors and other critics of Russia’s ongoing war have “died in unusual circumstances on three continents”, according to the New York-based newspaper. Most deaths have occurred inside Russia, but several have occurred in countries such as India, France, and Spain. In the most recent case, Maksim Kuzminov, a Russian helicopter pilot, who defected to Ukraine in August 2023, was gunned down in Villajoyosa, Spain, last month, in what The Journal described as a “mafia-style assassination”.

The paper notes that very few of these killings or suspicious deaths can be directly attributed to the Kremlin. It adds, however, that the Russian government has ordered a redoubling of coordinated anti-defector operations by the country’s three main intelligence agencies —the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (GRU). In their effort to prevent defections and punish defectors, these agencies have blurred their operational boundaries,  “making it more difficult to know which is responsible” for anti-defector operations, says The Journal.

Russian anti-defector operations are also increasingly involving third-country nationals —operatives who have no official connection with Russia, or with the country in which they are operating on behalf of Russian intelligence. In one recent example from last August, authorities in Britain arrested three Bulgarian citizens with spying for Russia. According to British government prosecutors, the suspects possessed forged passports and identity cards for Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia.

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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