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Russian agent suspected of orchestrating high-profile letter-bombing campaign in Spain

“It’s like a warning shot,” said Nathan Sales, the State Department’s counter-terrorism coordinator in the Trump administration, when the Russian imperialist movement was designated a terrorist organization. “It sends a signal that Russia is ready to use terrorist agents to attack the rear areas of the West.”

The Russian officer behind the bombing operation works for one of Moscow’s more aggressive intelligence agencies, the Main Directorate General, commonly referred to as the GRU, US officials say. In recent years, the group has taken some bold and deadly covert actions, and it’s not guilty.

The building of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces in Moscow. credit:APs

Members of the agency have been involved in a range of behind-the-scenes activities, from meddling in the 2016 US presidential election to shooting down a Malaysian commercial airliner over Ukraine in 2014, according to US officials.

A specific branch of the agency, Unit 29155, has attempted coups and assassinations to destabilize Europe, according to US and European security officials. Its agents included Russian veterans, and were so secretive that most GRU operatives were probably unaware of their existence. U.S. and allied officials only recently learned about the unit.

U.S. officials suspect the Russian officers involved in the Spanish actions were part of the 161st Special Purpose Professional Training Center.

Spanish investigators have identified a “person of interest” believed to be involved in the attack, a senior US official said.

A spokesman for the Spanish Embassy in Washington declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.

Fiona Hill, senior director for Europe and Russia at the Trump administration’s White House National Security Council, said it wouldn’t be surprising if the GRU directed the Imperial Russian Movement to carry out the attack.

“Of course, most of these types of organizations are associated with Russian intelligence, either the GRU or the FSB,” she said, also referring to Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service. . “In many cases, they are just a front group for intelligence operations.”

Intelligence agencies use the group to sow chaos and create “unbelievable negativity,” she added.

US and British intelligence agencies are working with Spain’s national police and counterintelligence services to conduct an investigation. Their suspicions about the Russian imperialist movement and the GRU coalesced late last year shortly after the bomb was discovered, US officials say.

The extremist group is only partially aligned with the Russian government. The movement’s leadership has criticized the Russian leadership’s incompetence in the Ukraine war and accused Putin of corruption. But because the group shares Moscow’s goals of undermining Western governments and sowing chaos in Europe, Russian intelligence was able to influence its operations, U.S. officials said. Says.

Being able to use the Russian Imperial Movement as a proxy force is beneficial to Russian intelligence. Especially since it will be more difficult for rival countries to attribute actions to the Russian government.

The State Department designated the group and its leaders as global terrorists in April 2020. This is the first time such a label has been applied to a white supremacist group.

“RIM provides paramilitary training to European white supremacists and neo-Nazis and is actively working to rally these types of groups into a common front against their perceived enemies. ‘, the department said in a designated announcement.

The department said the group has two training centers in St. Petersburg, “which are likely to be used for forestry and urban assaults, tactical weapons, and hand-to-hand combat training.”

The State Department-appointed leader was Stanislav Anatolyevich Vorobyev, who founded the group in St. Petersburg in 2002. Denis Baliulovich Galiev, leader of its paramilitary organization, the Imperial Russian Corps. And Nikolay Nikolayevich Trushchalov, the organizer of the group’s overseas activities.

The agency said two Swedes behind the string of bombings in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2016 attended a training course run by a Russian group. The court-convicted perpetrators targeted refugee shelters, shelters for asylum seekers, and cafes.

The Center for International Security Cooperation at Stanford University describes the Russian Empire movement as “white supremacist, monarchist, ultranationalist, pro-Russian Orthodox and anti-Semitic.” The group advocated for the restoration of tsarist rule over Russia and said it was fostering ties between the United States and neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups in Europe.

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For most of the past decade, US and European security officials have grown concerned about white supremacist groups with cross-border ties. For example, the Australian man who killed 51 of his people at his two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019 published a manifesto online before the massacre, calling for white extremist terrorism in Europe and the United States. He said he was inspired by the attack.

As a result of the recent letter bombing, U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism officials have stepped up scrutiny of the Russian Empire movement, including updating terror watchlists to flag suspected leaders of the group or members thereof. U.S. officials said there are.

Russian intelligence services have received more attention from counterintelligence officials and police in recent years as they carry out increasingly daring operations, especially in Europe.

In 2018, they attempted to kill Sergey V. Skripal, a former GRU officer recruited by the British as a spy, by poisoning him and his daughter at their residence in England. Two narrowly survived, but a British woman died. According to European intelligence officials, Russian agents carried out bombings and assassination attempts in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria and attempted a coup in Montenegro.

Unit 29155, the same elite group operating in Europe, was operating in Afghanistan and offered bounties to militants linked to the Taliban who killed US and coalition forces, US intelligence agencies first said. According to the reported evaluation, new york timesIn 2021, US officials said there was no evidence that the Kremlin ordered the covert action.

This article was originally new york times.

Russian agent suspected of orchestrating high-profile letter-bombing campaign in Spain

Source link Russian agent suspected of orchestrating high-profile letter-bombing campaign in Spain

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