Netherlands says Russian spy was caught trying to infiltrate ICC

Netherlands says Russian spy was caught trying to infiltrate ICC
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Authorities in the Netherlands said on Thursday they denied entry to a Russian spy who posed as a Brazilian citizen to infiltrate the International Criminal Court, where authorities speculated he was seeking access to information related to ICC investigations into alleged Russian war crimes.

The alleged spy “was sent back to Brazil on the first flight,” authorities said of the events, which took place in April.

The General Intelligence and Security Service, the Netherlands’ counterintelligence agency, known by its Dutch acronym, AIVD, released details of the plot in a extraordinary press release more reminiscent of a spy novel than a government statement.

AIVD said that a 33-year-old man pretending to be a Brazilian citizen named Viktor Muller Ferreira flew to the Netherlands from Brazil to start an internship at the ICC in The Hague, except the man’s real name was Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, and he had 36 years. Two-year Russian intelligence officer, according to the agency.

Cherkasov, posing as Muller Ferreira, “used a well-constructed cover identity whereby he hid all his links with Russia in general, and the GRU [Russia’s intelligence directorate] in particular”, according to IAVID, which published copies of a document detailing the man’s elaborate cover identity.

That four-page document, apparently written by the spy himself in an attempt to memorize the details of his cover, included lengthy descriptions of a complicated transnational family history and mundane details about rentals in different cities, crushes on school teachers, and trance music. favourite. nightclub in Brasilia.

The original document, probably written in mid-2010, was in Portuguese and included notable grammatical errors. The Dutch authorities had drafted it to remove identifying information from people who were not involved in Cherkasov’s intelligence activities.

“This was a long-term, multi-year GRU operation that cost a lot of time, energy and money,” said the head of the Dutch intelligence agency, Erik Akerboom. saying Reuters.

Cherkasov also appears to have duped at least one major American academic institution.

Eugene Finkel, associate professor of international affairs at Johns Hopkins University and an expert on genocide, wrote Thursday on Twitter that he had taught the man he believed to be Muller Ferreira. He even wrote her a letter of recommendation for the ICC internship.

“Given my research focus, it made sense. I wrote him a letter. A strong one, actually. If I. I wrote a reference letter for a GRU officer. I will never get over this fact,” Finkel wrote.

Dutch authorities informed the court about the operation, spokeswoman Sonia Robla said in an emailed statement.

“The ICC takes these threats very seriously and will continue to work and cooperate with the Netherlands,” Robla said.

Cherkasov was set to begin an internship at the ICC, where Dutch intelligence said he may have sought access to information on ongoing investigations into allegations of Russian war crimes committed in Ukraine and Georgia in 2008.

“If the intelligence officer had gained access to the ICC as an intern, he would have been able to collect intelligence there and seek (or recruit) sources and organize access to the ICC’s digital systems,” said AIVD. .

For this reason, he was “considered a potentially very high risk” to the security of the Netherlands and was sent back to Brazil as soon as possible, according to the statement.

AIVD said it worked with the Dutch military intelligence, or MIVD, and other partners to “mitigate any possible damage to national security and the security and integrity of international organizations.” The agency said it notified Dutch immigration authorities as well as the ICC.

Russia has a tense history with the court. Moscow signed the 1998 Rome Statute that established the ICC, but never ratified it. The ICC also launched investigations into Russia’s 2008 South Ossetian invasion of Georgia and later declared Russia an occupying force in Crimea after the 2014 invasion, prompting Moscow to withdraw its signature in protest.

A few days after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan Announced that it would open an investigation into possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Ukraine.

Timsit reported from London and Taylor from Washington.

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