By MIKE CORDER – Associated Press
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch intelligence agency said Thursday it foiled a sophisticated attempt by a Russian spy using a fake Brazilian identity to work as an intern at the International Criminal Court, which is investigating alleged crimes of Russian warfare in Ukraine.
The General Intelligence and Security Service of the Netherlands said the 36-year-old man, identified as Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, worked for the Russian GRU agency and was trying to gain access to the Hague-based world court under the cover name of Viktor Muller. Ferreira.
“Had the Intelligence Officer gained access as a trainee to the ICC, he could have been gathering intelligence there and researching (or recruiting) sources, and arranging for access to the ICC’s digital systems,” said the Dutchman. the agency said. “In this way, he could have made a significant contribution to the intelligence sought by the GRU. He could also have influenced the criminal proceedings of the ICC.
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The agency said it discovered his identity and informed the Netherlands Immigration Service in April that he was considered a threat to national security.
“For these reasons, the intelligence officer was refused entry to the Netherlands in April and declared unacceptable. He was sent back to Brazil on the first flight,” the agency, known by its acronym AIVD, said. It did not reveal how it unmasked the spy.
In March, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan opened an investigation in Ukraine, where Russian forces have been accused of war crimes. The court is also investigating alleged crimes committed during the 2008 Russo-Georgian war and has issued arrest warrants for three men who served in the self-declared Russian-backed republic of South Ossetia.
Court spokeswoman Sonia Robla said the ICC “has been informed by the Dutch authorities and is very grateful to the Netherlands for this important operation and more generally for revealing the security threats”. .
She said that as the Court’s host state, “the role of the Dutch authorities is essential in protecting the seat of the ICC. The ICC takes these threats very seriously and will continue to work and cooperate with the Netherlands.
In a statement on the thwarted attempt to infiltrate the ICC, the Dutch intelligence agency said Cherkasov used “a well-constructed cover identity by which he concealed all his ties to Russia in general, and the GRU in general. particular”.
He said he was an “illegal” agent “who received long and thorough training”. The Dutch agency even released a redacted document, dated around 2010, in which he exposes his fabricated backstory.
“Because of their pseudonyms, the illegals are difficult to discover,” the AIVD said. “For this reason, they often remain undetected, allowing them to carry out intelligence activities. Because they present themselves as foreigners, they have access to information that would be inaccessible to a Russian national.
This is not the first time that Russian spies have tried to infiltrate an international organization in The Hague.
In 2018, the Dutch defense minister accused GRU spies of attempted cybercrimes targeting the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and an international investigation into the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 overhead. from eastern Ukraine. The investigation said the plane was shot down by a missile launched in Ukraine from a Russian military base and fired from territory controlled by pro-Moscow separatists. Russia denies any involvement.
Earlier this year, after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the Netherlands was one of many European countries to deport Russians suspected of being linked to espionage. The Netherlands expelled 17 Russians whom it described as intelligence agents posing as diplomats.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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