Dozens of Russian Diplomats in Northern Europe May Be Undercover Spies

Wednesday, 26 April 2023

Journalists from news agencies in several Northern European countries have found that many employees of Russian diplomatic missions in the region are likely to be undercover spies.

According to the article by the Finnish news outlet Yle, involving Norwegian NRK, Swedish SVT, and Danish DR news agencies in cooperation with the Dossier Centre (an organisation engaged in tracking the criminal activity of various people associated with the Kremlin – ed.) founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky,  the journalists identified several dozen people who were apparently employees of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) or Federal Security Service (FSB) but who worked undercover as diplomatic staff. Sources from the intelligence services said these people are usually assigned to secondary positions, while key people in diplomatic missions can rarely be undercover spies.

Yle has identified three of these Russians. Among them is Dmitriy Otorochkin, an alleged SVR officer who first worked at the Russian Embassy in Helsinki, then was transferred to Copenhagen, from where he was eventually expelled in the spring of 2022. He had three pages on the VKontakte social network with different names and places of residence but with photos that made him easily identifiable.

Another one is 60-year-old Vladimir Komarov, who also worked at the embassy in Helsinki, and 37-year-old Dmitry Dvinyaninov, who were apparently GRU officers. They were expelled in the spring of 2022.

The Finnish Police estimate that up to a third of the Russian embassy's diplomats may be undercover spies. One of the officials, speaking anonymously, said that the Finnish services had intervened several times when such "diplomats" tried to establish contact with Russians in Finland for espionage purposes.

SVT journalists tracked down 21 alleged spies in Sweden, with at least thirteen of them continuing to work in Stockholm until at least April 2022.

The Norwegian broadcaster NRK notes that a total of 38 Russian intelligence agents linked to diplomatic missions in Northern Europe have been identified as part of the investigation.

Another one is located in strategically important Svalbard – Andrei Chemerilo, the Russian Consul General in Barentsburg, who is most likely connected to the GRU, Russian Defence Intelligence. The Dossier Centre came to this conclusion because Chemerilo had once lived at an address known to be a training centre for GRU officers. Chemerilo himself denies any links to the intelligence service.

Norway has recently declared 15 Russian embassy officials, who were de-facto intelligence officers operating under the cover of diplomatic positions, to be personae non gratae.

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