A Russian spy tried and failed to secure an internship at the international criminal court (ICC) using the false identity as a Brazilian citizen that he had built up for as long as a decade, according to Dutch intelligence.
Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, 36, accused of being an agent of Russia’s GRU military intelligence, flew to the Netherlands in April believing he had succeeded in an extraordinary effort to gain inside access to the war crimes court.
But he had already been unmasked by western intelligence officers and when he arrived to take up his position at the court, Dutch immigration officials were warned by the country’s intelligence agency, AIVD.
Cherkasov had travelled under the name Viktor Muller Ferreira, claiming to be 33, but was detained when he arrived and sent back to Brazil the following day, having failed in his long-term deception.
At the time, the ICC had begun to investigate alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine – and had Cherkasov succeeded he would have obtained access to the international court’s email systems and might have been able to copy, tamper with or destroy documents or evidence submitted to the court.
The spy had developed an elaborately constructed false identity over many years, marking him out as one of Russia’s prized programme of “illegals” – a spying programme that dates back to the cold war and has been revived extensively under president Vladimir Putin.
Illegals are Russian agents who are given false credentials from another country and tasked with building up a fake identity over many years, keeping it secret from partners and children, with a view to eventually reaching a position of influence.
But western experts say that for all the effort Russia puts into the programme, the number of illegals is estimated at between 10 and 30 – and often they fail to achieve positions of significant influence.
A group of 10 illegals was unmasked by the FBI in the US 12 years ago, but while they had been in the country for over a decade, they had largely failed to obtain positions of power and influence partly because they had been closely monitored.
Nevertheless, they were deported from the US and sent to Russia in a spy swap.
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( Information from theguardian.com was used in this report. To Read More, click here )