Netherlands says Russian spy caught seeking internship at war crimes court

  • Russian agent accused of impersonating intern to infiltrate court
  • ICC is investigating allegations of war crimes in Ukraine
  • False Brazilian identity included tastes for trance music, feijoada

AMSTERDAM, June 16 (Reuters) – The Dutch intelligence service said on Thursday it had discovered a Russian military agent trying to use a false identity to infiltrate the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is investigating allegations of war crimes in Ukraine. .

Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov created an elaborate cover story dating back years to try to enter the Netherlands as a Brazilian citizen for an internship at the ICC in The Hague in April, the agency’s head told Reuters.

“This was a long-term, multi-year GRU operation that cost a lot of time, energy and money,” said Dutch intelligence agency chief Erik Akerboom, using the acronym for Russia’s military intelligence service.

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No GRU representative could immediately be reached for comment, although President Vladimir Putin’s government has often in the past denied allegations of espionage as a Western smear campaign against Moscow.

The Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) said in a statement that the man, who went by the alias Viktor Muller Ferreira, was picked up at a Dutch airport. He was declared an undesirable alien and placed on the next flight back to Brazil, he added.

Brazil’s Federal Police said Cherkasov was arrested and is being prosecuted for using false documents.

“This clearly shows us what the Russians are doing – trying to gain illegal access to information within the ICC. We classify this as a high-level threat,” added Akerboom, saying the ICC accepted him for an internship.

There was no immediate comment on the case from the Russian government or the ICC.

‘WELL CONSTRUCTED COVER’

The Dutch agency said it took the unusual step of releasing detailed information about the case to expose the workings of Russian intelligence and the threat to other international institutions.

He distributed a four-page document outlining what he claimed was the cover story invented by Cherkasov. This included an alleged troubled family history and details of a club where he liked to listen to electronic trance music and his favorite restaurant in Brasília, where he ate cheap feijoada.

“Cherkasov used a well-constructed cover identity, by which he concealed all his ties to Russia in general and the GRU in particular,” the statement said.

Brazilian police said Cherkasov entered Brazil in 2010 and assumed the false identity of a Brazilian whose parents died. Posing as a Brazilian, he lived for several years in Ireland and the United States, according to the police statement, and returned to Brazil to prepare for his move to the Netherlands.

The ICC, a permanent global war crimes tribunal with 123 member states, opened an investigation in Ukraine just days after Putin sent his troops on Feb. It is examining allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The Dutch expelled more than 20 Russians accused of spying in recent years.

They include four people accused in 2018 of hacking the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), two accused of espionage in the corporate and high-tech sector in 2020, and 17 suspected agents accredited as diplomats who were expelled after this year’s arrest. invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has denied all the allegations and has responded to the latest expulsions by also expelling 15 Dutch embassy and consulate employees from Moscow and St Petersburg.

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Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Additional reporting by Anthony Boadles in Brasília; Edited by Andrew Cawthorne and Michael Perry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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