The revelations that the GRU (the secret service of the Russian Armed Forces) was behind an explosion at a weapons depot in the Czech Republic that killed two people in October 2014 sparked a major diplomatic dispute between Prague and Moscow.
But it also raised questions about what the GRU is capable of, whether it can be scared away, and what other operations it has been able to perform so far.
European intelligence services believe that the mission of GRU 29155 is to carry out sabotage, sabotage and murder.
After the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double British intelligence agent, and his daughter Julia in Salisbury, UK in 2018, security services across Europe are methodically working to track their actions, tracking the movements of about 20 agents carrying out underground missions abroad.
This shed new light on other events, such as the poisoning of a Bulgarian arms dealer in 2015, as well as the explosion in the Czech Republic.
The unit was also linked to an attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016 aimed at preventing the country from joining NATO.
The alleged agents were tried and convicted in absentia (in absentia).
The French security services have established that the unit uses the Alps region as an operational base for travel to other countries.
This is also due to the alleged awarding of Taliban awards for attacks on US forces in Afghanistan, although last week US officials said they had only low and moderate confidence in it.
What is behind these covert operations?
Most of the events identified so far fall on 2014. That year, especially in the Ukrainian crisis, the Kremlin began to view itself as a contradictory West in a conflict that fought below the threshold of a traditional war using “gray zone” methods.
They ranged from new Internet disinformation and cyber-hacking operations aimed at the West (including the 2016 U.S. election) conducted by some GRU units, to the deployment of Unit 29155 to conduct more traditional covert operations.
SOURCE OF IMAGE, AFP US intelligence has accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
Some wonder whether what happened in the Czech Republic exposes negligence in the work of the unit. An example of this is how two men used the same hidden data (Petrov and Bosherov) for this operation and for Salisbury.
The Bellingcat research team also tracked how GRU agents sometimes used sequential passport numbers that could easily be linked together.
But even so, it took almost seven years for the Czech case to come to light, and the fact that the team is sometimes careless does not mean that it is not dangerous either: two people died in the Czech Republic and a local resident Dawn Sturgess was killed by the remains of a newcomer used in the Violinist case), disposed of near Salisbury.
And cases can still be detected. There are other events, including deaths and explosions, that can be reconsidered in the light of new evidence and linked to this unit of Russian intelligence when analyzing the travel structures of its members.
SOURCE OF IMAGE, REUTERS “Alexander Petrov” (left) and “Ruslan Boshirov” are connected with the explosion in the Czech Republic.
Crucially, since Salisbury, more and more countries are willing to work together to share information and confront Moscow, increasingly outraged by what they see as Russia’s aggressive tactics.
It wasn’t just the United Kingdom and the United States; Also other countries, including several Eastern European countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, are taking recent action against Russian spies.
But will these discoveries deter Russia and the GRU?
This can be difficult given the way the Kremlin looks at the world. Moscow has denied all the allegations, saying they are absurd and exaggerated, and do not seem concerned about the embarrassment it could lead to.
But the hope is that exposing the spies and their operation will at least complicate their work. For example, it is unlikely that the two men accused of involvement in Salisbury and the Czech bombing will be able to leave Russia because their identities have been made public.
However, it is possible that others are being taught to take his place, and few believe that it is likely that Moscow is holding back its spies.