Fri, Dec 06, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Russian spies used alpine region as rear base: report

AFP, PARIS

A group of more than a dozen Russian spies belonging to an elite unit of military intelligence that carried out operations in Europe, including the attempted poisoning of defector Sergei Skripal, used a French alpine region as a rear base, a report said on Wednesday.

An investigation by British, Swiss, French and US intelligence had drawn up a list of 15 members of the 29155 unit of Russia’s GRU military spy agency who moved within Europe from 2014 to last year, Le Monde reported.

It said they had all at some point passed through France’s southeastern alpine region of Haute-Savoie close to the Swiss and Italian borders, including notably the towns of Chamonix, Evian and Annemasse.

Le Monde published a list of 15 Russian members of the unit, which it said added five more names to those already published by online investigative outlets such as Bellingcat and The Insider.

It said that Western intelligence services began the investigation retrospectively after the attempted poisoning of Skripal in the English town of Salisbury in March last year.

The report said that some agents traveled to France repeatedly, others just once or twice. One possibility is that by staying in the French region, the agents hoped to shake off any suspicion before they carried out their missions.

Those who stayed in Haute-Savoie included Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov — the cover names of the two GRU agents accused of carrying out the attack on Skripal.

“The most likely hypothesis is to consider it [Haute-Savoie] as a rear base for all the clandestine operations carried out by unit 29155 in Europe,” a senior French intelligence official was quoted as saying by Le Monde.

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