January 18, 2020
Massive expulsion of more than 150 Russian diplomats-intelligence agents by the European and Western states following poisoning of ex-colonel of the Main Intelligence Directorate Sergey Skripal and his daughter in the British Salisbury is primarily aimed at liquidation of Kremlin’s espionage network established worldwide during Putin's government. In solidarity with Great Britain, the government of Spain also expelled two Russian diplomats directly associated with the Russian Centre for Science and Culture in Madrid (“Rossotrudnichestvo”) and other structures of ‘the Russian compatriots’ which are, as we know, a very good shield for intelligence activities. Recent massive exile of the Russian spies from nearly 30 EU countries, the USA, Canada and some other, certainly, will strike Kremlin intelligence network and their secret foreign operations which gained the scale similar to the Cold War times. The present Putin’s army of spies, similar to a many-headed hydra consists of three main intelligence agencies: Foreign Intelligence Service (FIS), Main Intelligence Directorate (MID) and Federal Security Service (FSS). It’s worth to mention that more than 150 expelled diplomats who were considered to be career officers of Kremlin secret services represent only a part of the huge Russian foreign intelligence machinery. Its another "covert" part involves spies among honourable consulates of Russia, influence agents among local politicians and parliamentarians, journalists - intelligence agents from Russia Today and TASS, as well as diversionists from Rossotrudnichestvo and other Russian government structures applying the policy of "soft force" and financing the so-called "Russian compatriots" (foreign agents), both in the former USSR and in European and American states. Moscow states about "the Russian compatriots" as the proof of existence of the so-called "Russian world" - that is an area of their influence stretching far beyond the real borders of the Russian Federation. Kremlin seeks to strengthen the influence on domestic and foreign policy of other states, receive important political, economic and military information through interaction and manipulation with such people, and in case of the conflict with the governments of these states - to use "the Russian compatriots" as a "wick" for stirring internal crises and military conflicts. The Federal Agency for the CIS, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) is the main state agency dealing with "the Russian-language communities" worldwide. It’s a well-known fact that this government agency reporting to the Russian Foreign Ministry and having an extensive network of more than 90 representations (the so-called "Russian centers for science and culture") in 81 countries has a little to do with cultural and scientific ties of Russia abroad representing a powerful tool of Kremlin propaganda and information influence of strategic level. Rossotrudnichestvo is an active party in foreign policy of Moscow, coordinating activity of the pro-Russian actors abroad and disseminating the Kremlin ideology. Along with this the main objective and the most important side of true activity of this structures staffed at least with those affiliated to the intelligence services of Russia as well as with their permanent officers personally, as a rule are left without saying. It is not a secret that such organizations were widely used for ensuring the legal foreign activity of formerly dreadful KGB, and then of its successors from SVR, GRU and FSB. Our investigation will throw a light on the activity and structure of the Russian secret espionage network in Spain which, despite recent expulsion of two regular intelligence officers with the diplomatic status from the state successfully continues its function. The matter is that a vast network of pseudo-non-governmental organizations of "the Russian compatriots" (stating themselves to be "charitable", "scientific" and "cultural" associations, the organizations of "the Spanish-Soviet friendship", funds of "friends of Russia" etc.) operates in Spain (as well as in other EU states) which is full with Kremlin agents. Their supervisors are official Russian diplomats such as those staff intelligence agents who were recently knocked out from the state. By the way, according to the National Cryptological Center of Spain, in 2017 Russia intervened in Catalan crisis through their activists in media space. Investigation of the activity of numerous "Russian compatriot" organizations controlled by Madrid office of Rossotrudnichestvo ("the Russian Centre for Science and Culture") and their point men from the Russian intelligence services within the territory of Spain led us to such ephemeral institution as Blagoe Delo Spanish Benevolent Association. This "benevolent" organization was registered in Madrid in 2014 with the view of collecting "various humanitarian aid for Donbas residents ", and also carrying out of "information and explanatory work" (i.e.pro-Kremlin propaganda) among the Russian-speaking population of Spain. Blagoe Delo Association was established with financial and ideological support of the Russian extreme left nationalist party the Great Fatherland which belongs to a pool of the pro-Kremlin political forces and works in close cooperation with the Russian secret services. By the way, this party has the office in Spain which is also engaged in propaganda of neo-imperialist ideas of "the Russian world" and "Great Russia". One of the founders of Blagoe Delo Association and its point man from the Great Fatherland party is Russian citizen Vitaliy BORKUTA residing in Spain and, most likely, is a career staff employee of the secret services of Russia. Mister BORKUTA is well-known for his far-reaching anti-Spain views. In 2014 Russian TV channel Poznavatelnoe.tv prepared series of propaganda videos ("The life of Spain", "The Kingdom of Corruption", "Destruction of Spain", etc.) by his feature stories about Spain (expressing his prejudiced opinion). The Kingdom is presented in them extremely disparagingly while the Spaniards are shown as "the endangered nation of alcoholics and addicts". President of Blagoe Delo Association is Roman DEMYAN, member of the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriot Associations in Spain and along with this, an officer of the Russian intelligence services. DEMYAN regularly visits Moscow for reports making and Donbass conflict zone - for receiving experience of separatist activity. Well, what may be his purposes in Spain in such a case? Under a specious excuse of "gifts to charity", and using methods of frank blackmailing and intimidation of Spaniards of the Russian origin, Blagoe Delo Association is engaged de facto in extortion of money as well as money laundering on a large scale. Considerable amount of money are used for financing of the Russian mercenaries in Syria, engaged in war in Syria, Ukraine, Caucasus and other military conflicts and also for financing of the Great Fatherland political party and for personal enrichment of its leaders. Last year a major row arose inside the Great Fatherland party when its leader - Nikolay STARIKOV was accused by colleagues of embezzlement of the considerable funds raised, including, by Blagoe Delo Spanish Benevolent Association for "the charitable purposes for widows of large families of Donbas rebels". It is particularly remarkable that one of those involved in this scandal was the head and the treasurer of Blagoe Delo Association Roman DEMYAN who was also accused of financial frauds and appropriation of lump sums raised for "humanitarian aid" for families of the Russian mercenaries. It may happen that Mr DEMYAN also partly delivers financial grants received from Rossotrudnichestvo to the Great Fatherland party. Blagoe Delo Association, being an effective tool of the Russian strategy of "the soft force" in Spain, acts also as an active mouthpiece of Kremlin propaganda. It closely cooperates with the Communist Party of Spain, as well as with Spanish ultra-left and anti-fascist groups. Every year on the eve of 9th May Blagoe Delo Association together with Spanish left-wing radical organizations organizes pro-Russian cultural propaganda campaigns and marches such as "the Immortal Regiment" and "St. George's Ribbon" under the auspices of the embassy of the Russian federation and Madrid branch of Rossotrudnichestvo. Considering close ties of Blagoe Delo Association with separatist groups in the states of the former Soviet Union, the fact of its "cooperation" with the radical organizations of Catalan separatists which gain full support from Putin's regime causes special concern. This secret cooperation is organized by Russian citizen Mikhail MEDVEDEV, who illegally reached the territory of Spain, resides in Barcelona and is the head of Russian-Catalan Association for Scientific and Cultural Cooperation as well as a member of the Coordinating Council of the Russian Compatriots in Spain. It may happen that this "cooperation" is directed at the organization of "skill-sharing" of armed struggle for forced separation, and serves as a channel of recruitment and illegal dispatch of Spanish professional soldiers to the areas of armed conflicts which Russia is involved in. Recently law enforcement agencies of Spain have arrested and convicted several dozens of Spanish mercenaries fought for the pro-Russian separatists in Syria and the Caucasus. Thus, illegal actions of Blagoe Delo Benevolent Association as well as other pseudo-nongovernmental organisations of "the Russian compatriots" undermine social cohesion in the state through consolidation of the pro-Russian forces, defamation of national identity of the Spanish people, and propagation of anti-Western, conservative and orthodox Eurasian values. Being a tool of the Russian "soft force", they also try to impose an alternative belief system to encumber decision-making, and also act as the destabilizing forces, uniting radical groups and extending aggressive pro-Kremlin propaganda within the Kingdom. Moreover, by financing the Russian mercenaries and by organizing direct Spaniards’ involvement in various armed conflicts, these organizations directly violate the national law of Spain and its state policy of neutrality. Well, what is country leaders’ response? How long will the leaders of political forces and government institutions tolerate and cover the Russian espionage network? How long will the law enforcement agencies hibernate while Spanish people suffer? It remains to be seen… Ángel Sastre, independent journalist, Bilbao
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