A Russian plot to infiltrate the International Criminal Court in the Hague with a spy posing as a 33-year-old Brazilian intern has been foiled by Dutch intelligence.
Dutch intelligence agency the AIVD (General Intelligence and Security Service) said it had refused a member of Russia’s GRU military intelligence entry into the country in April as a ‘threat to national security’.
The AIVD named him as Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, 36, saying he had claimed to be a 33-year-old Brazilian citizen named Viktor Muller Ferreira in his bid to access the Hague-based ICC, 40 miles south of Amsterdam.
The ICC has been tasked with investigating war crimes in Ukraine, of which Russia stands accused of perpetrating many.
Had Cherkasov been successful, the AIVD speculate he might have been able to recruit sources to Russian intelligence, gather potentially damaging information and even influence the criminal proceedings of the ICC.
Cherkasov used his Brazilian cover identity to travel from Brazil to the Netherlands but was interdicted at the airport and sent back to Brazil on the first flight out, the AIVD said in a statement.
Russian spy Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, 36, claimed to be a 33-year-old Brazilian intern named Viktor Muller Ferreira in a Russian plot to access the International Criminal Court in the Hague, where war crimes in Ukraine are being investigated
A prosecutor of the International Criminal Court visits a mass grave near the St. Andrew and All Saints Church in Bucha city of Kyiv, on April 13
Workers wearing protective gear exhume bodies at a site where civilians killed during Russian occupation were hastily buried
‘The AIVD prevented a Russian intelligence officer from gaining access as an intern to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague,’ the AIVD statement said.
‘The person in question works for the Russian Military Intelligence Service GRU, but he used a Brazilian cover identity to travel from Brazil to the Netherlands.’
Cherkasov was a deep cover spy also known as an ‘illegal’, the AIVD said, who receives long and extensive training and can be placed in a country as a ‘sleeper’ agent, carefully crafting their identity and putting down roots. This makes them very hard to discover.
Covert access to the ICC would be ‘highly valuable to the Russian intelligence services’ as it is probing both Ukraine and the Russian war in Georgia in 2008, it said.
Cherkasov, as his alias Viktor Muller Ferreira, would have had access to the ICC’s building and systems once his internship had commenced.
‘The illegal was supposed to commence an internship with the ICC, which would mean he would have access to the ICC’s building and systems,’ the AIVD said.
Had the Russian spy succeeded ‘he would have been able to gather intelligence there and to look for (or recruit) sources, and arrange to have access to the ICC’s digital systems,’ it added.
‘He might also have been able to influence criminal proceedings of the ICC.’
The Dutch agency said it ‘holds him to be a threat to national security’ and alerted the immigration services before his arrival.
‘On these grounds the intelligence officer was refused entry into the Netherlands in April and declared unacceptable. He was sent back to Brazil on the first flight out,’ it said.
‘The ICC has also been informed of this case.’
Observers claim Russians are using mass graves and mobile crematoriums to cover up evidence of their war crimes
Mass graves for the tens of thousands of Ukrainians who have died during the war are commonplace, this one near Kharkiv
A body left out to nature has been wrapped in a Mickey Mouse duvet cover awaiting burial
The AIVD released the four-page cover letter for Cherkasov’s internship, which reads like a touching memoir of a difficult childhood. The AIVD said it was likely written by Cherkasov himself in order to memories the details of his cover identity (or ‘legend’).
Christo Grozev, who is the lead Russia investigator with open source investigation outfit Bellingcat, tweeted of the cover letter: ‘Tell me you’re a Russian spy without telling me you’re a Russian spy. “Nationality – Brazillian.”
Russian intelligence services spend years on the construction of legends for illegals in order to build credible identities that will be able to outwit Western intelligence agencies and gain access to highly sensitive and sought after sites such as the ICC.
So to have one blown in the manner of Cherkasov will come as a blow.
There was no immediate response from the ICC, which opened a probe into potential war crimes in Ukraine shortly after Russia’s invasion on February 24.