Russian Digest 6/16
Top stories I'm keeping an eye on
1. The Netherlands announced the exposure of a Russian intelligence officer who got a job at the International Criminal Court in The Hague under the guise of a Brazilian citizen
"It was a multi-year GRU operation that cost a lot of time, energy and money"
On 16 June, Dutch intelligence (AIVD) published a press release detailing how it had disrupted an attempt by what it said was a Russian military intelligence (GRU) asset to gain “access as an intern to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague”. The man was denied entrance to the Netherlands and was sent back to Brazil.
This press release provided a wide array of information about this individual, including his real identity and his “legend” identity – a fake persona created by the GRU.
The real name of the GRU asset, according to AIVD, is Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov (born 11 September 1985). His false persona is Victor Muller Ferreira (born 4 April 1989). The AIVD also provided a four-page legend letter used by Cherkasov/Ferreira, providing a bizarre biography for a fake Brazilian man. via Bellingcat
2. The wreckage of a satellite shot down by Russia almost collided with the ISS again
The International Space Station once again had to "dodge" tons of space debris that remained in orbit after testing the Russian missile defense system last year.
At 22.02 Moscow time Thursday, the ISS conducted an "unscheduled maneuver" to evade a dangerous rendezvous with the debris of the Kosmos-1408 spacecraft, said Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos.
To correct the orbit, the engines of the Russian transport cargo ship Progress MS-20 were used, he specified.
The strike on the Soviet-made satellite was carried out by the Russian Ministry of Defense on November 15, 2021, shocking NASA, where they said that they had not been warned about the "reckless" tests and that numerous debris posed a threat to astronauts in orbit.
And although the ISS immediately had to change its orbit, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the resulting fragments do not pose any threat to space activities.
The head of the department, Sergei Shoigu, then announced the successful tests of anti-satellite weapons. As Interfax notes, we can talk about new anti-missiles of the missile defense system, which the Ministry of Defense has been testing since 2017 and with which it planned to supplement the A-135 complex deployed around Moscow. via The Moscow Times
The Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration reported on Telegram that on the evening of June 16 a fire broke out at the Coagulant chemical plant in the town of Polohy in Zaporizhia Oblast. There is currently no information available on casualties. via Kyiv Independent
4. Zelensky instructed to check readiness for invasion from Belarus in 4 regions - Danilov
“As for the direction from Belarus. I want to inform you that in addition to the National Security and Defense Council, there is the headquarters of the supreme commander in chief ... Yesterday the president called the headquarters, and this particular issue was discussed - the issue of Belarus.
All our bodies that are involved in this gave an assessment - what is happening, what condition the army of Belarus is in today, how many military of the Russian Federation are there, what are the plans. All this is under the control of our President, and yesterday the bet on this account worked for quite a long time. And I think it's quite effective.
As a result, there is an instruction - now there will be a check in four areas of the state of preparation in case there are repeated calls for our country." via Ukrainian Pravda
5. The Navalny team and the Project spoke about the palaces of the head of Gazprom, Alexei Miller. He counted real estate for 43 billion rubles
The head of Gazprom, Alexei Miller, and his family, through nominal owners, own real estate in Russia worth 43 billion rubles, including palaces in the Moscow region, villas and cottages in Sochi, hotels in Gelendzhik and Altai. This is stated in a joint investigation by the team of Alexei Navalny and the Proekt publication .
Among the most expensive objects are the estate in the village of Greenfield (estimated value of $240 million) and the Millerhof estate ($97 million) in the Istra district of the Moscow region. These palaces were built by Gazprom's main contractor, Stroygazconsulting, and its owner, Jordanian businessman Ziyad Manasir.
About the Millerhof Palace with an area of almost three thousand square meters and a park of 15 hectares became known in 2009 thanks to random aerial photography. The palace received such a nickname because of the statements of local residents that it was being built for the head of Gazprom. The owner of the estate was LLC "All-People's Farm Center", which was recorded on the structures of "Gazprombank". Then the company was taken over by the Cypriot Ridensi.
As the authors of the investigation write, Miller never entered Millerhof, possibly due to a publicity scandal, so Manasir built another palace for the head of Gazprom, next to his house in the elite Greenfield village. Now the Millerhof estate is rented out for events, for example, it hosted the shooting of the Bachelor show with rapper Timati.
The palace built for Miller at Greenfield is said by Navalny's team to be the largest they've ever filmed in the suburbs. Its area is 8.5 thousand square meters.
This is really a real palace, and it's not only about the square, but also about the appearance: the main entrance, where the car can drive up to the very entrance, columns, balconies, a huge dome. On the roof of the building there is a private terrace with sun loungers and chimneys, which hint at the presence of numerous fireplaces in this house.
In the palace, in addition to bedrooms, offices and dining rooms, there is a gym, a swimming pool, several baths, an entertainment complex with a bowling alley, a mini-golf room, an underground skating rink, an exhibition hall, a library, a home cinema, a billiards room, a winter garden and a fur store.
On the site, the total area of which is 62 thousand square meters, there is also a guest house, houses for servants and guards, an Orthodox chapel, a 2000-meter stable with an arena. via Meduza
6. For Mike Pence, Jan. 6 Began Like Many Days. It Ended Like No Other.
An angry mob chanting “hang Mike Pence” came within 40 feet of the vice president. He spent nearly five hours in an underground loading dock. And the president called him a “wimp” and worse. via NYT
8. Myanmar junta vows to execute pro-democracy activists
Myanmar’s military junta has doubled down on threats to carry out its first executions since seizing power, defying repeated appeals from the international community and outraging pro-democracy activists who have spent more than a year under siege.
Myanmar’s military has not used the death penalty for more than 30 years, but amid a violent — and so far unsuccessful — campaign to stamp out resistance, officials are turning to new forms of intimidation, experts say.
At least 14,000 people have been arrested — and at least 114 of them sentenced to death — in the past year, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a Myanmar nonprofit that tracks and attempts to verify the status of those detained by the junta. In early June, military officials vowed to follow through on the executions of four individuals on death row, including two high-profile activists: Kyaw Min Yu, also known as “Ko Jimmy,” who rose to prominence in a series of student uprisings in 1988; and Phyo Zeya Thaw, a hip-hop artist turned member of parliament widely admired among Myanmar’s youth. via Washington Post
9. Third American missing in Ukraine is US Marine veteran Grady Kurpasi
A third American whom the State Department has identified as missing in action in Ukraine is a US Marine veteran, Grady Kurpasi, his wife confirmed to CNN.
The last time Heeson Kim and other close friends heard from Kurpasi was between April 23 and 24, George Heath, a family friend of Kurpasi's told CNN. Kurpasi served in the US Marine Corps for 20 years, retiring in November 2021. He chose to volunteer alongside Ukrainians in Ukraine but initially did not envision himself fighting on the frontlines of the war, Heath said.
"For him personally, he has a skill set that he feels he can give back," he said of Kurpasi. "He wanted to go and help the Ukrainian people. He wasn't really planning on fighting."
The State Department said it was aware of reports of a third American who traveled to Ukraine to fight against Russia who has been identified "in recent weeks" as missing, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a press briefing on Thursday. Price did not give the name of the third reportedly missing American, but said the State Department was in touch with the family. via CNN