Modern spy craft. Russian agents in Spain and Italy

For years, Russia has been creating a network of agents in Europe and across the world. When the invasion began, the network has already been fully operational. Today we publish the third part of our series about Russian spies.

In today’s world, spies are not necessarily the ones who extract information. Sometimes they can create it. If the former usually buy information, the latter distribute it to the target audience or mislead the domestic audience in Russia itself. There are many channels for disseminating information in the modern world:

  • We wrote about pseudo-journalists in Germany and actions in support of the invasion of Ukraine in Vienna in the first part.    
  • In the second part, we described in detail the pseudo thought leaders of Serbia, and the activities of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Africa.

In this third article, we talk about Spain and Italy, and a little bit about Austria again.

Spain

In Spain, the video blogger Liu Sivaya is noteworthy. The woman positions herself as a political scientist and works exclusively with the Spanish audience, and more precisely with those who come from Catalonia and the Basque Country.

Although starting February 2022, her entire YouTube channel is devoted to replicating Russian propaganda and shifting responsibility for the war in Ukraine to the West, her activities are directed not only against Kyiv but also against Madrid.

In her blogs, she talks not only about Ukraine, but also about Nazism in Madrid and Spanish censorship, and compares the situation in eastern Ukraine with Catalonia and the Basque Country. Although there were no separate people of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic” before 2014, and there was no struggle for their independence, the Kremlin invented these countries to justify the occupation of the region.

Liu Sivaya is fueling separatist sentiment in Spain threatening the official Madrid. Therefore, its activities are the subject of study for the Spanish counterintelligence.

It is also worth noting the surge in the number of pro-Russian events in the Basque Country. We saw actions in support of the organizations “Vesta” and “Slavic House,” which are associated with the Russian Embassy. The leaders of these organizations, Larisa Vasenina and Alla Usanova, have repeatedly participated in Russian propaganda events.

In particular, they were at the Congress of Compatriots of the Russian Federation together with Vladimir Putin. They also took part in organizing rallies in support of the Russian quasi-republics of the Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics” in Spain, again probing the issue of separatism in Spain itself.

Because the organizers of the picket are Speranza, an NGO funded by the Russian Government, specifically by RosSotrudnichestvo. The latter is the Kremlin’s federal body, which is officially tasked to spread the Russian culture and to provide humanitarian aid to other countries in need. But actually, it’s the Kremlin’s spy nest that engages in so-called “soft diplomacy” and the creation of spy networks through the distribution of grants.

Whereas in Spain the Russians act through the diaspora, the Italian network of agents of influence is different. In particular, the picket “No to the NATO war against Russia” will be held in Bellante on June 2. Why did the Italian provincial commune decide to protest against a non-existent war between the Alliance and Russia?

Italy

Another case is the pro-Russian writer and public figure Sarah Reginella, who, with the support of the Italian Communists, is holding presentations of her book Donbas. Ghost war in the heart of Europe throughout Italy. Her another “achievement” is the organization of “For a democratic Ukraine and a free Donbas” conference.

Until 2014, Sarah worked as a psychologist, and since 2014 she has been promoting Russian narratives in Italy. She gives interviews proactively to Russian and Chinese propaganda operatives. Also, she made a biased documentary about the war in Donbas. It completely replicates the Russian propaganda.

Now Sarah is actively promoting the same points as the other characters of our series: Western countries are to blame for the war, and sanctions against Russia must be lifted.

Back to Austria

We have already written about how Russian agents of influence are organizing public gatherings in Vienna in support of the invasion of Ukraine. However, we have an interesting case that mmake this subversive work even more illustrative.

On May 16, the Vienna Chamber of Commerce and Industry launched the information company “Together. This is our Vienna.” The essence of the campaign is simple: photos of Vienna residents. In one of these photos, Volodymyr Kolokov, an employee of the Chamber, and his wife are holding two puzzles in the colors of the flags of Ukraine and Russia.

Thus, in a simple action that has nothing to do with the war in Ukraine, they promoted the message of “brotherly peoples of Russia and Ukraine.” In the current authorizing environment it’s all they could do under the two respected logos: Vienna City Council and Vienna branch of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKO – Wirtschaftskammer Österreich). Russia is actively promoting this message through its agents of influence. They emphasize that the government of Ukraine is the hotbed of Russo-phobia, hence  the invasion was an unavoidable step, and that the peoples themselves are united and have simply fallen victim to Kyiv’s policies.

In the first part, we wrote that not all such actions are the result of the activities of Russian special services. Sometimes we see people who are the so-called “useful idiots.” Moscow uses them for its purposes.

Conclusions

The Russians have been building their intelligence networks for years as they were preparing for the war. Some agents may be in a “hibernation mode,” while some agents have become active since the beginning of the invasion. We continue to study the information fields of different countries to cover tips on how to spot a Russian propagandist.

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