A Russian spy has been caught trying to embed himself within the international tribunal investigating Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
The operation featured a 37-year-old Russian military intelligence officer who cultivated “a well-constructed cover identity” as a Brazilian national, according to Dutch intelligence officials. The man intended to begin an internship with the International Criminal Court, which has opened an investigation in Ukraine, as the Dutch government noted.
The man, whom Dutch officials identified as Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, portrayed himself as a child of poverty whose biological mother died in childbirth. Her putative nationality is redacted, in the letter that Dutch officials accused the man of drafting to support his story, but the narrative implies that she was German — presumably to account for the difference between his “looks and [his] accent” and more conventional Brazilian characteristics.
This is not the first time that Dutch officials have accused the GRU, Russia’s foreign intelligence service, of targeting an international entity conducting an investigation that implicated Russian interests. Dutch officials expelled four men whom they characterized as GRU operatives in 2018, on the grounds that they had tried to hack the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons at The Hague. The OPCW was investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar Assad, a Putin client, as well as the alleged use of a nerve agent in the attempted assassination of a former Russian double agent living in the United Kingdom.
“If the intelligence officer had succeeded in gaining access as an intern to the ICC, 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,” the AIVD said. “That way he would have been able to provide a significant contribution to the intelligence that the GRU is seeking. He might also have been able to influence criminal proceedings of the ICC.”
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