German authorities charged a man with espionage after he allegedly passed floor plans of the country’s parliament buildings in Berlin to Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, officials say.
The man, identified only as Jens F. in accordance with German privacy rules, worked for a company that carried out electrical maintenance in the Bundestag and other government premises. The Bundestag is located inside the Reichstag.
“The defendant had access to PDF files with the floor plans,” federal prosecutors said in a statement on Thursday, adding that it appears that the man “decided of his own accord” to carry out the act.
Prosecutors say that in 2017, the 55-year old Jens F. sent the PDF files to an officer with Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, located in the Russian Embassy.
The German magazine Der Speigel said that according to sources within the investigation the suspect is a former army officer who allegedly had links with the Stasi secret police between 1984 and 1990. The Stasi was the feared East German secret police that had thousands of operatives and informants. Jens F. had been under suspicion for quite some time and authorities had searched his home in 2019.
The case follows a pattern of the Russian intelligence agencies taking a much more proactive approach of not only gathering intelligence but acting on it. SOFREP recently spoke with former CIA Acting Director of Operations Jack Devine and he mentioned that the unwritten “Moscow Rules” among intelligence agencies have been tossed out the window under President Putin. The podcast with Mr. Devine will post on March 5th. SOFREP also reviewed his book Spymaster’s Prism, the Fight Against Russian Aggression where he goes into detail about Russian meddling.
The Russian intelligence agencies meddled with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Additionally, hackers targeted several U.S federal agencies including the Treasury Department, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the State Department, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – as well as numerous businesses and the cybersecurity firm FireEye.
German intelligence officials have expressed concern that Russia will meddle in their upcoming federal elections later this year. In May of last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed reports that she had been targeted by hackers possibly linked to the GRU.
In October, the European Union (EU) imposed sanctions on two Russian officials and part of the GRU agency over a cyberattack against the German parliament in 2015. In 2018, the German government’s IT network was hacked by Russian intelligence operations.
Furthermore, Russian GRU operatives have increasingly carried out assassinations, “wet work” outside of their borders against defectors or opponents of the Putin regime.
A Russian is slated to go on trial after killing a Georgian man on a Berlin street in 2019. And after Russian opposition leader Alexi Navalny was poisoned with the Russian nerve agent Novichok on an airliner last year, he was taken to Germany for treatment, which further added to the ire of the Russian government.
After the Navalny incident, the EU and U.K. handed travel bans and asset freezes against six Russian government employees. The six members of the Russian government include the first deputy chief of staff to President Vladimir Putin, Sergei Kiriyenko, and deputy ministers to the ministry of defense, Alexei Krivoruchko and Pavel Popov.
The sanctions also included the State Scientific Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology in Russia, as well as the director of the federal security service Aleksandr Bortnikov, Chief of the Presidential Domestic Policy Directorate Andrei Yarin, and Sergei Menyailo, the plenipotentiary representative of the president of the Russian Federation in the Siberian federal district.
In November 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, a former officer of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and KGB, after speaking critically about what he saw as corruption within the Russian government, fled to the U.K. to escape retribution. There he remained a vocal critic of the Russian state. Litvinenko was assassinated by two Russians who poisoned him with polonium-210. Litvinenko wasn’t the only Russian attacked on British soil.
In 2018, the Russian GRU also poisoned Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with Novichok in Salisbury. Skripal was a former Russian military officer who spied for British intelligence.
Although officially Russia denied involvement and called such claims a fabrication and a “grotesque provocation rudely staged by the British and U.S. intelligence agencies [to undermine Russia],” later an official brazenly changed that tack.
The alleged killer of Livitnenko, Andrey Lugovoy, said in an interview in Moscow: “Something constantly happens to Russian citizens who either run away from Russian justice or for some reason choose for themselves a way of life they call a change of their Motherland. So the more Britain accepts on its territory every good-for-nothing, every scum from all over the world, the more problems they will have.”
In this latest Russian incident in Berlin, the Russians slammed the “myth of Russian aggression.” The head of the foreign relations committee in the State Duma Leonid Sluzki said to the Russian Interfax news agency, “Such reports about caught ‘Russian spies’ only serve to fuel an anti-Russian information campaign to support the myth of Moscow aggression.”