By Defence Correspondent in Kyiv
Twelve years ago this week, as part of Operation Ghost Stories, the FBI arrested 10 deep-cover Russian SVR operatives (“illegals”) in the U.S. Weeks later, they pleaded guilty to conspiring to serve as unlawful agents of the Russian Federation in America.
The Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the Ukraine published a list of 620 Russian agents of the SVR’s sister service the FSB on 29 March 2022.
Several of these Russian agents belong to the Federalnya Sluzhba Bezopastnosti (FSB) Foreign Intelligence Directorate- the directorate that Putin personally established when he was the chief of the FSB. These FSB agents case files show that they work under “deep cover” in NATO countries similar to the 10 SVR “deep cover” operatives the FBI arrested in 2012 in the US.
It is part of a pattern of Russian operations. Recently, the Dutch Security Service (AVID) exposed a Russian agent of Russian Military Intelligence or the Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie (GRU) called Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov who tried to infiltrate the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague under deep cover as a Brazilian student. The investigative website Bellingcat quickly uncovered a digital trail that led back to the GRU headquarters as confirmation.
In their statement about the Cherkasov case the Dutch security service said that the cover identity of an “illegal”, which is called a “legend”, is generally very complex and difficult- if not impossible- for outsiders to identify. An “illegal’s” story contains a combination of authentic information and personal (possibly fabricated) impressions.
Each of the FSB female agents identified by Ukrainian intelligence are operating as a “honeytrap” -like Anna Chapman did in the UK and then in the US- to target influential and powerful male leaders in business, politics and the government. These women establish their cover in their country of operations through long term romantic relationships with powerful men which typically starts with sexual entrapment and then lead to financial support arrangements by their targets. The objective is to obtain a foothold in the target’s society that will give the agents access to other targets. The FSB tasked these female agents with collecting intelligence about the elite of the target country that the FSB then exploits to sow disinformation and for its disruptive cyber operations. Their case files contain volumes of information but also taskings from their FSB handlers to sow disinformation through rumour, blackmail and other allegations.
Examples of Russian Agents from the Ukrainian List.
OLGA MAKSIMILIANOVNA KOSTENKO, 06/08/1997, 1211380018 , 06/09/2011, MOSCOW, LUBYANKA also known as YULIA KOSTENKO. She travels between Russia and Barcelona under the cover as an art dealer and art specialist. This gives her access to high society in Barcelona as a city frequented by wealthy European men seeking leisure. KOSTENKO’s file shows that she has attached herself to a well known film producer.
Another agent is GUCHAPSHEVA MARIA GENNADIEVNA, 10.12.1981, VLADIKAVKAZ REPUBLIC. NORTH OSSETIA-ALANIA, 9002413480, 10.01.2003, MOSCOW, BOLSHAYA LUBYANKA 20 V/H, Federal, Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation. She is also known as GUZEL KING, GUZEL GANIEVA, GUZEL GUPSCHEVA or GUZEL OGANEZOV. She travels between Moscow, London and New York to build her cover as a law student and part-time model to target influential US and UK business leaders for sexual seduction. GUPSCHEVA or GANIEVA’s FSB case file shows that she failed at establishing journalistic cover in New York earlier in her operational career in 2014-15. GUPSCHEVA/GANIEVA initially established herself in 2005 in New York as an escort at Imperial Escorts. As an escort, GUPSCHEVA seduced Harold van Arnem, a wealthy US financier, who took her as his mistress. Her relationship with Van Arnem established her cover on the New York social scene. The FSB subsequently instructed her to target influential media owners. Van Arnem in turn was found dead under mysterious circumstances in 2018 at his home in Greenwich Village. He clearly knew too much.
POLINA ALEKSEEVNA KOVZHAROVA, 04/20/1996, N/A, 107031, Moscow, Bolshaya Lubyanka st., 1/3, Federal Security Service (FSB), RF is also known as SVETA KUZNETSOV. KOVZHAROVA travels since 2010 between Moscow, Paris and Milan as a model to target influential European politicians. KOZHAROVA established herself as the permanent mistress of Manlio Di Stefano, an Italian government minister from the Five Star Movement with an IT background. She continues to operate from a secret flat in a fashionable part of Milan paid for by her Italian lover.
SCHELKONOGOVA VERONIKA OLEGOVNA, 07/20/1997, 4518321845 , 04/10/2017, MOSCOW, LUBYANKA B. d. also known as VERONIQUE SCHEL. SCHELKONOGOVA operates out of an IT company in London called TALLARIUM LTD based at Palladium House 1-4 Argyll Street W1F 7LD. She is specifically focused on targeting senior IT executives from NATO countries. She is currently in an illicit relationship with the senior executive of a big technology company.
As a standard operating procedure the FSB assigned children to several of these female agents to build their cover. The children are also often used as a device to win the sympathy of their male targets. The children who are entrusted to the female agents on a long term basis are abducted by the FSB from orphanages in Russia and the Ukraine.
The former leader of British intelligence agency M-I6, Sir John Sawers, said, “We see the extent of Russian aggressive intelligence activities across the world. We probably only know 10 percent of what they’re doing. There will be a great deal that the Russian intelligence services do that we’re simply not aware of.”
The question now is where is this trail from these secret FSB files leading to next?