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A Russian intelligence officer was uncovered trying to enter the Netherlands and gain access to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hauge, in April, a Dutch intelligence service announced Thursday.
The Netherlands’ General Intelligence and Security Service (abbreviated in Dutch as AIVD) said it had arrested Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, an accused Russian spy who had concocted a backstory as a Brazilian citizen working as an intern to the ICC named Viktor Muller Ferreira. The AIVD believes Cherkasov is a member of the Russian Military Intelligence Service (abbreviated in Russian as GRU).
The AIVD alerted Dutch immigration authorities of the alleged infiltration attempt and the suspected Russian spy was “refused entry into the Netherlands in April and declared unacceptable. He was sent back to Brazil on the first flight out.”
The alleged infiltration attempt comes as the ICC is investigating war crimes allegations related to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, as well as Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia. The AIVD said it is for these reasons that “covert access to International Criminal Court information would be highly valuable to the Russian intelligence services.”
Had the alleged Russian spy continued with his mission, the AIVD said “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 he might have also been able to influence criminal proceedings in the court.
The AIVD believes Cherkasov is a member of Russia’s “Illegals” spying program, where agents assume years-long deep cover back stories to conceal their identities and true intelligence-gathering efforts. A document shared by the AIVD indicates Cherkasov may have been working with his Brazilian cover identity as far back as 2010. The document, which the AIVD believes was written by Cherkasov himself, provides details about his cover background, which Cherkasov likely used to help memorize his fake backstory and provide authentic-sounding details about the false identity.
“Because of their alias identity, ‘illegals’ are difficult to discover,” the AIVD said. “For that reason they often remain undetected, allowing them to carry out intelligence activities. Because they present themselves as foreigners, they have access to information that would be inaccessible to a Russian national.”