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Russian spy acted for years in US, collected Ukraine info before arrest

June 25, 2023

An alleged Russian spy arrested last year after seeking to join the International Criminal Court gathered information in the U.S. for years, including details about Ukraine before Russia’s invasion.

The details of the intelligence officer Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, who lived under the alias Victor Muller Ferreira, were released by the Justice Department recently.

“When foreign adversaries, such as Russia, send undercover operatives into the United States, we will find them and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves. “Such adversaries seek to operate in secret to undermine our national security in ways that could jeopardize the safety of our citizens. With our partners in the FBI, we will root out anyone who intends to do harm to the United States and bring them to justice.”

Cherkasov attended graduate school for two years in Washington, D.C., where he made connections and sought information. He was arrested in April in Brazil where he had developed a false identity years earlier to later apply for American jobs that required a security clearance.

The Justice Department’s statement did not note the name of the university. CNN reported that the school Cherkasov attended was Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies.

In 2021, some of Cherkasov’s communications included messages about U.S. policy related to Russia’s plans to invade Ukraine. The details reportedly included details gathered from reports on the Russian military’s buildup near Ukraine and information related to NATO.

“For years, Cherkasov worked as an illegal agent for a Russian intelligence service and committed fraud against the United States,” said David Sundberg, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “Today’s criminal complaint is a result of the hard work, determination, and collaborative efforts of the FBI and our international partners in a complex investigation holding him accountable for his attempts to collect intelligence on the United States at the behest of the Russian government.”

The Russian government has been seeking to extradite Cherkasov from his Brazilian incarceration back to his homeland under the guise of narcotics charges.

In addition to his alleged crimes in Brazil, Cherkasov was charged for acting as an agent of a foreign power, visa fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud and other charges stemming from his illegal activities in the U.S., according to the Justice Department. The investigation included the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.