AIVD disrupts activities of Russian intelligence officer targeting the International Criminal Court

The AIVD prevented a Russian intelligence officer from gaining access as an intern to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The person in question works for the Russian Military Intelligence Service GRU, but he used a Brazilian cover identity to travel from Brazil to the Netherlands. 

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The AIVD holds him to be a threat to national security, and the service informed the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service about this in an official report (“ambtsbericht”).

On these grounds the intelligence officer was refused entry into the Netherlands in April and declared unacceptable. He was sent back to Brazil on the first flight out.

The ICC has also been informed of this case.

Illegals: extensively trained intelligence officers

The Russian intelligence officer purported to be Brazilian citizen Viktor Muller Ferreira (born on 4 April 1989), when in fact his real name is Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov (born 11 September 1985). Cherkasov used a well-constructed cover identity by which he concealed all his ties with Russia in general, and the GRU in particular.

An officer of this kind is better known as an “illegal”: an intelligence officer who received a long and extensive training. Because of their alias identity, illegals are difficult to discover. 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. In addition to the GRU, the Russian intelligence service SVR also makes use of illegals.

The GRU's main focus is on gathering military intelligence, but it also collects intelligence that is more political or technological in nature. The GRU not only collects information, its officers also carry out covert influencing operations. 

International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court investigates possible war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine. The ICC is also investigating war crimes that took place during the Russian war in Georgia in 2008. For those reasons, covert access to International Criminal Court information would be highly valuable to the Russian intelligence services.

The illegal was supposed to commence an internship with the ICC, which would mean he would have access to the ICC's building and systems.

Potentially very high threat

The AIVD cooperates with the MIVD and other partners in order to mitigate any possible damage to national security and the security and integrity of international organisations. The threat posed by this intelligence officer is deemed potentially very high.

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. 

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.

Complex cover identity

Illegals pose an extremely serious threat to national security, to the security of allies, and in this particular case also to the security and integrity of the ICC. Awareness about these and other kinds of intelligence threats are of the utmost importance, especially in view of current international developments.

The document describing the extensive and complex cover identity of this intelligence officer is enclosed with this press release (also translated in Dutch and Portugese), providing a glimpse of the modus operandi of this Russian intelligence officer. The construction of this kind of cover identity generally takes years to complete.