The Netherlands says a Russian spy was caught trying to infiltrate the International Criminal Court

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The Dutch authorities suddenly announced Thursday their refusal to enter a Russian spy disguised as a Brazilian citizen to infiltrate the International Criminal Court. Authorities speculated that the man was seeking access to information related to the International Criminal Court’s investigations into alleged Russian war crimes.

“He was sent back to Brazil on the first flight,” the Dutch counterintelligence agency said of the events in April.

But social media accounts linked to the alleged Russian intelligence officer also showed that he studied at top academic institutions in Europe and the United States, including the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, a key place of study for future foreign policy elites. .

The FBI’s Washington office said Thursday that it could neither confirm nor deny whether there was an investigation into the person. Instead, the first public details of the plot came from the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service, known as the AIVD.

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The release agency Thursday’s statement presented unusual details of the case. It said a 33-year-old man purporting to be a Brazilian national named Victor Muller-Ferreira had traveled to the Netherlands from Brazil to begin an internship at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but his real name was Sergei Vladimirovich Cherkasov, and he was 36 years old. A one-year-old Russian intelligence officer.

Cherkasov, who pretends to be Mueller Ferreira, “used a well-built cover identity by which he hid all his relations with Russia in general and the GRU in particular,” according to the agency, using the acronym of the KGB. The release agency Copies of a document detailing his cover ID.

This four-page document, apparently written by the spy in an attempt to memorize the details of his cover story, included long descriptions of a complex family history and mundane details about rent in various cities, schoolteacher crushes and a favorite ecstasy music nightclub. in Brasilia.

The original document was written in Portuguese and contained notable grammatical errors. Dutch authorities revised some of them to remove information that could identify people not involved in Cherkasov’s intelligence activities. The head of the Dutch intelligence agency Eric Ackerbom to Reuters.

Jill Rosen, director of media relations at Johns Hopkins University, said records showed that a man with a slightly different name, Victor Muller-Ferreira, enrolled in the School of Advanced International Studies in 2018 to earn a master’s degree.

Rosen said the man majored in “American foreign policy,” graduating in the spring of 2020 after two years of studying in Washington. Social media accounts also showed that Cherkasov had a degree at Trinity College Dublin before that.

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In an e-mailed statement, company spokeswoman Sonia Rubla said Dutch authorities had briefed the court on the process. “The ICC takes these threats seriously and will continue to work and cooperate with the Netherlands,” said Robla.

Cherkasov was due to begin an internship at the International Criminal Court, where Dutch intelligence said he may have sought information about investigations into allegations of Russian war crimes committed in Ukraine this year and in Georgia in 2008.

“If the intelligence officer had had access as an intern to the ICC, he would have been able to gather intelligence there, search for (or recruit) sources, and arrange access to ICC digital systems,” the AIVD said.

“He may also be able to influence the criminal proceedings of the International Criminal Court,” the agency said, adding that he “potentially poses a very significant risk” to the security of the Netherlands and was returned to Brazil at the earliest opportunity.

Russia has a long history with the court. Moscow has signed but not ratified the 1998 Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court. The International Criminal Court launched investigations into Russia’s invasion of South Ossetia in Georgia in 2008 and subsequently declared Russia an occupying power in Crimea after the 2014 invasion, prompting Moscow to withdraw its signature in protest.

Just days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, announced that he would inaugurate Investigation in possible crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the conflict.

The accusations against Cherkasov, who allegedly was a young student in human rights law and international affairs, caused shock and surprise among those who knew him. Someone who said he knew the alleged spy from Dublin said he was still processing the news. “There were a lot of red flags,” he added.

Eugene Finkel, associate professor of international affairs at Johns Hopkins University and expert on genocide, wrote on Twitter: he knew The man believed to be Mueller Ferreira wrote him a letter of recommendation for training at the International Criminal Court. “Given my research focus, it made sense. I wrote him a letter. A powerful one indeed. Yes I am. I wrote a letter of reference for a GRU officer. I will never get past that fact,” Finkel wrote.

Timsett reported from London and Taylor from Washington.