Colombian mainstream media devoted disproportionate coverage to detail how Aleksandr Belousov and Aleksandr Paristov wanted to obtain information on Colombia’s energetic, technological and military infrastructure, nothing too surprising coming from officials of a country like Russia that makes and exports products of these fields. There is nothing unusual about officials from the Russian Embassy wanting to obtain this kind of information, and the activities shown by Colombian media are perfectly compatible with collecting information to serve the state they represent, something that all embassies around the world do. Even if they paid for the information, as the articles claim, it could be a questionable method and more concerning for Russian taxpayers than for the Colombian authorities, but this by no means qualifies as espionage. In contrast with the media enthusiasm for having an alleged episode of spying, Colombian authorities so far, including the president and the foreign minister, didn’t talk of espionage at any moment, but of “activities incompatible with the dispositions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations”. So everything points that the Colombian media, as usual, are being overzealous.
Contrary to the claim, the Colombian authorities have no doubt about the role of the Russian diplomats expelled from the country on December 8, 2020. Colombian media based their reporting on investigations carried out by the intelligence services of their own country, who provided their results (in Spanish) to some of them, such as El Tiempo and Semana, and even granted them interviews (in Spanish).
According to a Colombian intelligence report reviewed by Colombian newspaper El Tiempo (in Spanish), Aleksandr Paristov was positively identified by the allied intelligence services of the US and UK as a member of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence (SVR). The same publication stated that Colombia’s National Direction of Intelligence (DNI) identified the other man, Aleksandr Nikolayevich Belousov, as a member of Russia’s Military Intelligence (GRU).