Disinfo: There is no evidence that the Russian diplomats expelled from Colombia were spies, it’s all a narrative created by Colombian media

Summary

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.

Disproof

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).

Colombian president Iván Duque refused to reveal more information at this point because it “would not correspond with the principle of continuing bilateral relations”. The formula used by Colombia’s Foreign Minister Claudia Blum stating that the Russians were carrying out “activities incompatible with the dispositions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations” is a well-established diplomatic euphemism to refer to espionage.

Colombian publication Semana also obtained a long dossier (in Spanish) prepared by the DNI on the so-called Operation Enigma, a two-year surveillance operation on both Russian citizens, which included hours of recordings and pictures of their movements and contacts. Their activities, according to Semana, included “military and intelligence tactics used by spies”, such as frequent changes of cars and clothes during their movements or long rides of 5 and 6 hours to avoid surveillance. They also tried to spy on Colombia’s military intelligence.

Colombian authorities are also preparing to prosecute their nationals that provided sensitive information to the Russians on grounds of treason, something that wouldn’t happen if, as the disinformation piece states, these activities “by no means qualify as espionage”.

See other examples of disinformation narratives about Russia being falsely accused, such as allegations that neither the US Intelligence Committee report nor the Mueller report found any evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 US elections, that there is no proof that Russia tried to influence in the Brexit referendum or about the role played by RT and Sputnik in these and other processes, that “absurd” accusations against Russia are an attempt to demonise it, or that the US and UK are indeed the ones who try to interfere in Europe.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 225
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 28/12/2020
  • Outlet language(s) Spanish, Castilian
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: Colombia, Russia
  • Keywords: Mainstream media, Diplomacy with Russia, Anti-Russian, Intelligence services
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Netherlands court manipulated the facts in the MH17 crash hearings

Independent Dutch experts have called the investigation into the Malaysian Boeing MH17 crash a monumental failure in the history of the Netherlands. Specialists resent the fact that the investigation relies on data provided by the well-known speculative organisation Bellingcat. They are trying to manipulate the facts in the interests of their sponsors.

Dutch experts also point to a large number of facts indicating that Ukrainian fighters were in the area of ​​the plane crash. According to experts, they could have provoked a crash of a civilian airliner.

Disproof

This recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation consists of several narratives about the allegedly unfair investigation into the MH17 crash, the alleged guilt of the Ukrainian army as well as an attempt to discredit the investigative team Bellingcat.

Bellingcat has been the target of a smear campaign by pro-Kremlin media on previous occasions. They have conducted a journalistic investigation into the downing of MH17 and consistently published about the topic, including an investigation of the chain of command that led to the tragedy.

By not providing water to Crimea, Ukraine shows inhuman behaviour and its hatred towards Crimea

In this way, it is hoped that those Crimean sanction mechanisms that have sealed off the peninsula and its population from the outside world for more than six years could also stop this [desalination] project [in Crimea]. Numerous politicians in Russia have already condemned this position as a sign of inhumane behaviour – not for the first time in the six years. These statements show hatred against the Crimean population […] . The situation is unprecedented by international standards.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about Ukraine and Crimea.

The North Crimean Canal is the only structure through which the Crimea received water from the Dnipro River. After Russia’s illegal annexation of the peninsula, the Ukrainian leadership stated that the main condition for the renewal of the agreements on the water supply to the Crimea is re-institution of legitimate authorities on the peninsula, which after the annexation of the Crimea are absent. Ukraine decided to close the locks of the North Crimean Canal and stated that it would resume water supply to the peninsula only after the complete de-occupation of Crimea. Under international law, Russia has the duty to provide supplies in those territories.

Ukraine will buy gas directly from Russia again

A cold winter will force Ukraine to buy gas directly from Russia again.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the gas supply negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.

According to the Acting Minister of Energy Olha Buslavets, Ukraine entered the 2020 heating season with record fuel reserves. Coal reserves in warehouses are about 3 million tonnes. This is three times more than the previous year (2019). The gas reserves in the PCG are 26 billion cubic metres.