Dutch intel catches Russian spy seeking war crimes court internship
'This was a long-term, multi-year GRU operation'
The Dutch intelligence service announced on Thursday it uncovered a Russian spy attempting to infiltrate the International Criminal Court (ICC) that investigates war crimes in Ukraine.
Sergey Cherkasov used a false name - Viktor Muller Ferreira - and created a years-long cover story to enter the Netherlands as a Brazilian national for an internship in the ICC based in the Hague, according to Reuters.
"This was a long-term, multi-year GRU operation that cost a lot of time, energy and money," Dutch intelligence agency chief Erik Akerboom was quoted as saying.
The GRU is Russia's military intelligence service that has previously been involved in spy scandals in different countries, such as interference in the 2016 US elections and French elections in 2017. The Dutch have also expelled more than 20 Russian nationals accused of spying in recent years, including 17 suspected operatives accredited as diplomats who were thrown out after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.
Akerboom added that the Netherlands classified Cherkasov’s case as “a high-level threat.”
"It clearly shows us what the Russians are up to - trying to gain illegal access to information within the ICC," Akerboom said, noting that the ICC had accepted Cherkasov for an internship.
The Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service issued a statement saying that Cherkasov was summoned at a Dutch airport and declared an undesirable alien. He was then put on the next flight back to Brazil, where he will face court proceedings.
The Dutch intelligence also released a four-page document with details of Cherkasov’s cover story that included an alleged troubled family history, his favorite music club and a Brazilian restaurant.
"Cherkasov used a well-constructed cover identity by which he concealed all his ties with Russia in general, and the GRU in particular," the statement said.
Earlier in April, the ICC opened an investigation in Ukraine probing allegation of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide conducted by Russian forces. Ukrainian human rights activists announced Wednesday that they had already traced nearly 10,000 war crimes committed by the invaders.