More and more details are being revealed in the story of the Russian GRU spy base in the Alps, which surfaced in an extremely embarrassing moment, right ahead of the Normandy Summit. But, before I continue, I'd like to note that everything that has been and will be written about the GRU base has already been branded "fake news". It wasn't the French Ministry of Internal Affairs or in any other official agency that refuted the information about the base, but the Moskovsky Komsomolets online newspaper in Russia. In an interview with this outlet, military intelligence veteran and Hero of Russia Rustem Klupov vehemently denied the report.
Well, give me a break, will you? It’s not a secret to anyone that Moskovsky Komsomolets is a publication that has long been working under the auspices of the Russian Ministry of Defense, and you, guys, let a military intel pundit try to refute "fake news" about Russian spies in the Alps? Really?
Although, maybe it's all for the better because it's precisely thanks to such articles that we can once again see whose guilty conscience is speaking. But let's return to the spy base story.
At the moment, the report has revealed that the base hosted such prominent (literally and figuratively) Russian intelligence figures as Ruslan Boshirov (real name Anatoly Chepiga), Alexander Petrov (Alexander Mishkin) and Sergey Fedotov (Denis Sergeyev) – the group of Skripal poisoners; also the group of operatives who tried to poison Bulgarian arms dealer Emilian Gebrev: (the following are their fake IDs) Nikolai Kononikhin, Ivan Lebedev, Danil Stepanov, George Gorshkov and Sergey Pavlov (the latter also participated in the Skripal attempt); agents with pseudonyms Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, who were involved in a foiled pro-Russian coup d'etat in Montenegro; as well as Alexander Kulagin, Yevgeny Larin, Timur Nuzirov, Naman Yusupov and Gennady Shvets – all unknown to the public so far.
Of course, I am more than sure that soon we will learn about the "feats" of the last five persons on the list and I'm just as sure that it'll be The Insider outlet that will make a great deal of efforts to expose them. But today we have a slightly different issue to focus on.
In fact, France had long become become a transit base for the GRU. Russia's infamous "little green men" carried out their operations, assassinations, acts of sabotage, and other activities largely due to the presence of the fact that this "cabin in the mountains" existed. And most notably, the actions we're talking about and the figures we've mentioned have been destabilizing various European states, including France.
I wonder what the new rhetoric will now be of Emmanuel Macron, who just a week ago was calling for peace with Russia and joint efforts against global terrorism, if, in fact, Russia itself is the source of global terrorism…
Besides, the fact that some of the alpine base visitors are still unknown to us leads me to thinking that they may have been involved in much more heinous crimes and what we know about GRU operations in Europe in 2014-2019 may just be the tip of the iceberg. Also, it may as well be that after learning about the Russian spy base in France as late as now, we are yet to learn about more such "mountain cabins" across the entire Europe.
Of course, it will be interesting to see the official reaction on the part of France, given that the country's territory was used to organize and logistically support high-profile "special measures" throughout Europe. However, I believe all we'll see will be deliberate self-distancing, for at least two reasons.
Firstly, Paris is once again embroiled in public unrest, fueled by radical civic groups funded from Russia. So do the authorities want to see their Paris in burning tire smoke on Christmas Eve? I doubt it.
Well, and secondly, let's recall the story of British art historian Anthony Blunt, who had been working for Soviet intelligence for almost 15 years and, after being exposed, was granted immunity and a guarantee that the fact of his cooperation with the Soviets wouldn't be made public. The very fact that in the heart of Great Britain, in Buckingham Palace, a mole that had been working for such a long period, has discredited the Mi-5, so it would make no sense for them to cause any public outrage over the fact. Now, the situation with the Russian spy base in the Alps is very similar to this story, because for six years France has served as a transit hub for Russian hitmen.
I'm sure that for the second day already, someone is fuming really bad over this fact at 14 Rue Saint Dominique, while the office phone is already red hot from angry calls at the headquarters on Boulevard Mortier.
Really, these are not the best times for French intelligence and foreign security. But, perhaps, this could have been avoided had the authorities perceived Russian threat more realistically, without any appeasing and unnecessary maneuvering.
And now, while Europe will continue to bend before the Kremlin, we will continue to learn more about the malign activity of Russian spy cells on European body. But how much more bending will the European spine stand under the weight of such activity?