Dutch intelligence said on Thursday that a Russian military spy impersonated a Brazilian citizen in a bid to obtain training at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is investigating allegations of war crimes in Ukraine.
The General Intelligence and Security Service identified the Russian intelligence officer as Sergei Vladimirovich Cherkasov, and said that in April he used an elaborately constructed identity to try to infiltrate the court. A letter attached to the application for training Cherkasov was published. Written under the pseudonym Victor Muller Ferreira, he wove a complex cover story about growing up in poverty in Brazil and how members of his family suffered from heart problems.
Cherkasov was arrested at a Dutch airport and deported to Brazil, where he could face legal proceedings.
“If the intelligence officer had succeeded as an intern at the ICC, he would have been able to gather intelligence there, search for (or recruit) sources, and arrange access to the ICC’s digital systems.” The Intelligence and Security Service said in a statement.
This would have made a “significant contribution” to the intelligence sought by Russia. The spy may also be able to influence criminal proceedings, the service said.
There was no immediate reaction from Moscow, although the attempted infiltration may indicate how seriously Russian President Vladimir Putin is taking allegations of Russian war crimes in Ukraine. The Kremlin has consistently denied the accusation, saying the West is fabricating a disinformation campaign against Russia.
– Kim Helmgaard
USA Today on the phone: Join the Russian-Ukrainian war channel to receive updates directly on your phone
The latest developments
Japanese budget airline Zipair Tokyo has dropped the “Z” logo on its planes due to its resemblance to what has become a pro-invasion symbol in Russia.
NHL officials will not allow the Stanley Cup to travel to Russia or Belarus this summer, ignoring the unofficial tradition of allowing players from those countries to travel there while spending a day with the cup. Officials notified Tampa Bay Lightning and the Colorado Avalanche of the decision.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday asked oil producers to cut the cost of gas, telling them in a letter that “in the midst of a war that has raised gasoline prices by more than $1.70 a gallon, historically high refinery profit margins are further exacerbating that pain.”
The Euroleague for basketball, which had three Russian participations last season, has suspended teams from that country for next season, citing “air travel restrictions, prohibitions or other restrictions on the issuance of visas to Russian residents” due to the war.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Thursday that the Russian military expects Kyiv to surrender within 12 hours of the start of the invasion and the government to flee the capital within days.
A document found on a Russian military officer killed in the invasion stated that Russian military targets, Reznikov He told CNN. Reznikov said the Kremlin expected the government to stay in the city for less than three days.
“Our partners in various capitals of the world were also naive,” he said. “They told us an invasion was imminent, and you would fall. You only have 72 hours. That’s why they didn’t give us heavy weapons.”
The invasion began on February 24 when Russian forces formed a long column as they headed towards Kyiv. But when the invasion stopped, the Kremlin turned its attention to eastern Ukraine. Russian forces made some progress there, but ideas for a “special military operation” to be completed quickly went down in history.
Members of their family said two American veterans from Alabama who went to Ukraine to help fend off the invasion, are missing and fear being captured by Russian forces or Russian-backed separatists.
Family members say Andy Tay Ngoc Huen, 27, of Trinity, Alabama, and Alexander Drake, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, heard nothing after days of being in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, near the Russian border.
Joy Black, Huynh’s fiancée, told USA TODAY that going to Ukraine “wasn’t a light decision.” “He has a big heart and a lot of sympathy for those in need.”
Huynh told her on June 8 that he won’t be available for a few days. Black, 21, told USA TODAY that she started to get worried when she didn’t hear anything about him. She received a call on Monday from another soldier in his unit, in which he said the couple did not meet at a meeting point during the operation. The caller told them that the other soldiers had waited a day and conducted a drone search.
Black, whose family has since reached out to the State Department and the Ukraine Red Cross group that is also looking for the men, said whether or not they had been arrested. Asked about the men Thursday, White House press secretary Karen Jean-Pierre said, “We’re working hard to find out more.”
“We’re just hoping for good news,” Black said.
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi arrived in Ukraine on Thursday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky while preparing for the EU leaders summit in Brussels next week and the NATO summit on June 29-30 in Madrid. They were joined by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who came separately.
The four European leaders pledged to continue supporting Ukraine with more weapons as it tries to fend off a Russian invasion, and they also pledged to stand behind Kyiv’s candidacy to eventually join the European Union.
“My colleagues and I came to Kyiv today with a clear message: Ukraine belongs to the European family,” Schultz said.
Macron Tweet the video of heavy damage to the city of Irbin of 60,000 inhabitants located 15 miles west of Kyiv.
“We have seen the ruined city and the stigma of barbarism,” Macron wrote. “And the heroism of the Ukrainians, too, who stopped the Russian army on its way to Kyiv. Ukraine is resisting. It should be able to win.”
Draghi said: They destroyed the nurseries and playgrounds. And everything will be rebuilt.”
Russian economic leaders paint a bleak picture
Two of Russia’s top economic minds made clear Thursday that Western sanctions imposed in response to the invasion of Ukraine are having a pernicious effect, even as global oil prices soar softening the sting.
Elvira Nabiullina, head of the Russian Central Bank, warned that the country’s economy is facing pressure from abroad that could continue indefinitely and that the previous situation will not return soon, that is at all.
“External conditions have changed for a long time already, if not forever,” she said at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.
Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov said Russia’s GDP is expected to fall by 7.8% this year, although “in the past month, there has been a wave of improving assessments and forecasts”.
Contributing: Maureen Group, USA Today; Associated Press
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