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Supporters of Catalan independence during a rally in Bilbao. September 16, 2017.
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Catalonia sings ‘Kalinka’ Barcelona judge investigates Russian links to separatism in Spain

Source: El Periodico
Supporters of Catalan independence during a rally in Bilbao. September 16, 2017.
Supporters of Catalan independence during a rally in Bilbao. September 16, 2017.
Alvaro Barrientos / AP / Scanpix / LETA

A Barcelona judge leading an investigation into the illegal financing of the Catalan independence referendum attempted in 2017 believes that Russia offered military and material assistance to promoters of the region’s secession from the rest of Spain. This was reported by the Catalan newspaper El Periodico, which cited a court order that led to the arrest of 21 suspected Catalan separatists in Catalonia on October 28. 

During a referendum held on October 1, 2017, 90 percent of participants voted in favor of Catalonia seeking independence from Spain. Ahead of the referendum, the Spanish government announced that it would not acknowledge the results of the vote and accused the organizers of the referendum, including Catalonia’s former president Carles Puigdemont, of embezzlement and rebellion. Catalan leaders were sentenced to between 9 and 13 years in prison. Puigdemont, who left the country for Belgium, remains at large. Spain is currently investigating the use of public money to finance the Catalan independence movement.

In the document, Judge Joaquín Aguirre wrote that not long before the attempted referendum, Russia offered to send 10,000 soldiers to the region and to pay off Catalonia’s debt in full. The judge reached this conclusion based on two recordings of telephone conversations from May 2018, which involved Catalan politician Victor Terradellas, an associate of the former president of Catalonia’s government, Carles Puigdemont.

According to the court, the offer came after Terradellas approached a representative of a group of Russian nationals formed during Gorbachev era, to discuss creating a cryptocurrency platform that would allow Catalonia to gain full financial independence.

RIA Novosti reported that the order from the judge also talks about a “strategy of disinformation and destabilization, in which the Kremlin has participated.” The news agency also claims that the document mentions Rossiya Segodnya and RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, the Chief of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov, and political scientist Sergey Markov, who allegedly met with Terradellas.

Sergey Markov told Open Media that in 2017, he spoke to Victor Terradellas about the extent to which the Russian authorities were ready to acknowledge Catalonia’s independence. He added that he didn’t promise any support from Moscow. “He [Terradellas] came to see me for advice [on] whether Russia would be ready to support the Catalan government in declaring independence in exchange for recognizing Crimea as Russian. I consulted with some colleagues and then told him that the Russian government would not support the government of Catalonia in any way,” Markov said.

After the judge’s statement, supporters of Catalan independence marched along a street in Barcelona singing the Russian folk song “Kalinka,” the Telegram channel “Catalan Quarantine” reported

The Russian Embassy in Spain responded to the judge’s statement with a joke: “Two zeros must be added to the number of soldiers and the most striking thing of all [in] this conspiracy: the troops were supposed to be deployed on ‘Mukha’ and ‘Chato’ planes assembled in Catalonia during the civil war and hidden in a safe place,” it’s statement said (as quoted by TASS). 

According to previous reports from El Periodico, Victor Terradellas told Puigdemont, that he had held talks with a former deputy from Russia’s ruling party and a political scientist linked to the Kremlin in Moscow in 2017. Terradellas claimed that they discussed Moscow’s readiness to acknowledge Catalonia’s independence, if the Catalan authorities acknowledged Russia’s annexation of Crimea in return.

In November of last year, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that Spain’s law enforcement agencies were looking into the possible interference of a Russian GRU unit in Catalonia’s internal affairs in the fall of 2017. 

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