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House of spies Bellingcat finds real estate registered to alleged Russian spies living in Sweden (it’s in the Moscow building that houses high-ranking intelligence officers)

Source: Meduza

Less than a week after Swedish officials arrested a Russian couple on charges of espionage, the investigative outlet Bellingcat has discovered that the husband and wife own an apartment in the same Moscow building that houses several other high-ranking employees of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. Other notable residents include alleged participants in Novichok poisonings and the supervisor of a disinformation campaign about Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

The married couple recently arrested in Sweden on suspicion of spying for Russia’s intelligence services owns an apartment in a Moscow building that also houses many high-ranking members of Russia’s military intelligence agency. Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins tweeted about the discovery, citing his colleague Christo Grozev.

As was previously reported, the two Russian immigrants and alleged spies were arrested in Stockholm on November 22. Researchers at the publication Expressen and at the Dossier Center (a project funded by former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky that tracks suspected criminal activity linked to the Kremlin) identified the suspects as 59-year-old Sergey Skvortsov and 58-year-old Elena Kulkova. They have lived in Sweden since 1997 and have Swedish citizenship in addition to Russian citizenship. According to charges filed with the Stockholm District Court, the suspects have been spying since 2013.

Grozev reported that the couple and their daughter were registered as the owners of an apartment in Moscow at 36 Zorge Street. It is unclear whether the couple ever lived there.

Bellingcat also reports that GRU Major General Denis Sergeev (undercover name: Sergey Fedotov), an alleged participant in the poisoning of the Skripals, lives in a neighboring apartment. Sergeev was also allegedly involved in the Novichok poisoning of Bulgarian businessman Emilian Gebrev in 2015.

Major General Andrey Averyanov, the head of GRU Unit 29155 (known for carrying out foreign assassinations), lives in the same building. Among other things, Averyanov was the commander of the operation that caused explosions at ammunition warehouses in Vrbetice, Czechia, in 2014. Alleged GRU employees, known by the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, also participated in that operation.

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Additionally, the building houses Major General Andrey Ilchenko, who, according to Bellingcat, is responsible for multiple GRU disinformation campaigns. For example, according to Bellingcat sources from Russian publication The Insider, Ilchenko supervised a collaboration between former RT journalist Yana Yerlashova and Dutch citizen Max van der Werff, who (under the guise of an investigative outfit called Bonanza Media) spread fake news about Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. After The Insider published that report, police searched the apartment of editor-in-chief Roman Dobrokhotov as part of a case that alleged libel against van der Werff. Dobrokhotov fled Russia shortly thereafter.

According to the Swedish authorities, Sergey Skvortsov and Elena Kulkova owned a variety of companies in the country, including I.T. services and a supplier of maritime shipping and aviation equipment. Bellingcat says one of the companies was de facto controlled by a retired GRU colonel through another firm based in Cyprus.

The couple has also been in touch with Swedish intelligence officers. It emerged that the couple’s daughter shared an apartment with the son of a former high-ranking official of MUST, Sweden’s Military Intelligence and Security Service.

Story by Meduza

Translation by Emily Laskin

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