3 de septiembre de 2021
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The environment of Carles Puigdemont, specifically his head of office, Josep Lluís Alay, investigated in the operation Voloh by the judge of Barcelona Joaquín Aguirre, has maintained several contacts with Russian officials according to The New York Times explains this Friday in an extensive report signed in Barcelona that cites a European intelligence report. In addition, the prestigious newspaper links these contacts with the platform Tsunami Democràtic, protagonist of the protests after the sentence of the Supreme Court against the leaders of the procés.
The rotary explains that Alay traveled to Russia in the spring of 2019 to seek “a political lifeline” for Puigdemont’s cause after it was “crushed” after the 1-0 independence referendum and the European Union and the United States supported Spain’s effort to keep the country intact. Specifically, it claims that the adviser to the former president of the Generalitat met with current Russian officials, former intelligence officers and the grandson of an eminent KGB spy. The objective, according to the NYT, was to secure Russia’s support for Catalan independence.
Regular contacts with foreign officials and journalistsBothAlay and Puigdemont confirmed the trips to Moscow to the US newspaper, but insisted they were part of regular contacts with foreign officials and journalists. Alay that any suggestion that Russian help was being sought was “a fantasy story created by Madrid”.
This Russian rapprochement with the separatists, according to the newspaper, would fit in with President Putin’s strategy of trying to sow chaos in the West by supporting divisive or far-right political movements. Many of the officials Alay met in Moscow are involved in what is known as the Kremlin’s hybrid war against the West, according to the report.
The Times acknowledges that it is unclear what assistance the Kremlin provided to the Catalan separatists. But it notes that Alay’s trips to Moscow in 2019 were quickly followed by the rise of “a secret protest group,” Tsunami Democràtic, which, among other actions, invaded Barcelona airport and cut off the AP-7 motorway at the border with France.
The report reveals documents that show that Russia was a central concern between Alay and Puigdemont. It thus echoes a 700-page “secret transcript of text messages” that shows the effort by Alay and other members of Puigdemont’s circle to cultivate ties to Russians with contacts in the country’s intelligence system. “I am thinking a lot about Russia,” Alay wrote to Puigdemont on Aug. 23, 2020. “And these days everything is very, very complicated,” he added.
‘I’m thinking a lot about Russia’ Alay writes to Puigdemont in text messageAugust 23, 2020 To reconstruct the contacts with Russia, The Times, as it explains, has relied on a 10-page European intelligence report, the contents of which were confirmed by two Spanish officials; files from two separate investigations carried out by magistrates in Barcelona and Madrid, which include transcripts of the texts but have not turned up any charges related to the Moscow meetings; and interviews with politicians and pro-independence activists in Catalonia, as well as security agents in Spain and abroad.
The June 2020 intelligence report revealed that Alay, along with Alexander Dmitrenko, a Russian businessman, sought financial and technical assistance from Russia in setting up separate banking, telecommunications and energy sectors in Spain. The pair, along with Puigdemont’s lawyer Gonzalo Boye, also consulted with a leader of a violent Russian criminal syndicate as part of an effort to establish a secret money conduit to fund their activities, the report said.
‘ We are working for ‘The Americans'” The text messages, taken from Alay’s phone when he was briefly arrested in October 2020, help corroborate parts of the intelligence report
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. “We are working for The Americans,” Alay said, referring to the series about KGB spies who worked in the United States. And, as the report explains, it was no joke. Two of his main contacts in Russia, according to the intelligence report, were a husband-and-wife intelligence team whose story helped inspire the series.
According to the report, Alay and Dmitrenko met with several active foreign intelligence officers, as well as Oleg V. Syromolotov, the former counterintelligence chief of the Federal Security Service, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, who now oversees counterterrorism as a deputy minister in Russia’s Foreign Ministry.
Alay denied meeting Syromolotov and the officers, but acknowledged meeting Yevgeny Primakov, the grandson of a famous KGB spymaster, in order to get an interview with Puigdemont on an international affairs program he hosted on Kremlin television. Last year, Primakov was appointed by Putin to head a Russian cultural agency that European security officials say often serves as a front for intelligence operations.
‘ Good news from Moscow’ Alay’s message to Puigdemont “Good news from Moscow,” Alay said in a text message to Puigdemont to inform him of Primakov’s appointment. In another message, Dmitrenko told Alay that Primakov’s promotion “puts you in a very good position to activate things between us.”
Alay also confirmed meeting with Andrei Bezrukov, a decorated former officer in Russia’s foreign intelligence service. For more than a decade, Bezrukov and his wife, Yelena Vavilova, were undercover operatives living in the United States using the code names Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley.
It was their story of espionage, arrest and eventual return to Russia in a spy swap that served as the basis for the TV series The Americans. According to the Times story, working with Dmitrenko, Alay spent about three months in the fall of 2020 doing a Catalan translation of Vavilova’s autobiographical novel The Woman Who Can Keep Secrets, according to her correspondence. Alay, who is also a university professor and writer, said Bezrukov, who now teaches at a Moscow university, invited him to give two lectures.
Alay was accompanied on each of his trips by Dmitrenko, 33, a Russian businessman who is married to a Catalan woman, who declined to respond to The Times. Spanish authorities investigated him and in 2019 rejected an application for citizenship because of his Russian contacts, according to a Justice Ministry decision. “He receives missions” from Russian intelligence and also “does different jobs” for Russian organized crime leaders, Justice argued,
A few months after Alay’s trips to Moscow, Catalonia erupted in protests with Tsunami starring in the SC ruling. The origins of the group remain unclear, but one of the police documents indicates that Alay attended a meeting in Geneva, where he and other pro-independence activists created the platform.
Three days after Tsunami Democràtic occupied Barcelona airport, two Russians flew from Moscow to Barcelona, according to flight records obtained by The Times. One was Sergei Sumin, whom the intelligence report describes as a colonel in Russia’s Federal Protection Service, which oversees Putin’s security and is not known for its activities abroad. The other was Artyom Lukoyanov, the adopted son of a top Putin adviser, who was deeply involved in Russia’s efforts to support separatists in eastern Ukraine. According to the intelligence report, Alay and Dmitrenko met with both to discuss the strategy of the independence movement, although the report offered no further details. Alay denied any connection with Tsunami Democràtic. He confirmed that he had met with Sumin and Lukoyanov at Dmitrenko’s request, but only “as a courtesy”.
The Times also recounts a trip by Puigdemont’s lawyer Gonzalo Boye to Moscow in February 2020 to meet with Vasily Khristoforov, who is linked to Russian organized crime. The goal, according to the cited report, was to recruit Khristoforov to help set up a secret funding channel for the independence movement.
In an interview, Boye acknowledged meeting in Moscow with Khristoforov, who is wanted in several countries, including Spain, on suspicion of financial crimes, but said they only discussed matters related to their legal cases.
In late 2020, Alay’s text messages reveal an enthusiasm for keeping his Russian contacts happy. In conversations with Puigdemont and Boye, he said they should avoid any public statements that might anger Moscow, especially about the pro-democracy protests that Russia was helping to violently disperse in Belarus.
Puigdemont didn’t always take the advice and appeared in Brussels with the Belarusian opposition and tweeting his support for the protesters, prompting Boye to text Alay saying that “we will have to tell the Russians that this was just to mislead. “