Russian spies under diplomatic cover

Russian spies under diplomatic cover

Over the past months, the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and EU countries have expelled a number of Russian diplomats, most of whom were in fact intelligence operatives.

Russian war against Ukraine takes place not only on battlefields, it occurs in the entire world. The soldiers of this total war are the agents of Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia (SVR) and the Main Directory of General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia (GRU). 

They work in Western capitals under the cover of Russian diplomatic missions having diplomatic immunity. This fact, incompatible with diplomatic status is often a reason for deportation and proclaiming these diplomats as personas non-grata. That is why a great army of volunteers from OSINT works every day to uncover agents of Russian intelligence agencies, who act undercover in diplomatic and non-governmental organizations.

The big data of OSNIT investigations are supplied by teams of volunteer InformNapalm community, Youcontrol and Molfar companies, and investigating journalists later being used for arguing and making decisions on deportation from the Western countries of the individuals, whose action is incompatible with diplomatic status.

Lately USA, Canada, Great Britain, and EU countries deported hundreds of diplomatic representatives of Russia. The deported diplomats mostly were Russian spies under diplomatic cover. Their names are usually well-known by Western national counter-intelligence agencies. However,  they often turn blind eye  to the dominance of spies in diplomatic positions in order to maintain diplomatic relationships until a loud scandal occurs, like the one that happened in Czech Republic in 2020.

The political leadership of Czech Republic was at least neutral to Russians and at most quite permissive, especially as related to  Russian spies stationed in Prague, up to the moment when it became obvious to the public that Russian intelligence services were carrying out sabotage in central Europe, even blowing up ammunition depots. When the subversion of Russian intelligence in Czech Republic was uncovered, the intensive  deportation of Russian diplomats had started.

At this stage, almost all civilized countries of the world joined the deportation efforts of Russian diplomats. However, there still are a lot of spies performing tasks for SVR and GRU under diplomatic cover.

Active Measures instead of diplomacy

Active Measures are one of the forms of intelligence work. Spreading disinformation among certain target audiences is one of such “activities”. First, a content is created which is supposed to cause a certain intended reaction in the audience.  Usually, it is created by agents of special services that are capable of generating a certain news event or writing a document.

Only then, this content gets delivered to the target audience through different means - by undercover or official resources.

On July 01, 2022 the First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia in the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy sent a letter to delegates of the member countries inviting them to an event called “Neo-Natzism and radical nationalism: exploring root causes of the crisis in Ukraine” planned for July 11, 2022 on the premises of the UN headquarters.

Dmitry Polyanskiy`s letter to delegates of member countries of the UN  (source)

Beyond any doubt, this event will turn into another platform for a next portion of specifically forged lies about Ukraine,  aiming to legitimize senseless full-scale military invasion of Russian forces into the territory of Ukraine and killing its civilians.

However, to that end, somebody has to create those lies and give them some presentable look, so diplomatic missionaries of Russian delegations in New York and Vienna could present them at the sites of such international organizations as the UN, OSCE, IAEA, and others. The content of these lies about Ukraine is provided by the intelligence services CVR and GRU - a fact proven by numerous investigations.

For example,  three days after the full-scale Russian military invasion of Ukraine the Permanent Representative of Russia at the UN Vasily Nebenzya speaking at the emergency session of the General Assembly of the UN, dedicated to Russian aggression, read a message from leadership of NGO “Institute of Legal Policy and Social Protection named in honor of Iryna Berezhna”.

This organization is connected to the now-deceased ex-MP from the Ukrainian “Party of Regions” Iryna Berezhna and her mother Elena Berezhna. Since the beginning of 2014, when the Russian aggression against Ukraine started, they have had close connections with Andriy Portnov, the former Head of the Office of President Victor Yanukovych. He was their curator.

Essentially, Portnov tried to build a network among people in Ukraine who would perform tasks for  Russian intelligence services getting rewarded with money and privileges, as “Radio Svoboda” journalists reported. From this perspective, Nebenzya read out a message on the stage of the UN General Assembly from the people who are suspected of having close connections with Russian intelligence.

On April 05, 2022, Vasily Nebenzya read a similar appeal again, yet, this time at the meeting of the UN Security Council, where he was talking about mythical Ukrainian neo-nazis. This time, it was established that the information was provided to Nebenzya by Maxim Grigoryev, the head of “Russian Research Foundation for Problems of Democracy”, an NGO used as a cover for Russian intelligence.

In turn, Maxim Grigoryev closely cooperates with CVR, not even hiding this. In social media he affirms that he has visited Syria 12 times since Russia deployed its military forces there, pretending to carry out public supervision of elections. Grigoryev even shares the stage with the head of SVR Sergiy Naryshkin.

Maxim Grigoryev and Sergiy Naryshkin at the opening of the exhibition on human rights violations

Russia’s UN mission is a hotbed of espionage

For many years, since Russia's war against Ukraine began, the OSINT volunteers have been collecting information about specific people who are suspected of working for Russian intelligence services and subversive activities against Western states.

Serious signs of such cooperation with Russian intelligence are indicated when Western powers expel diplomats, which in itself is a serious international demarche. Or, they refuse to grant permission to enter the country. Usually, the names and surnames remain unpublished of those who received the status of persona non grata formally, or because of the refusal to issue a visa,... That is  diplomatic ethics. However, sometimes, the Russian side itself raises a scandal, instead of not disclosing the identity of someone whom foreign governments consider to be involved in intelligence and subversive activities.

*  *  *

Such a Russian diplomat (who was apparently not important to spare) is, for example, GEORGIY VIKTOROVICH MIKHNO.

Georgiy Mikhno, during an online conference with members of BRICS Counter-Terrorism Working Group (CTWG). Source: Facebook

On February 21, 2020, Russia's permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, publicly resented the fact that the United States had not issued a visa to the Deputy Director of the Department for New Challenges and Threats of the Russian Foreign Ministry Georgiy Mikhno. This was covered by many Russian top media, accusing the United States of failing to fulfill obligations under agreements on issuing visas to diplomatic staff. In fact, with a high probability, we can say that Mikhno did not receive a visa, due to his affiliation with Russian intelligence.

Mikhno leads a delegation to the 19th session of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE), Washington, May 23–24, 2019 Source.

Georgiy Mikhno was born on November 9, 1972, from 29.06.2018 he has the title of extraordinary and plenipotentiary envoy  1st class. Graduated from Moscow State M.V. Lomonosov University and the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia.

Mikhno is an employee of the SVR's “A” directorate, working under diplomatic cover at Russia's mission to the United Nations in New York, and Russia's delegation to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. In 2017-2018, he held the position of acting permanent representative of Russia to international organizations in Vienna (Austria).

Mikhno at the first regional conference on sustainable industrial development. Source

He headed the Department of Pan-European Cooperation, and later was appointed Deputy Director of the Department for New Challenges and Threats of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia.

In July and December 2020, Mikhno took part in reports for the UN by the Commissioner for the President of Russia on children’s rights Anna Kuznetsova. Reminding you that the illegal obduction of Ukrainian children to the territory of Russia continues right now.

Georgiy Mikhno is married (Yulia Mikhno) and raises an adult son (Mikhail Mikhno) and a golden retriever Vanilla. Judging by social networks, the son of the Russian diplomat studied and worked in the “decadent West”, and not in the “sweet Russia”. On Facebook, Mikhail Mikhno indicated that he studied and worked at Vienna International School for children of diplomats.

Michael, Yulia and Georgiy Mikhno (Source)

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Another prominent representative of the Russian intelligence under diplomatic cover is EFIMENKO SERGEY VITALYEVICH.

Sergey Efimenko stands behind the rostrum of the UN General Assembly (Source)

As in the case of Mikhno, Sergey Efimenko became famous after Monday, February 28, 2022, when the representative of the UN mission in the United States Olivia Dalton announced the expulsion of 12 Russian diplomats working at the UN in New York. The reason for the expulsion of diplomats, according to Dalton, was “participation in espionage activities that are incompatible with our national security.”

Dalton also said that the operation to detect espionage activities lasted several months, that is, it had started even before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24.

However, the American authorities did not release the names of Russian diplomats who were implicated in espionage activities. Instead, Sergey Efimenko himself made relevant posts on his Facebook about how he and his colleagues with families leave the United States.

Source — Sergey Efimenko's Facebook profile

Source — Sergey Efimenko's Facebook profile


Efimenko's posts on social media even sparked a number of publications in the Russian media. Due to the fact that Sergey Efimenko is a native of Pskov, the governor of the Pskov region Mikhail Vedernikov announced that he was ready to assist Efimenko in moving to Pskov. Obviously, the governor is not as kind to the Pskov paratroopers, most of whom remained lying in the Ukrainian land, and the others returned to Pskov injured.

Sergey Efimenko was born on October 13, 1971. He is a graduate of the Faculty of Foreign Languages (now the Faculty of Russian Philology and Foreign Languages) of Pskov State University (PskovGU). In addition, on his profile, Efimenko indicates that he studied at the North-Western Academy of Civil Service, reformed in 2021 into RANHiGS - North-Western Institute of Management.

From 1997 to 2003, from 2006 to 2009 and from 2012 to 2017, Sergey Vitalyevich was the Representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Pskov. From 2003 to 2006, he worked as first secretary of the Russian Embassy in Estonia, from 2009 to 2012 as an adviser to the Embassy. Later, the graduate of the Pskov University Foreign Language Faculty got a job as a senior adviser to the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in New York and was the head of the administrative and legal group.

In addition, Sergey Efimenko is passionate about photography; he exhibited his photographs three times in Pskov.

Efimenko's wife Natalia publishes photos of departure from the USA after the expulsion of her husband

Sergey Efimenko is married (wife - Natalia Efimenko, who worked at the school at the permanent mission of Russia to the UN) and raises two daughters (Daria and Maria born on 01.03.2012) and a son (Igor Efimenko).

As a result, Sergey Efimenko’s wife posted on social media that the family had moved back to Pskov.

*  *  *

From the alleged operatives of Russia's SVR let's move on to its human assets. After all, there are such assets who are worth dozens of career officers, due to their capabilities and skills.

One of these Russian intelligence mastodons is ULYANOV, MIKHAIL IVANOVICH the permanent representative of Russia at international organizations in Vienna.

MIkhail Ulyanov (Source — Facebook profile)

Mikhail Ulyanov has been the head of the Russian delegation in Vienna since January 23, 2018, when Putin appointed him as the permanent representative of the Russian federation at the United Nations department and other international organizations in Vienna, Republic of Austria. 

Since that time, under his protection and help SVR of Russia and its employees under diplomatic cover, have been carrying out measures aimed at undermining the authority, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.

However, there is no doubt that Ulyanov's main role is to be a powerful mouthpiece of Russian propaganda in the West. To do this, he uses his Twitter account with more than 27.5 thousand followers in English, a hostile and hateful language to every Russian, publishing from seven to twelve tweets every day.

Mikhail Ulyanov was born on August 23, 1958. Since 2017, he has a diplomatic rank of extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador. He graduated from the Moscow State Historical and Archival Institute in 1980 and then worked at the historical and diplomatic directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR until 1986. It is unlikely that this position in any way corresponds to the operational interest of the PSU GGB (intelligence service during the times of the USSR).

From 1986 to 1990, he worked at the department of international organizations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR. Ulyanov met the collapse of the USSR while working at the permanent representation of the USSR, and then the Russian Federation at the United Nations in New York.

During 1995–1998 and 2002–2004, he held various positions in the Department of International Organizations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Then he worked in the permanent representation of the Russian Federation at NATO (Brussels, Belgium) in 1998–2002. This was exactly the period when Vladimir Putin still wanted to join NATO according to his own words. However, later he got offended because he was not admitted there.

Therefore, it would be logical to assume that his colleagues from the intelligence services paid close attention to Ulyanov at that time. It immediately affected his career, as, since 2004, he had already become the deputy director of the Department for Security and Disarmament of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

In 2006, he headed the delegation of the Russian Federation during negotiations on military security and arms control in Vienna. In 2011–2018, he was the director of the Department for Security and Disarmament of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation which was transformed into the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control in April 2014.

One of his current task is interaction with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CNTBTO), the United Nations offices for Drugs and Crime, Outer Space, and Industrial Development (UNIDO), as well as with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and others.

It is obvious that he also earned the appointment to such a high diplomatic post in Vienna by fulfilling the tasks for his colleagues in uniform. For example, announcing the deployment of nuclear weapons on the territory of occupied Crimea back in 2015.

And since the full-scale invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine, he has been commenting on absolutely everything on his Twitter and other online media including the oil embargo imposed on Russia, missiles and events in Lysychansk.

Ulyanov is married and has a daughter. Wife: Valentina Viktorovna Ulyanova — 08.02.1957. Daughter: Yelena Mikhailovna  Ulyanova — 06.05.1981. Registered in Moscow at 20 Osenniy Bulvar, block 2, apt. 653.

*  *  *

STRZHYZHOVSKY, FYODOR KYRILLOVYCH is another person who is mostly a mouthpiece for active measures and disinformation of the Russian intelligence rather than a spy. 

He is an adviser to the permanent representation of Russia at the UN and, in fact, acts as the press secretary of the delegation voicing fakes about all topics that fall into the delegation's field of view.

Fyodor Strzhyzhovsky (on the left). Source

Strzhyzhovsky is responsible for all the topics such as  chemical weapons in Syria, claims to the OPCW regarding the promotion of the so-called LNR and DNR on international platforms, or the promotion of the Sputnik V vaccine. In fact, he voices everything that comes to the mind of Vasily Nebenzya because he just shaddows  him.


At the same time, of course, he blames the Western media, claiming it is they, not him, who spread misinformation.

Ukraine is present in almost 70% of Strzhizhovsky’s comments. In his comments, he mostly accuses Ukraine of spreading misinformation or concealing some data.

Strzhyzhovsky was born on October 22, 1982, and graduated from MSIMO. Married to Aleksandra Strzhyzhovskaya. In Moscow, registered at the address of 11 Stroiteley str., block 1, apt. 115.

*  *  *

Back on February 28, 2022, three days after the invasion, EuromaidanPress published my detailed arguments why and how Russia must be expelled from the UN Security Council. This article presents a number of arguments regarding the fact that Russia abuses the international organizations of the UN and the OSCE for its interests and the interests of its intelligence services.

That is why Russia should be expelled from the OSCE and the UN Security Council.

Dmytro Zolotukhin is an ex-Deputy Minister of Information Policy of Ukraine, founder of the Institute for Postinformation Society, and founder of OSINT Academy.

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