Skripal poisoning suspect's colleague from GRU found in Latvia - media

16:50, 02 November 2018
Politics
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REUTERS

Information published in the media about Russian officers who studied at the GRU Academy together with the infamous Russian military intelligence officer Anatoliy Chepiga, accused of a military grade nerve agent attack on British soil against a turncoat spy Yuriy Skripal, helped identify another Russian intelligence operative, Roman Tatarka.

In the investigation published on the website of Russian opposition's Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Mbk.media, there is a list of people who studied with Anatoliy Chepiga at GRU's main educational facility – the Military Diplomatic Academy, Ghall.com.ua reported.

In this elite academy, to which the GRU operatives refer as "Conservatorium", future spies  have been trained to work for the country's military intel. According to Mbk.media data, 12 officers studied there in the period from 2009 to 2015 along with Chepiga and were registered in the same dormitory with him. Using OSINT tools, the investigation managed to find out that one of them is a GRU officer Roman Tatarka, who since 2011 has been posing as a diplomat of the Russian embassy in Latvia.

The first mention of R. Tatarka’s career can be found in the list of accredited foreign diplomats published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia on March 3, 2011, where R. Tatarka is named third secretary of the Russian Embassy (together with his wife Irina Tatarka).

Information on the website of the Diplomatic Economic Club organization also testifies to the activity of R. Tatarka in Latvia. Photos are published there from the trip of club members to the Inchukalns gas storage facility dated April 19, 2011, with a note that the event was attended by a member of the club and the attache of the Russian Embassy in Latvia, Roman Tatarka.

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It is curious that in one of the photos from the event, R. Tatarka is seen standing next to Alexander Gaponenko, a pro-Kremlin radical who was arrested by the Latvian security services on April 21 and against whom several charges were brought, including one of assisting a foreign country in its destructive activities against Latvia. Here, it is also worth noting that radical movements throughout Europe are one of GRU's priority areas of responsibility.

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Therefore, it is possible that the responsibilities of R.Tatarka include supervising agents tasked with subversion activities, just like Mr Gaponenko. Also, we should recall the attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016, which was organized by the GRU officer, Colonel Eduard Shishmakov, in collaboration with local radical figures (Serbian nationalists) (the operative used an alias of Eduard Shirokov).

According to the information on the website of the Embassy of the Russian Federation, Mr Tatarka keeps working at the Russian Embassy in Latvia, having been promoted to the rank of the 1st secretary, which suggests that he has been coping just fine with his tasks.

The facts mentioned suggest that Mr Tatarka in Latvia is concentrated on critical infrastructure facilities (the Inchukalns gas storage is considered one of the main energy sites), and also under the guise of an attaché and secretary of the Russian Embassy, on establishing and developing contacts with pro-Kremlin activists, both radical and moderate.

Perhaps, as his colleagues do in Ukraine, he is preparing them for future actions against the sovereignty of the Latvian state.

Read alsoSurveillance photos 'show Russian intelligence officers plotting Montenegro coup' – The Telegraph

It is worth mentioning that in response to Skripal’s poisoning, Latvia expelled Tatarka’s colleague, second secretary of the Russian Embassy Alexander Sazonov. However, the question arises, why did the Latvian authorities allow someone who studied with Chepiga to stay in the country?

Were the security services of Latvia really unaware about Tatarka's ties with the GRU or did they naively hope that crimes like those committed in Salisbury were impossible in their country?

By the way, the Conservatorium's curriculum also includes training to carry out kinetic operations, including murders.

The likelihood that such events may repeat themselves is aggravated by the fact that in recent years the flow of Russian political émigrés seeking asylum in Latvia has increased.

In 2013, Putin's critic Garry Kasparov applied for Latvian citizenship. In 2014, as a result of repression in Russia, Galina Timchenko emigrated to Latvia. She had held the position of chief editor at Lenta.ru, and later in Riga she founded an online publication Meduza.io, which quickly became popular among the Russian opposition and where journalists regularly publish investigations that shed light on the crimes committed by the Russian authorities.

Read alsoSecond Skripal poisoning suspect awarded Hero of Russia for Ukraine – Bellingcat

In 2015, a Russian dissident, leader of the political movement “New Power” Dimitri Savvin requested and later received political asylum. In Latvia, he founded the Association for the Development of Russian Civil Society and the Support of Russian Emigrants (AREM) to protect those targeted by the Kremlin.

It is not excluded that the duties of the GRU operative Roman Tatarka include monitoring these and other enemies of Putin abroad, as well as preparing for their elimination if necessary, which, judging by the Salisbury precedent, can be a great threat to local residents.

Therefore, the Latvian special services and authorities probably need to be more careful and scrupulous about the issue, not to give the GRU a chance to do something similar to Salisbury or Montenegro in Latvia.

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