The expulsion of two Russian diplomats uncovers an alleged network of spies in Colombia | International

The Colombian Ambassador to Moscow, Alfonso López Caballero, during an event with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2016.
The Colombian Ambassador to Moscow, Alfonso López Caballero, during an event with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2016.COLOMBIA FOREIGN OFFICE

The expulsion of two Russian diplomats from Colombia this week uncovered an alleged spy plot that had been trying for years to obtain confidential information from public and private companies, infrastructures and, above all, the energy sector. The alarms of the National Intelligence Directorate (DNI) jumped in 2017 and after a long counterespionage operation, called Operation Enigma, the agents determined that Aleksandr Paristov and Aleksandr Nicolayevich Belosuv, Kremlin officials accredited as Embassy personnel in Bogotá, carried out activities that were outside the protocols of diplomacy.

The Colombian Foreign Minister, Claudia Blum, announced that the Government of Iván Duque made the decision to request the withdrawal of these Russian representatives at the beginning of the month, “after verifying that they were carrying out activities in the country incompatible with the provisions of the Convention of Vienna on diplomatic relations ”. This international instrument establishes that “the diplomatic agent” loses his immunity if he acts “outside of his official duties”. The officials left Bogotá on December 8 and, after a stopover in Cartagena de Indias, boarded a KLM airline flight to Amsterdam.

Paristov was, according to a DNI report released by Caracol Radio, an envoy from the Foreign Intelligence Service (SRV). “It was evidenced by the activities he had been carrying out, typical characteristics of intelligence agents.” Belosuv, on the other hand, the Colombian authorities point out, belongs to the Central Intelligence Department, the branch of military espionage, and also carried out tasks that came out of diplomatic protocols. Among them, according to the operation revealed at first by the magazine Week, On the official line, there was the formation of a network of collaborators or local informants.

There is also a third man who gave rise to the first suspicions of Colombia. This is Román Borisov, who according to the details that have emerged so far was formally the third secretary of the Embassy and after being discovered he left the country. Moscow reacted to the expulsion with a reciprocal measure, forcing the withdrawal of a Colombian consular official and the embassy’s Culture attaché, Leonardo González and Ana María Pinilla. However, Chancellor Blum said in an official communication that “despite these circumstances, Colombia’s purpose is to maintain the good level that has traditionally marked diplomatic, commercial and cooperation relations with the Russian Federation.”

This plot, centered according to all the information in the infiltration of the oil sector or, according to a testimony published by Week, of the Banco de la República, there is a context of absolute bankruptcy of relations between Bogotá and Caracas. And the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is one of the main international allies of Venezuelan Nicolás Maduro. This sparked speculation, especially since thousands of people enter the Venezuelan border every day, often uncontrolled or traveling informal roads.

The Duque government is one of those that has hardened international pressure against Chavismo the most in recent years, along with the outgoing United States Administration, led by Donald Trump, and conservative Colombian sectors fear that behind this network there is an attempt of political interference in the country. However, the opposition and the left have not hidden their reservations. “I do not know if Duque’s action against Russian diplomats, seeking to enlist with Biden in the face of an alleged Russia / US conflict, will not close the doors of possible purchases of the Sputnik V vaccine,” the senator and former presidential candidate wrote on Twitter. Gustavo Petro. The heir party of the defunct FARC guerrilla, the Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común, went further and scoffed at the accusations. “The Russians were spying on the technology used in the La Línea tunnel [una obra cuya construcción tardó un siglo] and the complex and tense chords that Iván Duque uses when he plays guitar ”, he launched.

The Colombian president, for now, has refused to publicly offer more information related to Operation Enigma. “Revealing more information at this time does not respond to the principle of continuing to carry binational relations. We always carry them with the best spirit, but any diplomat who is in our country and who is acting contrary to the Vienna Convention will notify the country so that it may proceed to withdraw these personnel, “he warned in statements to the NTN 24 network.