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Spanish Separatist Leaders Sought Help From Russian Intelligence Figures

September 7th, 2021 16:43

US media is report­ing that top Span­ish sep­a­ratist lead­ers trav­eled to Moscow and met with sev­er­al senior Russ­ian intel­li­gence fig­ures short­ly before they were involved in set­ting up a secre­tive new protest group. Accord­ing to the New York Times report, the group dis­rupt­ed oper­a­tions at Barcelona’s air­port and cut off a major high­way link­ing Spain to north­ern Europe:

Sep­tem­ber 3, 2021 In the spring of 2019, an emis­sary of Catalonia’s top sep­a­ratist leader trav­eled to Moscow in search of a polit­i­cal life­line. […] In Moscow, the emis­sary, Josep Lluis Alay, a senior advis­er to the self-exiled for­mer Cata­lan pres­i­dent Car­les Puigde­mont, met with cur­rent Russ­ian offi­cials, for­mer intel­li­gence offi­cers and the well-con­nect­ed grand­son of a K.G.B. spy­mas­ter. The aim was to secure Russia’s help in sev­er­ing Cat­alo­nia from the rest of Spain, accord­ing to a Euro­pean intel­li­gence report, which was reviewed by The New York Times. […] It is unclear what help, if any, the Krem­lin has pro­vid­ed to the Cata­lan sep­a­ratists. But Mr. Alay’s trips to Moscow in 2019 were fol­lowed quick­ly by the emer­gence of a secre­tive protest group, Tsuna­mi Demo­c­ra­t­ic, which dis­rupt­ed oper­a­tions at Barcelona’s air­port and cut off a major high­way link­ing Spain to north­ern Europe. A con­fi­den­tial police report by Spain’s Guardia Civ­il, obtained by The Times, found that Mr. Alay was involved in the cre­ation of the protest group.

Read the rest here.

The NYT report notes that accord­ing to a June 2020 intel­li­gence report, Span­ish sep­a­ratist leader Alay sought finan­cial and tech­ni­cal assis­tance from Rus­sia for the cre­ation of bank­ing, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, and ener­gy sec­tors sep­a­rate from Spain. The report also says Alay met with sev­er­al active Russ­ian intel­li­gence offi­cers in Moscow and Barcelona.

Rus­sia has a long his­to­ry of back­ing sep­a­ratist and ultra-nation­al­ist move­ments in Europe as a means to desta­bi­lize and under­mine West­ern insti­tu­tions such as NATO and the Euro­pean Union. Recent GIOR report­ing on Russia’s cul­ti­va­tion and sup­port for far-right and divi­sive polit­i­cal move­ments in the West has included:

  • In Sep­tem­ber, we report­ed that Rus­sia is cul­ti­vat­ing and sup­port­ing far-right groups in Bosnia and Ser­bia that oper­ate under the guise of human­i­tar­i­an aid.
  • In August, we report­ed that far-right Euro­pean par­lia­men­tar­i­ans (MEPs) are act­ing as agents of Russ­ian influ­ence in the cen­ter of Euro­pean power.
  • In April, we report­ed on the attempts by far-right UK fig­ure Tom­my Robin­son to cul­ti­vate rela­tion­ships with Russia.