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.