• USD90.41
  • EUR98.30
  • OIL82.26
  • 2440

On March 31, The Insider, in cooperation with 60 Minutes and Der Spiegel, published the most groundbreaking investigation into the origins of Havana Syndrome to date. Evidence uncovered by the investigative team of Christo Grozev, Roman Dobrokhotov, and Michael Weiss has placed known agents of Russian GRU sabotage and assassination Unit 29155 at the scene of multiple — previously unexplained — attacks on U.S. government personnel and their families. Additional sleuthing demonstrated that these attacks left an undeniable physical trace on the victims, debunking the claim that Havana Syndrome was the result of psychosomatic causes. In their own words, Grozev, Dobrokhotov, and Weiss talk through the nuances of their investigation — and discuss its implications for U.S. national security.

Watch video on Youtube

Michael Weiss: Hi, I'm Michael Weiss. Welcome back to Foreign Office. Today's episode is a special one because I'm acting as both host and fellow guest. My other two guests are Christo Grozev — he's the head of investigations at The Insider — and Roman Dobrokhotov, the founder and editor-in-chief of The Insider. I am the editor of The Insider's English language portal. And today's show is about our big investigative report, done in conjunction with 60 Minutes and Der Spiegel into Havana Syndrome and possible connections to Russian intelligence behind what the U.S. government calls “anomalous health incidents.” And not just any unit of Russian intelligence, but specifically one that should be familiar to listeners of the show, Unit 29155 of the GRU. This is an assassination and sabotage squad responsible for poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, [England], Emilian Gebrev, a Bulgarian arms dealer, in Sofia, and orchestrating a coup in Montenegro. If you follow the work The Insider has done in the past several months, [you’ll know that Unit 29155 was also responsible for] a series of explosions, terrorist attacks, really, of Bulgarian and Czech ammunition and weapons facilities. So 29155 has been rather busy in the last decade.

We're going to talk about our work with 60 Minutes and how we went about uncovering evidence that puts 29155 operatives at the scene of the crime, as it were, two incidents involving Havana Syndrome victims who had positively identified two separate members of 29155 years apart, about eight years apart, and a thousand miles apart — one in Tbilisi, Georgia, and the other in Frankfurt, Germany.

I want to start with you, Christo. We've been working on this for about a year ourselves, but 60 Minutes has been doing this for five years. This is the fourth or fifth segment they've done on Havana. This story has kind of taken off like wildfire. I know that it's been read and digested at very, very high levels of the U.S. government and in the intelligence community. Walk us through a little bit about what we uncovered here and you in particular in sort of mapping — I mean, you're probably the first person to have identified the existence of this military unit, and we have a database essentially of all the known members, at least up until very recently. So what was our methodology here? What did we do?

Christo Grozev: Well, first, let me just correct you a little bit, because we didn't really work just for a year on this. Roman [Dobrokhotov} and I started looking into this probably in 2020 at the latest. It's when a lot of people came forward complaining that they were former operatives from the U.S. government or the CIA. Many of them had left because they were victims or they had family members who had been hit, and they felt that this was not really given sufficient diligence by their own agency. They had turned to us as investigative journalists with some success before that to look into it, to give it a second look.

In 2020, a lot of former operatives from the U.S. government and the CIA came forward complaining that their syndromes had not been given sufficient diligence by their own agencies

And we did that with a slow pace, slow-walked it because it's a very controversial topic. We started from a very skeptical point of view. I would let Roman speak for himself, but I did start with, as a skeptic, thinking, how would this work? And the biggest question for me was not really how this would work technically because we're never fully aware of all the technical developments. Of course, we might be surprised, and we should be surprised. The government should know better than we do. The biggest question for me was, was there the capability for such a mass global attack by any government? Would any government have the people to send to locations where this was happening? And as time went by, we heard about a lot more and more locations.

Initially, it was Havana, but then out of the woodwork came Geneva, Vienna, Berlin, Phuket, and Hanoi, Belgrade. So who would have the capability to do all of that? So that was kind of the thing that gave us reason to be skeptical. Nobody has that capability. And if anybody did, we thought it would be the Russians with their Unit 29155, which is supported by a lot of locals, east of stations, masquerading as military attachés around the world. But we didn't have enough evidence to point to any particular overlap or any number of overlaps that would give us the hypothesis. This may be them, and then as time went by, we discovered this very, very, very interesting document, which initially we ignored again as not sufficiently overlapping with the topic. The document was in the mailbox of one of the commanders of unit command, in fact, in the email box of the eighth assistant to that commander, who was sort of doing his paperwork for a new Kremlin job that this commander had just got promoted to. This was in 2019, and it referred to a sort of tax declaration or an anti-corruption declaration that this commander of Unit 29155 had failed to complete properly. When he applied to the Kremlin job. He didn’t apply; he was given the job, but they still had to go through the motions.

Who would have the capability to do all of that? If anybody did, we thought it would be the Russians with their Unit 29155

He had forgotten to mention a particular income stream that had taken place at the end of 2017, and that referred to some competition that he had won. And there was a back-and-forth between this assistant to the commander and the Kremlin accountant saying, well, I need explanations. Why didn’t he report this money? Ultimately attached to this mail chain is a document that literally says: this money is given for handing over all the IP rights in research done in the context of a competition which this commander won. The competition was titled ‘Finding the Perspectives for Use of Acoustic Weapons in Urban Warfare Scenarios.’ So this is literally what connected this unit — potentially, in our heads — to this Havana weapon.

Then we started looking for incidents of overlap between the travel of members of this unit. And we better than anyone, I think, out in the world, have a complete picture of who's a member and who's an aide to this unit. We have probably about 100 names by now — people who travel undercover around the world, including people who are local helpers, local military attachés, or other diplomatic cover helpers of this unit around the world. And we started finding overlaps. So this is where it really, for the last year, we've been trying to perfect and fine-tune the overlaps. That's how we got to this.

Weiss: And I mean, a large, a great deal of weight in this investigation has to do with the very remit of 29155. It had been reported before. The office of the Director of National Intelligence came out a year ago with its finding that it is, quote, ‘very unlikely that a foreign adversary is behind these anomalous health incidents.’ that, you know, the U.S. intelligence community had been able to geo-locate GRU registered vehicles, kind of sort of in the vicinity of where these alleged attacks took place. But that led to the analysis that, well, there are Russian spies everywhere, right? And they're always snooping and collecting data and doing surveillance.

But 29155 has a very, very specific raison d'être, right? They do assassinations. They do sabotage. They blow things up. And they use homemade detonators and explosive devices to do it, which we showed in one of our previous investigations in the case of Montenegro. They sponsor and orchestrate coups to overthrow governments. There's been some hacking and other things that they do as well, but their very presence in the location of where these attacks took place — and again, we had two eyewitnesses who positively identified Egor Gordienko and Albert Averyanov in two different cities, separated by like almost a decade. They're very present.

We had two eyewitnesses who positively identified two members of Unit 29155 in two different cities, separated by like almost a decade

Begs the question: well, if they weren't wielding some directed energy device and conducting these attacks, what the hell were they doing there? Right? I mean, the intelligence community has the burden of explaining to all of us what is the alternative explanation for why these specific Russian intelligence operatives were in these places.

  • Egor Gordienko, one of the two Unit 29155 operatives positively identified by our eyewitnesses
  •  Albert Averyanov, the other identified operative, son of Andrei Averyanov, the founding commander of Unit 29155

Roman, Christo alluded to the fact you were a little bit skeptical coming into this investigation. Why did you not think that 29155 might have any responsibility for Havana Syndrome? And I want to emphasize: we haven't definitively proven this. We have just laid out all the evidence which hitherto had been not in the public domain. And as far as I'm concerned, based on the reporting that's followed from this investigation, hadn't been in the hands of very senior people in the intelligence community. So, Roman, explain your skepticism initially going into this.

Roman Dobrokhotov: Uh, so first of all, I think that we were skeptical maybe in the first year. But I remember that in early 2020 — 2021, I think, because I remember that I was in Vienna at that time, I spoke with Yulia and she asked and we said already that we found some scientists that researched something that is not Novichok, but they speak with GRU agents and this is very suspicious, and so we think that Havana Syndrome may be real. And she asked, like, how likely do you think it can be? And I said, like around 75%. And she was actually very surprised, because though she wrote this big article about this — she almost, like, broke the story when the vast majority of people didn't know about this — she herself at this point was not sure. So this was a time when, in public discourse, it was like some very strange theory that needs to be proven, but we already thought that it is [a story]. It is worth pursuing. And I think that now what we have is not just a coincidence of the trips and not just eyewitnesses. We have three dimensions of this investigation and the arguments. The first is the trips. The second is that we have documents that prove that this concrete military unit made research on a so-called acoustic weapon, as they call it. And another dimension is the medical dimension — that, first of all, proves that it is statistically impossible that such a big amount of people have so-called Minor's syndrome.

In early 2020, Havana Syndrome was a strange theory that needed to be proven, but we already thought it was a story worth pursuing

I will elaborate a little bit about this more, but I will just mention that I like the statistical idea that, first of all, we know that we have too many people who have this, who have this syndrome. Secondly, we know that this concrete syndrome was researched in Russia only by one medical academy because it's very rare. It was researched only by this concrete military academy where the people from 29155 work. And we know that Mishkin [one of the Skripal poisoners] for example, graduated from this military academy and that Sergei Chepur, who is like number one in our phone calls, is a professor in this academy. This cannot be a coincidence.

A large amount of people have been diagnosed with Minor's syndrome — a condition so rare that only one medical academy in Russia researches it

So we have these three very independent layers of arguments that kind of prove each other. And speaking about [Minor’s] syndrome itself, it was [discovered] recently — in the 1990s. If you have some problems with some ear bones, in some certain conditions, you can develop symptoms such as loss of balance, [hearing] some strange noises — so-called hyperacusis, when you hear very soft sounds as annoyingly loud and you can even hear the movements of your eyeballs. Some physiological processes from inside your head [are audible] for you. So this is very irritating. This is very problematic. You can't actually continue working in this kind of condition. And this cluster of symptoms is pretty unique. There are not a lot of things that can have this cluster. It was found in the middle of the 1990s and was called [Minor’s] syndrome for the doctor from Stanford who found it then. We already contacted him. And I hope that we will continue our research together with the best doctors who can explain to us more about the statistics of this, how widespread this thing is, and how this physiology works. But it looks like the microwave impulse, microwaves can really cause this syndrome.

Weiss: And just a little more context. In the 60 Minutes broadcast, they showed Joy. We're calling her Joy, who is the spouse of an American diplomat stationed in Tbilisi, who was hit in 2021. She is the one who positively identified Albert Averyanov, the son of Andrei Averyanov, the founding commander of 29155, who Roman mentioned is constantly in contact with Doctor Chepur. Joy has had two surgeries for Minor's syndrome. She's had holes in the bones of her inner ear, had to have metal plates on both sides of her head, probably facing a third surgery. So we incorporated the fact that she was suffering from this very rare condition, which has a more clinical name as well, and the fact that Doctor Chepur, of all people, his research facility was one of the few places in Russia — the only place in Russia [doing research on this syndrome]. And suddenly we were contacted by several other people, including two Canadians who similarly were diagnosed with this thing, and one CIA officer who was hit in Warsaw and also London, who also has a diagnosis. According to Doctor David Relman, funnily enough, the leading scientific investigator into Havana Syndrome who wrote or co-chaired the expert panel report on plausible causes for it in 2022, works at Stanford University, and the dean of his particular college is Lloyd Minor, the doctor who discovered this condition.

The spouse of an American diplomat, who was hit in 2021, positively identified Albert Averyanov, the son of the founding commander of 29155

We asked him, so what do you know about this thing? And he said, I spoke to him just this morning: it's something like 0.5% of the population have it, but an even smaller subset of the population are symptomatic and require the kind of medical intervention that these victims had. And I said, all the cases of AHI [Anomalyous Health Incidents], the fact that there are already four people who've been diagnosed with it, he says that's exceedingly uncommon. So I mean, this is another line of inquiry, right? And the fact that also there's a tangible physiological effect — I mean, one of the arguments against Havana Syndrome being real is that it's a sociogenic illness, that this is all psychosomatic. You know, I talk about weird symptoms to you, you start to develop them, but there's no proof. There's nothing in MRI brain scans that suggests brain damage, etc.. But holes in the ear are not caused by any kind of psychosomatic, you know, problem. I mean that that is a physical, medical condition.

So Christo, walk me through a little bit about why, this investigation in particular has been so controversial. I mean, some of the pushback we're getting on social media, in correspondences — well, okay. Great. You know, circumstantial evidence. Very interesting. 29155 in these places, they're doing research into acoustic weapons. But hey, everyone's doing research into acoustic weapons. No doubt the Americans are doing it. The French, the Germans, the British. You haven't shown that, you know, Albert Averianov is literally pulling the trigger of some device or a gun firing ultrasound or microarray radiation at these people.

And yet this is evidence that has not come to light yet, right? I mean, it's in the public interest to know that the assessment that it is very unlikely a foreign adversary has anything to do with this is a little more complicated. I mean, we can add to what we've just said in open source. The Russians have been boasting about researching and developing exactly these kinds of weapons for years. Putin has said that by whatever year it was, we'll have directed energy weapons. The former defense minister in Russia, Serdyukov, was talking about by 2022, we'll have all of these new devices. Explain why you think that there's more of a compelling case here for attribution.

The Russians have been boasting about researching and developing exactly these kinds of weapons for years.

Grozev: Well, first of all, if you treat this whole incident as a series of crimes, and if there was an organized crime group or a regular criminal on the other side, on the culprits’ side, it would be possible to call that culprit into a courtroom and for a prosecutor to interrogate them and to question them, and they would be able to present their defense arguments. It's a more complicated situation here. We have an espionage agency of a particular type, a particular country that would always obfuscate and deny and lie whether they were complicit in this or not. And what we're having here is another agency, belonging to the country that represents most of the victims, that also has reasons to either tell the truth or to obfuscate and lie, because there are many reasons why the intelligence community at large of the United States might not want the full truth told at this point. So we're in a very unique situation where we have to have at least the prosecutor putting out the potential hypothesis that charges, and somebody acting also as a defense for a lawyer, for the police, criminals who also happen to be a government. What we've done so far is we've presented the argument for the prosecution, and I believe it's a consistent, concise argument. It includes the three critical ingredients of any convincing prosecution case, which is motive, opportunity, and the means.

The motive is clear. I mean, Putin put it out in the open in 2012. He said: “We need this kind of weapon because other weapons are old-fashioned.” And something interesting that he said there as well is unlike traditional conventional weapons, including nuclear, something that uses new phenomenon of new physical methods. And in this particular string of examples, he gave ray weapons and directed energy — weapons that are less politically controversial. What does that mean? They will not get the immediate reaction that the use of a nuclear weapon or a gun would because some of them are non-lethal and they are harder to track. So the motive is there. It has been out there. Let's add to the motive the fact that, Patrushev himself, Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the National Security Council of Russia, a year ago, boasted that over the last ten years, they've disabled hundreds of American and Western intelligence operatives — disabled. We haven't heard of assassinations of 100 operatives, but we've heard of hundreds disabled. So the motive is there. The means: well, we've seen that the Russians at least believe that they have the means, because they've awarded this particular commander. And that's the only one that we've seen. We must have many, many other such projects that are considered to be completed and awarded, but that we have at least one proof that they believe one particular type of acoustic weapon is working.

Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia's National Security Council, boasted that over the last ten years, they've disabled hundreds of American and Western intelligence operatives

And then the question is, do they have the opportunity? Now we've proven that a unit that has no other brief than to assassinate, disable, blow up things. They have no capability to do traditional intelligence in terms of data gathering. They have medical doctors on each of their forays on each of their teams, which is only consistent with a kinetic operation and something that can have a blowback on their own people — either poisoning with Novichok where they can touch the bottle and then poison themselves, or exposure to a kinetic energy weapon, which may blow back on them. And by the way, a lot of the research that has been done in this area has resulted in collateral damage to the scientists themselves, because it's a dangerous thing to do if you accidentally shoot yourself with a ray gun. It's not the best thing that you can hope for. So we have the three ingredients in place, and I've seen a lot of pushback by people saying, no, that's not motive. Why would they disable spies? I think any reasonable person will know why they're doing that.

What if they could? Why would they do that? So what we have now is at least I have a hypothesis that shows six by now overlaps [in which] this team fits temporally and location-wise with incidents. Now what has to happen in the normal world here? Somebody must act as a defense attorney for these criminals, for these police criminals and their criminals, because they're already indicted on other charges of assassinating or attempted assassinations. So they already have the recidivist repeat offender status, just so you know. Nobody's doing that except for people randomly on the internet saying, we don't believe so.

You know, we should do that. The US government should do that. The US government should come forward and say why we believe that this is not it. Because what they've done so far is a black box refusal and denial. It's a black box. We don't know why they conclude that there's no foreign interference here. We've given them one reason to believe otherwise, and they should say no, we believe they were there for a different reason; we know that they were there to poison somebody. Right? We don't need to know what exactly that is, because maybe they have the reasons to keep that secret, but they should come forward and say, we know what they were doing in these places, and only then we can start pursuing different avenues.

Weiss: I think also one of the nuances that's lost here is, you know, people say the intelligence community has dismissed this as a nonsense, a nothing. Right? There's no phenomenon here. Yes, the victims have suffered. They're being paid compensation. Some of them are anyway. But there's no proof of anything. And we should all go home. Except the intelligence community is a very large, sprawling, expansive apparatus consisting of, you know, more specific agencies than Americans are aware of, but of the top ones — the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, and the Defense Intelligence Agency — there were varying levels or assessments in confidence of the attribution — or the finding, rather — that it's very unlikely a foreign adversary is responsible for this. And on the show 60 Minutes last Sunday, Greg Edgreene, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, the lead investigator for the Defense Intelligence Agency — I mean, funnily enough, the American counterpart to the GRU said categorically: this is the Russians. If it's not the Russians, I'll come back on the show and eat my tie. And this is a guy who had access to all the classified intelligence, all the data that you would expect a Pentagon intelligence officer of his stature to have.

Greg Edgreene, the lead investigator for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, said categorically: this is the Russians

This does not suggest to me that there is unanimity in the so-called intelligence community about Havana Syndrome. And in fact, I mean, we have talked to former CIA officers in some cases, we've had messages from current CIA officers sent to us by proxy that, you know, if not quite a cover-up, that this is a debate that's still raging, and it's been deeply politicized. And there are a lot of pieces of the puzzle that have not been treated with the kind of respect and scrutiny that they deserve.

So Roman, when we put this out, we were joking that, you know, this is going to get a lot of attention in the Western press and in the English language-speaking world, but not necessarily in Russia. And yet this story took off like wildfire — the Russian version of the story. That is in a way that we haven't seen since The Insider unmasked the attempted, or, the actual assassins who attempted to kill Alexei Navalny in 2020. Can you talk a little bit about the reaction in Russia to the investigation?

Dobrokhotov: It was pretty surprising for me because I really thought that, for most Russians, it's out of the question that Russian intelligence is ready to kill or harm people inside and outside the country. So, okay, recently they have killed Navalny. Why wouldn't they kill or try to, I don't know, harm some foreign diplomats or especially CIA agents? But it looks like people really think that this is some kind of a new red line that is crossed because this is still a different thing. I think they understand both in Russia and in the West that it is a different thing. When a dictator is coming after his enemies, oppositionists, journalists, etc., whether they would be killed inside or outside the country, it’s a very different thing from when you go after diplomats or agents of another superpower. It's almost casus belli, actually. And this is serious, not only for our audience, but we see that our diplomats - like Maria Zakharova, who is a representative of [Russia’s] Ministry of Foreign Affairs and [presidential spokesperson Dmitry] Peskov - immediately started commenting on this. They usually try either ignore this or try, like, jokingly, to answer something about how everybody around is insane and why they are just spreading disinformation and blah, blah, blah. But they didn't do this. I think because they understand that this time it is really, really serious. It's more serious than the Skripal poisoning. It's more serious than the MH-17 downing and many other crimes.

When a dictator comes after oppositionists or journalists, be it inside or outside the country, it’s a very different thing from when you go after diplomats or agents of another superpower

Because this is a new scale. This is a violation of the so-called Moscow rules. When agents in Soviet times, the Soviet period, there was a rule that you don't attack people on each other's grounds. So the Soviets don't do anything on the USA ground, and the Americans don't interfere in Russia. So actually, it was really violated already in 2016 during the interference in American elections. But this was kind of, you know, something happening on the internet. So, like something, something completely different. But this time we see direct physical attacks and, possibly also on American ground. This is what we suspect, and everybody understands that. I think the Russian foreign minister understands that traditions that were shaped by centuries of international relations force America to react very toughly if this is proven. I think this is one of the reasons why the intelligence community was so cautious with saying that we believe that it may be some other country because they understand the consequences. The consequence is very, very quick and big escalation. But now I think that what is already proven, at least, for me and my colleagues, I think that politicians and officials will be taken as proven that this is not something psychosomatic, that this is a thing that cannot be explained by some illness. This is an attack. This is proven by statistics, medical [evidence], etc. etc.

It's more serious than the Skripal poisoning or the MH-17 downing because this is a violation of the so-called Moscow rules

So this is a starting point, and then we just have a simpler choice of who can really do this. There were theories about the Chinese, but I think if you look into our investigation, there is more than enough proof to explain that this is actually the Russians standing behind it. We already don't have a lot of things to persuade people of. We already have proven that this is really happening, and this was the toughest part, actually, because I don't know about Christo, but for me, the part like how it really can physically be done was the hardest to believe part. And when we see that actually, in the medical sphere, in physics, amongst physics experts, they have a consensus that, yeah, it's possible, there is the so-called Frey effect, when microwaves are accepted by ear as sound waves and do harm neurologically, to the brain actually. So this is proven that this exists. Now it's just the question who did it? And this is just a pragmatic question. I think that why the American leadership is maybe more silent now is that some people would expect this to be — they understand how hard the consequence will be and they need to make their own official investigation. They can't rely on our investigation, on journalists. They need to make their own investigation.

Weiss: One other thing that sort of struck me in the course of researching, interviewing, reporting on this story was, if you look at the victims and — by the way, you know, thousands of people came forward and said, I have Havana syndrome, right? I mean, there are a lot of false positives here because at one point the CIA said, if you feel like you've suffered from these symptoms, come contact us. So you can imagine, I mean, our email box runneth over with people who think that, you know, they're being targeted all the time. And again, not every case is valid. But of the victims we interviewed and investigated, we looked at their medical records. We took a full inventory of their prior histories. You know, could they be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder? Could this be psychosomatic? We kind of rule that out pretty quickly, given their backgrounds, and also the fact that they didn't know of the existence of one another, and yet their symptoms manifested exactly the same way. But another aspect of this is, well, two points.

One, it's called Havana syndrome, because the first cases that became publicized around 2017 were recorded in 2016, in Havana, Cuba. And the hypothesis was this is some attempt to disrupt U.S.-Cuban relations on the back of the rapprochement that was brokered by Barack Obama. And yet, in our investigation, we show there was an earlier case, at least one in 2014, in Frankfurt, Germany, and this was one of the positive identifications of a 29155 guy. The U.S. government employee actually confronted Igor Gordienko in the parking lot while he was surveilling diplomatic license plates. But of the clusters of victims — cohort, I think, is the term of art they use — the ones that strike, that stand out the most, are Russia hands: specialists who have dedicated their work either at a diplomatic or an intelligence level, to countermanding Russian malign behavior or aggression in Europe, North America, you name it. And we have a section of this story which is called The Ghosts of Kyiv Station, where they're basically the CIA officers who inaugurated this rather incredible intelligence-sharing program with the Ukrainian Military Intelligence Corps starting around 2015. Almost the entire station has either been targeted by this phenomenon, or their family members have been targeted by this phenomenon. It's kind of incredible.

The victims that stand out the most are “Russia hands”: specialists who have dedicated their work to countermanding Russian aggression in Europe or North America

Grozev: Can I jump in here? Because I think what you're saying is very relevant. First of all, the overwhelming correlation between incidents and area of expertise is Russia, so there's no question that's another correlation that may imply causation at this point. But it's important to also say that in the same acknowledgment — if not admission statement by Patrushev, where he says we disabled 100 or more Western spies over the last few years — the next sentence literally talks about there are a lot of American spies and Western spies that have been promoting color revolutions in countries that don't want them. So this is literally talking about the Maidan, right? So that connection is made by them in their own motivational speech.

Weiss: Yeah. I mean, what are the implications? I mean, Roman, you described this as possibly a casus belli. And two of the arguments we've heard from victims and people who think that this is very real and the Russians are behind it, as to why the U.S. government isn't coming as clean as it might about it are twofold. One: well then what do you do about it? Russia is a nuclear power that threatens, on an hourly basis, to reduce the entirety of the West to radioactive ash. Are we going to go to war with Russia? I mean, what are the dimensions of that war? What would the dimensions of that war look like? Right? And the second, no less profound, is if we acknowledge that American spies and diplomats and DoD officials are getting hit all over the world, and we can't protect our own people, there's nothing we can do about it. Who the hell is going to want to volunteer or get recruited to any of these services? Right? It is going to hollow out the Foreign Service.

Dobrokhotov: Michael mentioned one very interesting question: what Americans can really do in this situation? What can be the response? Many people think that there are not a lot of ways, or instruments, left to pressure Russia. But let's not forget that for many years of the existence of 29155, the main targets — the main known targets — were not Americans. Would it be poisoning of Skripal? Would it be Gebrev? It was like, if you would be the head of American intelligence, that would be on the periphery of your attention for many years. So they would be aware of these people, but why would they really invest a lot of effort to catch them and bring them to justice? Because actually, it's not like an American topic. And this is for the first time, this is not just an attack on American interests. It's just a very explicit, very harmful direct attack on CIA agents, on the Ministry of Defense officers. This is a question of the dignity of this service to prove that you can't do things like this. If you then just put some people on a sanction list, especially those people who can't actually travel if they work for the [Russian] Ministry of Defense, then everybody understands that, okay, you can continue that like nothing happens, right? This would be a green light for continuing not only these operations but any operations against American CIA agents, diplomats, and officers of the Ministry of Defense. So they just can't afford this kind of weak reaction.

This is not just an attack on American interests. It's just a very explicit, harmful direct attack on CIA agents, on the Ministry of Defense officers

There must be something strong, and I think it can be something strong, because if they would invest a lot of effort into hunting these people — I mean 29155, these agents around the world — this is not that difficult, actually, to arrest one or two of them who are still traveling. If me and Christo — like, we already have a list of several dozens of them, we have just laptops and some, you know, some experience of looking into the database. We don't have millions of dollars. We don't have hundreds of people working for us. We just have some interest in this. But I don't know how Christo — I even don't count myself an expert on Russian military intelligence. I don't think that I can call myself that. I'm just like, it's my hobby, actually. So if even we, spending just several years on this, found several dozens of these agents, I bet the CIA and the FBI and other intelligence agencies have much more resources to find these people, to predict some of their travels, to arrest them in some countries where it is possible, because they travel all around the world, and if they will be brought handcuffed to a public trial on American soil, that would be a good example. Yeah. If they will be arrested, who knows?

So let's hope that they will be just arrested and they will be brought to justice in public, in the middle of the attention of all the world. That would be a lesson. We have never seen anything like this happen. And I think Putin is very pragmatic. He is just opportunistic. So if he sees that there is no consequence, why would he even think about stopping what he is doing? I think that this is the message that we should deliver now to the American political elite because it looks like they just don't understand the possible consequences of their silence right now.

Weiss: One question that keeps coming up is it's actually a mistake to say only Americans have been targeted. Quite a lot of Canadians have been targeted as well. Diplomats, spies, and so on. But one question that I think is a legitimate one is why no Brits, French, Germans, you know, why are the Russians only doing this to mostly North Americans, as far as we know?

Dobrokhotov: If it is just Americans, there are lots of American enemies who can possibly do this, like the Chinese, for example. I think no one would believe that the Chinese would go after, for example, British agents, because for China, this European stuff is not that interesting. So it looks like Russia wanted to make it super, super secret and very difficult to attribute to Russia, because they never, for example, used it against [domestic] oppositionists, as we know, at least for now, that they did with Novichok. So they were not really afraid that Novichok would be attributed to Russia, but it looks like they never used microwaves against any other enemies [in order] to make it more difficult to attribute it to Russia.

Weiss: I remember speaking of the KGB interviewing, years ago, Oleg Kalugin. And I asked him, pointedly, why is it that your service can go after people in the UK, France, and Germany - in Europe, but why aren't there cases of this in the United States? He's like, what do you mean? He’s like, that was the rule: not against the main adversary, but Europe. That's our playground. So I think another theory could be maybe they're dealing with British, German, and French spies in a different manner. But anyway, great stuff as always. And I suppose I have to include myself in it this time. So that's nice. You've been listening to Foreign Office. I'm Michael Weiss, editor of The Insider English. We've been discussing our investigation into Havana Syndrome, which was done with 60 Minutes and Der Spiegel. If you haven't seen the 60 Minutes segment, I encourage you all to do it. I think it's the most-watched segment they've aired all year. And we will see you next week. My guests have been Roman Dobrokhotov, the founding editor of The Insider, and Christo Grozev, the head of the investigations team at The Insider. Thanks very much.

Subscribe to our weekly digest

К сожалению, браузер, которым вы пользуйтесь, устарел и не позволяет корректно отображать сайт. Пожалуйста, установите любой из современных браузеров, например:

Google Chrome Firefox Safari