September 3, 2010

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Red Terror File: GRU dep. head dies mysteriously in Syria, Turkish fishermen find body; UK espionage expert: Spy's death "wet job" by Russian SVR


Some time last month, reports the British media, the “badly decomposed” body of the deputy head of Russian military intelligence (GRU), Major-General Yuri Ivanov (aged 52), washed up on the Turkish coast after he disappeared in the Syrian coastal resort of Latakia. The Russian Armed Forces in-house newspaper, Red Star, did not report Ivanov’s death until August 28, when he was “quietly” buried in Moscow. According to the Kremlin, the GRU’s second-in-command was on holiday in Latakia at the time and perished in a “tragic swimming accident.”

Latakia, as it turns out, is only 50 miles from Tartus, the site of a Soviet/Russian naval facility, and relatively near the Turkish port of Ceyhan, which is the terminus for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. In South Ossetia, one of Georgia’s breakaway regions, Russian occupation troops are only a short distance from this pipeline. During Russia’s 2008 re-invasion of Georgia, the Russian Air Force tried to bomb the BTC pipeline. According to The Guardian, General Ivanov inspected the naval base at Tartus, before heading off for a visit with Syrian intelligence agents.

“Other reports,” state The Telegraph, suggest that Ivanov was on “official business” when he died. The British newspaper intimates that the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, may know something about Ivanov’s death: “The facility is Russia’s only foothold in the Mediterranean Sea, and Mossad . . . is known to be concerned that Moscow will use the upgraded facility as a base for spy ships and electronic espionage directed at the Middle East.” The Russian Defense Ministry, like its Soviet predecessor, is “overwhelmingly” pro-Arab.

In view of the Kremlin’s lengthy body count--which includes military and security service officers, politicians, bankers, journalists, dissidents, expatriates, subway riders, theater patrons, school children, and harmless apartment dwellers--we are not inclined to accept the official line promulgated by Moscow concerning Ivanov’s death. Still, we can only speculate concerning the source of his demise. If Ivanov was assassinated, we do not believe that a foreign intelligence agency, even the Mossad, would be bold enough to perpetrate such a deed. It is more probable that someone higher up in the Kremlin chain of command determined that Ivanov had outlived his usefulness to the Soviet deception strategy.

The refurbished Soviet naval base in Syria is not all the Israelis are worried about with respect to Moscow’s long-time strategic alliance with Damascus. According to Haaretz, last Friday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conversed with counterpart Vladmir Putin, at which time he urged Russia to scrap its promise to sell P-800 Yakhont supersonic cruise missiles to Damascus. The “highly accurate” Yakhont has a maximum range of 300 kilometers, can deliver a 200-kilogram warhead, and can elude radar by cruising several meters above the water, making it a dangerous threat to the Israeli Navy, including warships based in Haifa and Ashdod. During his telephone conversation with Putin, Netanyahu told the Russian leader that C-802 missiles the Kremlin sold to Syria were transferred to Hezbollah, which were then used against Israeli Defense Forces in the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

In a related story, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has scheduled an official visit to Moscow, which would be the first time any Israeli DM has ever traveled to Russia in a formal capacity. Barak will meet with Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov and presumably discuss Russia’s arm sales to Syria and Palestinians’ aspirations for an independent state.

Pictured here: Murdered British spy Gareth Williams' flat in London.Meanwhile, British investigators at the Metropolitan Police’s Homicide Command are puzzling over another decomposing body, that of Gareth Williams, a reclusive math genius and avid cyclist who was employed by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

Williams, a signals intelligence officer on secondment at the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), is believed to have returned from a foreign trip on August 11. He was last seen alive on August 15. Police found his decomposing body padlocked in a sports bag in his bathroom eight days later. Pathologists have yet to determine the method by which Williams was killed. Early published reports alleging that the Welsh-born spy was stabbed or dismembered have been officially denied.

William’s upscale apartment was located near MI6 headquarters in London and, intriguingly, is owned by a Russian company, New Rodina, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands. In a previous post we reproduced part of a deleted post from a Slovenian blogger alleging that a communist agent from that former Yugoslav republic was involved in Williams’ death. We have been unable to confirm this allegation from separate sources, nor have we been able to retrieve the full post at the Polonika blog.

Although British tabloids have published sensational stories purporting to document Williams’ “kinky sex life” and rumors that his death could have the result of a “sex game gone wrong,” one of the UK’s leading espionage experts believes the spy was a victim of the Russian or Iranian foreign intelligence service. When this story broke on August 23, this was precisely our line of thought. Now Professor Anthony Glees, director of Buckingham University’s Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies, is calling upon Prime Minister David Cameron’s government to issue an official statement concerning Williams’ murder. Glees’ comments follow:

To me it smacks of a very professional killing job and that means the Russian security service—they’ve murdered people in London before [such as Alexander Litvinenko in 2006]—or conceivably the Iranians. It looks more and more like an intelligence killing—what people call a “wet job,” meaning intelligence officers have murdered somebody and blood has flown. Mr. Williams may have been blackmailed into passing on secrets to a hostile intelligence service which wanted to leave no trace of any links back to its organization.

Glees questions why police took so long to find Williams’ body. Normally, MI6 makes a home visit to any agent who fails to report to work for even one day without explanation. Glees adds: “They don’t appear to have come round to see this chap. Why not? We can only speculate. If they had been frantically looking for him, they would have found him. Until we’re told, people will continue to speculate and that in itself undermines national security and that’s why the Government must now explain what they know about this person and why his body was not discovered for two weeks. That, to me, is a really chilling fact.”

Investigative reporter Gordon Thomas, who has for nearly 40 years written many non-fiction books on international intrigue, including Inside British Intelligence: 100 Years of MI5 and MI6, points out that “Mr. Williams’ mathematical brain made him a vital tool in the fight against terrorism and cyber-warfare. The security services have played down his role so as not to alarm the world over his importance to anyone involved in this matter.”