Russian agents suspected of directing far-right group to mail bombs in Spain

By | January 22, 2023

The New York Times reports:

American and European officials believe that Russian military intelligence officers directed associates of a white supremacist militant group based in Russia to carry out a recent letter bomb campaign in Spain whose most prominent targets were the prime minister, the defense minister and foreign diplomats, according to U.S. officials.

Spanish and foreign investigators have been looking into who sent six letter bombs in late November and early December to sites mostly in Madrid, including the official residence of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, which also serves as his office; the American and Ukrainian Embassies; and the Defense Ministry. No one was killed in the attacks, which U.S. officials consider terrorism. An employee of the Ukrainian Embassy was injured when one of the packages exploded.

Investigators in recent weeks have focused on the Russian Imperial Movement, a radical group that has members and associates across Europe and military-style training centers in St. Petersburg, the officials said. They added that the group, which has been designated a global terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, is believed to have ties to Russian intelligence agencies. Important members of the group have been in Spain, and the police there have tracked its ties with far-right Spanish organizations.

U.S. officials say the Russian officers who directed the campaign appeared intent on keeping European governments off guard and may be testing out proxy groups in the event Moscow decides to escalate a conflict.

The apparent aim of the action was to signal that Russia and its proxies could carry out terrorist strikes across Europe, including in the capitals of member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is helping defend Ukraine against Russia’s invasion, said the U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivities around the investigation. Spain is a member of the alliance and has given military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, as well as diplomatic support.

One of the letter bombs was sent to Instalaza, a weapons maker in Zaragoza that manufactures grenade launchers that Spain is giving to Ukraine, and another went to the Torrejón de Ardoz Air Base outside Madrid.

There are no signs that Moscow is ready to engage in widespread covert attacks or sabotage in Europe, which Russian officials believe could provoke a response from NATO and, potentially, a costly wider conflict, according to U.S. and allied officials. For that same reason, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and his generals have not ordered a conventional attack on a NATO country. [Continue reading…]

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