The Czech government announced on Saturday that two Russian GRI agents, Anatoly Chipega and Alexander Myshkin, were behind an ammunition depot explosion in Vrptis in October 2014, killing two Czech citizens Fratislaw Havranik and Lodik Petrik. The investigative group Bellingcat, in collaboration with Respekt, presents new results of the operation: it was more massive than previously known, at least six GRU operatives of the 29,155 commando, whose members carry out acts of violence outside Russia.
The event was personally supervised by unit commander Andrei of Afirganov, who went in the time of his company to Central Europe and returned to Moscow a few hours after the explosion in Vrpets. At the moment, there are only two events known to have participated outside Russia, which indicates, given his high position in the GRU, that they were important to the Russian government. Vrbětice is one of them. As an analysis of his communications shows, Averjan has direct links with the GRU leadership and the ruling administration.
Austria and Switzerland
The event might have taken place in Vrpotes a little earlier, but for reasons that aren’t clear it has been postponed for about a week. Available information shows that some commando 29,155 members arrived in the Czech Republic during 2014 via neighboring countries and also from a preparatory mission in Switzerland. The first two members of the unit arrived separately at the beginning of 2014. First, Sergey Fedotov arrived in Prague on January 26, 2014, and in the past, Bellingcat, The Insider and Respect identified him by his real name as Denis Vyacheslavovich Sergeyev. He is the third striker on double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, UK, in 2018 (GRU unsuccessfully attempted to kill him here with a beginner’s neuropathic substance).
Sergeyev returned from Prague to Moscow a week later, on February 2, 2014. Two weeks later, another member of Unit 29155, Igor Gordenko, arrived in Prague (he traveled under cover in the name of Georgy Gorshkov), who stayed there for a week and left on February 24, 2014. Sergey It was Gordenko who left for Bulgaria a year later – at a time when Emilian Gebrev, a prominent Bulgarian arms dealer, developed poisoning-like symptoms. Later it turned out that the Russian Military Intelligence had tried to poison him.
This was not the first time that Sergeev and Jordenko had traveled together. In September 2014, both dealerships traveled from Moscow to Geneva, checked-in at the Nash Airport Hotel and the next morning they rented a BMW 116i from Sixt rent a car. They returned it after five days, at 545 kilometers. In the past, Sergiev’s phone was located in the area of Mount Chamonix, where, as described by French media, Western intelligence services identified the logistical base of Unit 29155.
During Operation Vrbětice, the commander of the Averjanov unit used a fake passport issued in the name of Andrey Overyanov. He arrived in Europe by plane from the Russian company Aeroflot, and landed in Vienna on October 13, 2014. Two days earlier, another member of the unit, Nikolai Yougov, arrived in Austria. It also traveled under a fictitious name – around the same time Zhikov traveled, Chebig and Mishkin’s agents traveled from Europe to Europe and landed in Prague. (At the same time, two more members of Unit 29155 moved to Europe, flying under the real names Alexei Kapinos and Evgeny Kalinin.)
During a border inspection at Roseny Airport, epiga and Miškin showed their fake passports as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boserov, and their salesman was a sports nutrition retailer. The same profession was reported in Russia Today by Russia Today four years later, when the British revealed their identities after the attack on Sergei Skripal and made it clear that they were going to Salisbury not to kill, but to admire the local cathedral.
The data on the tickets shows that epiga and Miškin had an open return date for the flight in the case of the flight to the Czech Republic. During his short stay in Prague, Čepiga posted a photo from the center of Prague on his social network that was in operation at the time. While he and Myshkin moved to Moravia near the Vrptes warehouse and lived at the Corrado Hotel in Ostrava, Nikolai Gizov, a member of Unit 29155, rented a car in Austria.
The premise is that Yichov picked up Verganov in a rented car in Vienna and they both went to Ostrava, where they met with Sebiga and Myshkin to help them prepare for the entire event (Avirganov turned off his cell phone at that time, and turned it off. Again on the afternoon of October 16, that is, after the explosion in … Verbites).
Two warehouses, two explosions
As the Czech police found out during the investigation, the stated goal of Sipega and Myshkin was to visit the ammunition depot in Vorbitis, where they pre-ordered as arms dealers (they used fake passports in the name of Tabarov and Buba). Anyone wishing to visit the ammunition complex for commercial reasons had to email their supervisor in advance asking what time frame they wanted to arrive; In the case of foreigners, he also had to present passport copies.
Ibega and Mishkin were ordered to send orders to Verbetes by email, which, according to police experience, had been stripped of all metadata. This makes it impossible to pinpoint exactly where it was sent from. The operator issued a permit to enter Vrbětice for the period from October 13 to 17. The explosion occurred at Ammunition Depot No. 16 on October 16 at 9:25 am. The police do not yet have direct evidence that both men actually entered the compound, but they consider this hypothesis very realistic.
By the time Vrbottes exploded, Sebiga and Myshkin were on their way to Aeroflot’s flight to Moscow in Vienna. The plane took off at 10:05 AM. The commander of the unit of Afghanov and Zhizhov also returned to Vienna on the same day; Averyianov returned to Moscow for an evening flight at 10:26 pm. At the time when Sipega and Myshkin were in the Verbetes, according to the police, the weapons were to be removed from the warehouse, which was to be purchased by a prominent Bulgarian arms dealer. Part of the complex was leased by the Imex group for a long time from the state institution of the Military Technical Institute.
The investigators are working on the fact that it was assumed that the aforementioned Bulgarian businessman was already Emilian Gebrev and that the weapons could target Ukraine or Syria against the forces that stood against Russia in the war. If this is the case and the seizures are reduced with the help of an explosive device that was placed in the shipment, which was supposed to be the reason for Shepega and Mishkin’s arrival in the Czech Republic, then it would damage Gebrev’s reputation as a businessman with his associates. .
Police and the Public Prosecution Office stated that the explosion occurred outside the Czech lands. The bomb was to be planted in two ammunition depots, both of which were to be removed from storage in October; The second did not explode until December, as investigators concluded that the switch had been seized in both up to this date, when the merchandise was no longer in Vrbětice. If this hypothesis is correct, then the explosive device in the first warehouse detonated prematurely for a reason that is not yet clear. However, the main evidence – the launcher – was not fully tracked in the damaged area.
After the Czech government made the case public, Gebrev’s EMCO commercial company issued a statement stating that at the end of 2014 it had not taken any ammunition from the Czech Republic, and therefore no ammunition intended for it had been destroyed during the explosion. However, the Czech investigators insist themselves. “I think the evidence we got is,” Attorney General Pavel Zeman told a government office press conference on Monday.
The former director of MI6, John Sawers, has emphasized the ability of the Czech security forces to solve the complex case – in addition to the police, the CIA was also involved in the case.
“It should come as no surprise that the Russian intelligence services are operating all over Europe, and I think the Czechs have put it very well. The whole thing carries the line of a Russian intelligence operation, and I think the Czechs have the two people who tried to assassinate (double agent) Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. I think. They have strong evidence against them. ” According to him, European countries only know about a tenth of the “aggressive” activities of Russian intelligence on their soil.