Alleged Moscow military spy revealed close to daughter of murdered Russian opposition leader

2 мая 2023
Photo: Gonzalez in Crimea in 2014

Spanish journalist of Russian origin Pablo Gonzalez, who was detained in Poland on suspicion of espionage in February 2022, was probably an agent sent by Russia’s military intelligence  (GRU, which stands for the Main Intelligence Directorate) to spy on Zhanna Nemtsova, daughter of murdered Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, two sources told Agentstvo.

In detail. According to a source at the Boris Nemtsov Foundation and an acquaintance of the daughter of the opposition politician killed in Russia, Gonzalez met Nemtsova in 2016 in Brussels while discussing the candidacy of the PACE special rapporteur on the Boris Nemtsov murder case. Nemtsova, the Foundation co-founder, and Gonzalez became friends, source at the Foundation said. According to a source, the Foundation invited Gonzalez to its events while the Spanish journalist welcomed Foundation employees at his home in the Basque Country.

  • According to a source at the Foundation, Gonzalez described in detail what Nemtsova, her friends, employees and partners of the Foundation were doing. He also collected information about the students of the journalism summer school which he attended. The Polish intelligence services revealed his activity after having gained access to his electronic devices. The source is unaware to whom Gonzales were sending his messages, but they were written like reports to his supervisors at the intelligence services. Gonzalez also claimed to refund him the expenses he made while he was trying to be a part of Nemcova’s organization.
  • Gonzalez started compiling reports on his communications with Nemtsova since he had met her in Brussels in 2016, an Agentstvo source said. According to a source, the report normally consisted of three parts: Gonzalez described the contacts he made, gave an estimate of his expenses and informed about his plans. In one report, Gonzalez said that using his banking accounts might pose a threat for him and thus he preferred to use cash and banking cards registered to his relatives. He wrote the report after the 2018 poisoning of former GRU agent Sergei Skripal.
  • Gonzalez, according to his reports, was particularly interested in the participants of the journalism summer school who came from Ukraine and the USA (Gonzales suspected one of them of working for the CIA). One of the reports contains the following phrase: «It’s so good that there was no one from the RBC (Russia’s media outlet) who could have recognized me at the Boris Nemtsov forum in Prague.»
  • Gonzalez also reported on his participation in European conferences, where he was invited to moderate panels. «I think I managed to plant a seed of doubt among Euro-Atlantics», he wrote describing the results of a forum in Rzeszow, Poland.
  • Polish investigators found letters from Boris Nemtsov on Gonzalez’s electronic devices, which he allegedly copied from Nemtsova’s laptop while communicating with her. According to a source at the Nemtsov Foundation, the investigation is planning to bring another charge against Gonzalez for illegal access to information.
  • The Polish Internal Security Agency, which is in charge of the case, did not respond to a request for comment. Zhanna Nemtsova declined to comment, citing a non-disclosure pledge given to the Polish authorities. Olga Shorina, co-founder of the Nemtsov Foundation, said that Gonzalez communicated with the leaders of the Foundation and took part in a number of events. However, he had no access to the documentation and confidential information of the Foundation, Shorina told Agentstvo.

Context. Pablo Gonzalez (Pavel Rubtsov), a bearer of Russian and Spanish passports, was born in the Soviet Union. In the late 1980s, his mother, the daughter of Spaniards who came to the USSR in the 1930s, returned to Spain, settling in Catalonia, and the son went to the Basque Country. Gonzalez’s father, Alexei Rubtsov, has been a manager at the RBC media outlet since 1999 (which apparently explains Gonzalez’s fear that someone from the RBC might recognize him at the conference).

  • Shortly before February 24, 2022, the Ukrainian Security Service required Gonzalez to leave the country. He was detained in Przemysl, Poland, near the Ukrainian border on February 28, 2022. The Polish authorities did not elaborate on the arrest, but said they believed the journalist have been working for the GRU.

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