The Russian who was following Zhanna Nemtsova travelled together with a Russian military intelligence officer

30 ноября 2023

Spanish journalist Pablo Gonzalez (Pavel Rubtsov according to his Russian passport), who was detained in Poland in February 2022 on charges of working for the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU, country’s military intelligence), took the same flights as intelligence officer Sergei Turbin, Agentstvo revealed. This may confirm the accusation made by the Polish intelligence services.

Details. The connection between Gonzalez-Rubtsov and Turbin is evidenced by data from the hacked Sirena-Travel flight-booking database (it was breached by hackers from the Ukrainian Muppets group in September 2023). Among the leaked data, Agentstvo found evidence that on June 16, 2017, tickets to S7 airline flights from Moscow to St. Petersburg and back were purchased using the passport details of Rubtsov and Turbin. The tickets were purchased together at the office of the Orbita-N company at Paveletsky railway station in Moscow.

  • Why is Turbin an intelligence officer? According to leaked Russian government databases, Turbin, born in 1968, as well as his wife and son, regularly listed 50 Narodnogo Opolcheniya their place of residence in Moscow. This was the address Turbin listed when registering his car, and it also appeared on tickets the man received in 2006, 2008 and 2009. In 2019, Turbin listed the same address when signing a contract for internet services with Corbina telecom provider (this leak is publicly available).
  • 50 Narodnogo Opolcheniya St. is the address of the Military Academy of the Ministry of Defence, better known as the «GRU Conservatory», which focuses on training military intelligence officers. The address of the military academy was also listed as a personal address by:

— Alexei Minin, who planned an attack on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons with a group of colleagues;

— Denis Sergeev, the third perpetrator in the Salisbury poisonings.

  • The leaks show that Turbin actually resided in two other equally prominent locations. The first one is 15 Rudnyovka St. in the Kosino-Ukhtomsky district (according to the leaked Gemotest database). According to Agentstvo, the spy moved into the apartment in 2006, right after the house was built. At least two other intelligence officers live in nearby houses. According to the leaked databases, the neighbouring house was home to the spy Dmitry Usov, who had also previously listed the «GRU Conservatory» as his personal address, and was on the Foreign Ministry payroll as of 2019. In 2018, the «Oper Slil» Telegram channel, which is overseen by Alexei Trifonov, former head of political police branch in the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, reported the theft of headlights from a car at 39 Rudnyovka St. The victim was a military officer, an adviser to the Foreign Intelligence Service.
  • Since 2022, Turbin began listing a different address as his place of residence — 7 Osenniy Boulevard, Apartment 2. Nearby building (10 Osenniy Boulevard, Building 2) was home to former GRU officer Sergei Skripal, who was poisoned in Salisbury in 2018 by agents of the same intelligence service Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, as well as to Vadim Krasikov, an agent of the FSB Special Forces Centre, who killed Chechen field commander Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin.
  • Turbin’s son Vyacheslav graduated from a military university in 2012, lives in Sevastopol and, according to the leaks, serves in the information-computing centre of the Black Sea Fleet.

Why is the leaked data considered trustworthy? The published part of the dataset was checked by iStories, which found there the flights of former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl. This data matched the public reports about her flights. A similar match between the public data on Alina Kabaeva’s movements and the database information on her flights was established by Georgy Alburov who worked as an investigator with Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.

Context. Pablo Gonzalez, a resident of the Basque country (an autonomous region of Spain), was detained in February 2022 by Polish security services and accused of working for the GRU. As Agentstvo found out in May, 2023, Gonzalez-Rubtsov was a member of Zhanna Nemtsova’s entourage for several years and wrote detailed reports about her, her friends and colleagues. The Polish security services got access to these reports.

  • Gonzalez-Rubtsov was interested in the events with the links with Russia’s security services. In October, 2019, he attended the Bonanza Media news conference, focused on MH17 downing . According to The Insider news outlet the project was linked to the Russian military intelligence GRU. Gonzalez-Rubtsov published a news story from the event in his web-site .  
  • In June, 2017, Gonzalez-Rubtsov attended the Boris Nemtsov Award ceremony in Bonn, where he asked Agentstvo source to help him interview Vladimir Kara-Murza (the interview was published in the Basque newspaper Gara in September 2017). Agentstvo does not disclose the source’s name on security reasons. Gonzalez-Rubtsov texted Agentstvo source back then that he was keen to talk to  Kara-Murza after he had been poisoned in February, 2017.
  • Agentstvo source who communicated with Gonzalez in August 2017, said the journalist had told him that he wanted to go to Russia to work but did not know how to get a visa. Meanwhile, the Spanish journalist did not reveal that he possessed a Russian passport.

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