US authorities have released new information about a suspected Russian spy who allegedly attempted to infiltrate the international criminal court in The Hague using a false identity he had cultivated over a decade.
Saturday’s indictment alleges that Sergey Cherkasov is an elite “illegal” operative of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, according to US intelligence. Cherkasov posed for many years as the Brazilian citizen Victor Muller Ferreira.
In his alias, Cherkasov earned a master’s degree in US foreign policy from Johns Hopkins University and an externship at the International Criminal Court. In April of last year, he was detained upon entering the Netherlands after presenting his Ferreira passport.
Later, Dutch intelligence revealed his true identity and some details of his cover narrative, but instead of arresting him, deported him back to Brazil. In July of last year, he was found guilty of fraudulently procuring and using Brazilian documents and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
His attempt to infiltrate the ICC has taken on greater significance following the court’s decision earlier this month to issue a war crimes indictment against Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia. If Cherkasov had been hired by the court, he would have potentially had access to its email systems and other sensitive information.
After his arrest in Brazil, Russia quickly filed an extradition request, acknowledging that the man in question was Sergey Cherkasov but insisting that he was a criminal fleeing drug charges in Russia and not a GRU agent. Russian authorities have previously utilized the tactic of attempting to extradite agents or assets based on fabricated criminal charges.