Even under the USSR, under the “roof” of Aeroflot, dozens of officers of the First Main Directorate of the KGB and the GRU spied, mainly holding the positions of representatives abroad, pilots, flight mechanics and stewardesses. In intelligence slang, they were called "undercovers", the activities of such "aviators" were regulated by secret decrees of the Central Committee of the CPSU and internal orders of the KGB. There are still legends on the Lubyanka about “special stewardesses” who were “planted” to politicians from different countries in order to gain compromising evidence.
Under President Boris Yeltsin, the law "On Foreign Intelligence" was adopted, in which enterprises with state participation were obliged to assist the Foreign Intelligence Service, the GRU and the FSB. In 2001, Putin appointed General of the PGU KGB - SVR Lev Koshlyakov as Deputy General Director of Aeroflot, who in turn brought his former colleagues from Yasenev. According to sources, conflicts began between the "undercovers" from the Foreign Intelligence Service and the GRU, a series of mutual "setups" took place, but after Putin's intervention, the two special services reconciled and divided most of the positions in Aeroflot's foreign apparatus.
Prior to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a third of the airline's offices in foreign countries were headed by career GRU officers, the spy network stretched from Cuba to Hong Kong, Angola and Switzerland. The “representatives” received their salaries from the GRU, while the airline paid for the offices, housing and transportation costs.
The Aeroflot office in Vienna was headed by Vadim Kolomyichenko, registered in Moscow at the address of the GRU headquarters at Khoroshevsky Shosse, house 76 “b”, in the slang of the GRU-shnikov - “Aquarium”. Before Austria, Kolomyichenko, under the guise of an airline employee, spied in Delhi and Venice and obtained secrets related to military aviation. In the "Aquarium" he was nicknamed Vadya-Stanga, because he is seriously involved in powerlifting and even participated in Moscow tournaments.
As soon as the European Union closed the skies for Russian aircraft, Shtanga and his wife Olga and their youngest son Fedor returned to Moscow. Apparently, after Vienna, Kolomyichenko became very relaxed and ran into traffic police inspectors. On the website of the Savelovsky District Court, there is information that on March 22, 2023, the GRU officer was brought to administrative responsibility for violating the rules of driving a car. According to The Insider's source in military intelligence, now "Kolomyychenko has been transferred to the Ukrainian direction, but he has not quite acclimatized after Europe and hangs out for nothing."
Nikolai Gruzin, a native of Uzbekistan, was spying at the Aeroflot office in Lisbon. He graduated from the Military Diplomatic Academy (VDA), nicknamed the "Conservatory" by the GRU officers. Since he was fluent in Portuguese, he was assigned to the 4th Directorate of the GRU, which oversees Africa, the Middle East and Israel. In 2005, Gruzin was sent to the former Portuguese colony of Angola, where he sat in the office of Aeroflot, and in 2010 he was seconded to the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, staffed by military intelligence officers. In 2017, Gruzin was again transferred to Aeroflot, and before the start of the war with Ukraine, he strengthened the GRU residency in Portugal.
Vladimir Kraskevich, a classmate of Gruzin in the ACA, also left the representative office of Aeroflot in Zurich. In 2020, he replaced another roofer Vladimir Safonov. Kraskevich himself had previously successfully spied in Washington and Amsterdam. However, five years ago, Kraskevich was identified by the SBU, and his name appeared on the list of 79 spies from the GRU published on the Internet. Kraskevich was urgently transferred to neutral Switzerland, where local counterintelligence turns a blind eye to Russian spies. In Zurich, the GRU officer had free access to air travel databases and copies of documents of foreigners flying with Aeroflot.
In friendly Serbia, they also hid another person on the Ukrainian list - Alexander Makhalov. Before Belgrade, he worked in the Berlin residency, and after the ban on flights to Europe, he is in reserve. Another high-profile GRU officer, Sergei Neshto, who graduated from the Borisoglebsk Higher Military Aviation School, was seconded to Sheremetyevo Airport. Previously, under the roof of Aeroflot, Neshto spied in Brussels, Damascus, Kyiv and Tashkent.
Anatoly Kachan and Alexei Mironenko had to hang a lock on the doors of the airline's offices in Berlin and Lyon. Now they are in Moscow and are waiting for transfer to another region. Kachan graduated from the Higher Academy of Arts and headed the Aeroflot office in Baku before Germany, while Mironenko, before Aeroflot, worked in the international cooperation department of the Moscow Region and monitored publications in the largest French media, which dealt with new military developments.
But the representative office of Aeroflot in Istanbul, through which most Russians fly in transit around the world, is still working. The office is headed by Maxim Lagutkin, a resident of Serpukhov. According to the tax base, before Turkey, he worked in the Nortel Security private security company, which guarded the building of the Prosecutor General's Office. The founder of the security company is Nikolai Chinenny, who lives in the departmental house of special services officers on Michurinsky Prospekt.
In fraternal China, there were two "roofers" at once: Sergei Salov headed the Aeroflot office in Shanghai, and Maxim Grekhov in Hong Kong. A former GRU officer who worked for a long time in the Shanghai residency believes that, despite ostentatious friendship, Moscow actively continues espionage activities in China:
“There are no friends in intelligence, there are only temporary fellow travelers. And Putin can meet with Xi as much as he wants, but China, along with the US, Europe and Japan, remain our main targets, especially in terms of scientific and technological developments. Although the leadership in China ordered not to be especially impudent, the interest in the country is great: the supply of weapons, joint special measures against the Americans, and now also import substitution.
Salov, who was a spy in Shanghai, graduated from the “Chinese department” of the ACA, and the head of the office of the Russian air carrier in Hong Kong, Grekhov, served before the GRU in the 40th Marine Brigade, located in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (military unit 10103). In March 2022, the brigade, along with other invaders, invaded Ukraine and checked in Gostomel and Vugledar. In the battles, they lost more than 30 people killed and a large amount of military equipment. Now Grekhov and Salov are in reserve and are waiting for regular flights to China to begin.
Under the roof of Aeroflot in Hong Kong, Denis Kazarin previously spied, and then he was transferred to Ho Chi Minh City. Serving in communist Vietnam is a pleasure, as the country is crammed with Kremlin friends and agents recruited while still studying at Soviet universities or graduating from the special faculty of the Conservatory for the military personnel of the armies of friendly countries such as Cuba, Syria, Venezuela, Angola and Algeria.
While the "cover" Kazarin worked with agents, his wife Ksenia was actively involved in social activities: in Hong Kong, she collaborated with the Center for the Study of the Russian Language and was one of the organizers of the Russian Ball. Having moved to Vietnam, Kazarina created a children's choir at the arrival of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ho Chi Minh City. The parish is visited by at least a hundred Orthodox Vietnamese, who mostly support Putin's policies and aggression against Ukraine. The eldest daughter of the Kazarin Olga is studying at MGIMO, she is a master of sports in bullet shooting. The younger Sophia is very worried that she had to leave exotic Vietnam for damp and cold Moscow.
In neighboring South Korea, the airline's office was also headed by GRU officer Alexander Sychugov, who graduated from the Stavropol Higher Military Aviation School for Pilots and Navigators. The premises of the representative office of Aeroflot in Seoul have been reserved for the GRU since the opening in 1994. And the local counterintelligence is more busy countering the special services of North Korea and China and does not pay any attention to Russian spies.
So, for example, in 2021, Evgeny Umerenko, who previously served in the SVR residencies in Berlin and Stockholm, took the post of adviser to the Russian ambassador in Seoul. In 2019, in the center of the Swedish capital, Umerenko was detained at a secret meeting with Scania plant engineer Christian Dimitrievsky. For the transfer of corporate secrets, the engineer was sentenced to three years, and Umerenko was declared persona non grata. Almost all European media wrote about the capture of the Russian spy, and it seemed that his career ended there.
However, after spending half a year at his dacha in Kotelniki, Umerenko went to Seoul to extract the secrets of leading South Korean companies. Together with her husband, his wife Tatyana went to Korea, whose father, a retired colonel of the PGU KGB Albert Galyutin, spent many years in Europe in an illegal position. Back in Stockholm, Umerenko's wife worked as a librarian at a school at the Russian embassy and, wearing black coats, glasses and a hat, arranged investigative games "Book Detective" for children.
Aeroflot representative Sergei Kidisyuk, who graduated from the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the Military University and then spying in Toronto, Canada, was recalled from India. In Delhi, he spoke to local media about the increased tourist flow of foreigners heading to India, Nepal and Bangladesh: "Our airline has created a powerful transit network between Europe and Asia." A source at the Russian embassy in Delhi told The Insider that Kidisyuk was removed for his "pro-Western sentiments and numerous connections with relatives from Ukraine" and "he is not from the GRU at all, but an officer of scientific and technical intelligence of the SVR."
Kidisyuk, who fell under suspicion, was replaced by Andrey Alimov, who before India worked in the airline's office in Copenhagen, and then in the Moscow representative office of the Swiss company SITA. This company specializes in providing IT services to air passengers and helping flight crews avoid turbulence, icing, thunderstorms and more accurately calculate fuel remaining. A month after the start of the war in Ukraine, SITA withdrew from Russia and banned its branches from serving Russian aircraft.
Middle East and Cuba
In 2019, Sergei Prosvetov, a graduate of the Conservatory, was appointed head of the Aeroflot office in Beirut. During his studies, the “musician” was registered not in the officer dormitory at the academy on Narodnogo Opolcheniya Street, but on the RSUH campus at the address: st. Kirovogradskaya, house 25. Together with Prosvetov, another 30 GRU officers “lived” in the student dormitory, who, as part of sabotage groups, had previously fought in hot spots. Apparently, this group of "students" were trained for special assignments in Europe and the United States.
For example, the list includes Anatoly Chepiga, who later, under the name of Ruslan Boshirov, poisoned the father and daughter of the Skripals in Salisbury, as well as Konstantin Bakhtin, who urgently left the Russian Embassy in the Netherlands after the arrest of four failed hackers from the GRU in The Hague.
Former saboteur Prosvetov arrived in Beirut shortly before the most powerful explosions at the port warehouse of ammonium nitrate. Then 210 people died, about 6 thousand were injured. Saltpeter was produced at the Rustavi Azot enterprise in Georgia, and the Mozambican company Fabrica de Explosivos de Mocambique, which specializes in the manufacture of explosives, was indicated as the final recipient of the cargo. Explosive containers were transported on the ship Rhosus, which was leased by Khabarovsk resident Igor Gechushkin, who lives in Cyprus. On board were eight Ukrainians and a Russian citizen.
However, technical problems arose on the way to Africa, and the ship got stuck in the port of Beirut for a long time. Shortly before the emergency, the Lebanese special services compiled a report for the government, which stated that the dangerous cargo was almost not guarded and anyone could get into the warehouse through a hole in the fence. The investigation considered three versions: negligence, accident and external interference, but the exact causes of the explosions have not yet been established.
In 2020, a rotation took place in the current office of Aeroflot in Dubai: civil aviation specialist Alan Mardenov was replaced by Vitaly Ogurtsov from Moscow. During the period of study at the VDA, Ogurtsov lived in the GRU officer dormitory in the north of the capital, and then he was given a departmental apartment on the street of the 800th anniversary of Moscow.
A source in Dubai told The Insider that after the start of the so-called SVO, “Ogurtsov is spinning like a squirrel in a wheel, because, in addition to operational tasks, he was instructed to help our defense enterprises bypass sanctions.” Judging by the way dual-use products come to Russia through parallel imports, the GRU officer Ogurtsov copes with the tasks.
Quite a few Russian spies are stationed in the Emirates, and some of them have settled in the Russian embassy (the list of "diplomats" is available in the editorial office). Russian intelligence is interested in literally everything: American arms supplies, alignments in the ruling elite, oil reserves and the country's economic potential. And recently, GRU officers seconded to the embassy have taken under their wing some Russian IT specialists who escaped from the mobilization and got jobs in the branches of the largest transnational corporations located in the UAE.
All espionage information through military intelligence flows to the GRU resident in the Emirates, Alexander Shashk, and his deputy, Anatoly Krasnikov, who work in the Russian embassy under the guise of advisers. Previously, Shashok spied in the United States, then served as head of the civil aviation project department of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and oversaw the production of the Tu-204SM superjet. And Colonel Krasnikov worked for eight years as the official representative of Roskosmos in Astana and looked after the space program of Kazakhstan.
In distant Cuba, too, there was a “roof cover”: the local office of Aeroflot is headed by GRU officer Yevgeny Voskoboinik. For the period of study at the Conservatory, he, like Chepigu-Boshirov, was registered on the campus of the Russian State Humanitarian University, and the family lived in the GRU hostel in Tushino. Apparently, Voskoboinik, who graduated from the “American faculty” of the ACA, was seconded to Havana with some special task.
Sometimes representatives of Aeroflot are caught espionage. The last case occurred in 2018 in Latvia: Sergei Sokolnikov was expelled from the country, and Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkevich said: “This person was doing anything in Latvia, but not his direct duties. His actions are qualified as illegal collection of information.” After the expulsion, Sokolnikov moved to the chair of the representative of the Aurora airline in Irkutsk, from where there are direct flights to China, Turkey, Thailand, etc.
The representative of Aeroflot in London, Dmitry Fedotkin, was detained by the FSB during his visit to Moscow. According to investigators, he worked for British counterintelligence and turned in several valuable GRU agents. By decision of the Moscow City Court, Fedotkin was sentenced to 13 years in a strict regime colony and a fine of 300,000 rubles.
By the way, in the same UK, Nikolai Glushkov, the former deputy general director of Aeroflot, died under mysterious circumstances. On March 12, 2018, he was scheduled to be present at the London Commercial Court for a hearing of his case. But he did not appear at the meeting. The next day, daughter Natalya came to her father's house on Clarence Avenue and found him with signs of strangulation. Glushkov's death made a lot of noise, since eight days earlier, GRU officers Anatoly Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin, with the help of Novichok, made an attempt on the life of the father and daughter of the Skripals.
Boris Berezovsky's closest associate, Glushkov, was accused of embezzling Aeroflot funds, and in Russia he was put on the federal wanted list. In 2006, he moved to the UK and soon received political asylum. According to The Wall Street Journal, Glushkov not only intended to prove his innocence in the Aeroflot embezzlement case, but also to tell the court about the airline's close ties to Russian intelligence services. During the investigation, the British police interviewed about 1800 witnesses, watched more than 2 thousand hours of video recordings from surveillance cameras, but they could not identify the suspects, and the investigation came to a standstill.