Russia, almost 200 Putin’s ‘spy antennas’ in Europe

According to a report by the Dossier Center, they are installed on the roofs of embassies. There would be 17 in Brussels alone

There are nearly 200 antennas on the roofs of Russia’s embassies in various countries in Europe. A number that, according to experts, considerably exceeds the communication needs. This was revealed by a report published by the Russian investigative media Dossier Center, according to which many of the diplomats expelled in recent months from European countries were actually antenna and IT technicians.

According to a pool of journalists, who analyzed a series of satellite images, there are at least 182 antennas on 39 Russian embassy and consulate buildings in Europe. Most are installed on the roof of the Russian embassy in Brussels: there are 17 of them and they can ‘cover’ half of Europe. In six other offices – in Madrid, Prague, Belgrade, Lisbon, Sofia and Nicosia – at least 10 devices are visible. In total, there are at least 182 antennas on 39 Russian embassy and consulate buildings in Europe. Not all antennas are visible from the outside, so their real number is probably even higher.

But what kind of antennas are these, why are strange boxes-containers installed on the roofs of embassies, how can this be connected with the expulsion of hundreds of representatives of the diplomatic corps?

Classic satellite dishes can be found in most embassies of the Russian Federation. Each of them has its own range of tasks. There seems to be no crime and no violation, they all have a completely legal and understandable purpose. The difficulty is that, looking from the outside, it is almost never possible to understand whether a certain piece of equipment is being used for electronic espionage. “At first glance, they look like advanced technical intelligence posts used to intercept electromagnetic radiation, for example, radio communications of local special services, mobile conversations and so on. The Russians use such equipment all over the world,” said the former chief of the Polish Military Counterintelligence Service (SKW), General Piotr Pytel to the Polish edition of Frontstory, co-author of the investigation.

Through satellite dishes it is also possible to establish a satellite connection or amplify the signal of a wireless Internet router and determine the position of ships, planes and guided missiles. Pin antennas are practically universal. However, unlike satellite dishes, they usually cannot provide communications between the Russian embassy and foreign ministry, but they do allow signals to be intercepted in the host country, from local taxi drivers’ conversations to cellular communications.

According to the report, Russian intelligence officers under diplomatic cover used these antennas to intercept satellites and listen to mobile communications. Many of the 400 expelled Russian diplomats suspected of working for intelligence received an education in radio communications and computer technology. For example, in Belgium there were at least five such “diplomats”. “We know that this type of interception operations are not new. They have been happening since the beginning of the cold war. And of course also in Brussels, where many European institutions are based. We shouldn’t be naive, this is happening today,” he told De Tijd Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborn. The minister also noted that “the amount of equipment on the roofs of the Russian embassy is significant” and linked this to the presence of NATO and EU headquarters in Brussels.

Investigators further state that Russian embassies check not only the intelligence services and politicians of other countries, but also protests against Kremlin policies. “When there are demonstrations nearby, the Russians can monitor telephone traffic and collect data and identifiers, such as the IMEI numbers of nearby mobile phones,” a former Hungarian counterintelligence official told Frontstory, noting that it is nearly impossible to cope. to such interceptions. “In fact, you can’t do anything, this is Russian territory. The best is to switch off or leave your phone at home.”

The equipment is found not only in diplomatic buildings, but also in private apartments, and also in inconspicuous minibuses, cars and even agents’ backpacks. Modern technology allows data to be collected unobtrusively, and rooftop antennas are far from the only way to listen to a phone or send encrypted data. However, embassies have important advantages: the interception of signals from diplomatic territory is officially prohibited, and the territory of diplomatic missions is much safer for espionage operations than a foreign country. Therefore, they remain important bases for radio intelligence, communications and general special services activities.