US indictment: Russian spy sought to gather intel on Israelis, including party head

A Russian intelligence operative who entered the US under a false identity to collect information on American citizens visited Israel with the same aim and managed to meet with a political party leader, according to an indictment filed by the US Department of Justice more earlier this month. .

Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, 37, moved to the United States under the guise of attending graduate school at Johns Hopkins University in 2018 under the alias Victor Muller Ferreira, the charge sheet released last Friday said. He previously established the alias in Brazil, where he pretended to be the son of a deceased Brazilian national.

While in the US, Cherkasov allegedly connected with a State Department employee, a Capitol Hill staffer, an “Israel expert,” a US Naval Academy professor and others to gather information about US invasion policy Russia’s potential on Ukraine in the months and years. before the war, the indictment alleges.

“I have been working with my contacts… to find out what the academic community, political advisers and analysts think about the recent Russian military buildup near the Ukrainian border,” the indictment alleges he wrote in one message to his handlers.

In January 2020, Cherkasov visited Israel as part of a university trip. The indictment said while there, he texted his handler a list of the names of the people he met. These included “literally everyone” on staff at the US Embassy, ​​including its “LGBTQ advisor,” as well as a security expert identified as “NG” and an Israeli political party leader he described as “king maker” with the organization. initial “L.”

The visit came ahead of the Knesset elections in March 2020, when Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman was seen as king because his party held the balance of power between the rival political blocs. The Times of Israel has contacted Liberman’s office for comment but has not yet received a response.

Cherkasov later sent his handler “another list of interesting people I was talking to you about” that included a former State Department official who continues to advise the administration on Mideast policy, an individual affiliated with the hawkish, pro-Israel Foundation for Defense of Democracies. tank, “Israel expert” and congressional adviser.

Cherkasov was indicted for acting as a foreign agent, wire fraud, bank fraud and visa fraud, among other charges.

He has been in prison in Brazil since 2022, when he was arrested for identity theft and fraud, according to court documents. Moscow has confirmed that he is a Russian national and has requested his extradition.

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