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Suspected Russian spy arrested by Norway attended Hybrid War conference

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BRUSSELS – The alleged Russian spy arrested in Norway this week recently attended a hybrid threat seminar that included a scenario on responding to a pipeline explosion, according to Norwegian media, a coordinator of the group that organized the event and a photograph of the event.

Norwegian security officials announced this week that they have arrested a man claiming to be a Brazilian academic conducting research on Arctic issues in the city of Tromso who they believe is, in fact, an “illegal” Russian. He was identified in news reports as José Assis Giammaria.

The arrest comes after at least seven Russians – including the son of a close aide to President Vladimir Putin – have been arrested in recent weeks for flying drones or taking photos near sensitive areas.

Norway on edge after drone sightings and arrest of son of Putin confidant

Norway and other countries in Europe are rushing to secure critical infrastructure after the sabotage of Nord Stream gas pipelines. In recent months, there have been several sightings of drones in Norway’s offshore oil and gas fields and at Norwegian airports.

The Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang first reported Thursday that the suspect attended the September 29-30 seminar in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Countering Hybrid Threats.

The seminar was organized by EU-HYBNET, a European network on hybrid threats, which include sabotage, disinformation, cyberattacks and other ways of fighting outside of traditional military conflicts between states. The organization’s website and a brochure about the conference say the group is funded by the European Commission. A commission spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Paivi Mattila, a professor at Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Finland who coordinates the EU-HYBNET programme, confirmed by phone that the alleged spy attended the event. She said he had not undergone a security check but declined to comment further, citing the investigation.

An image shared on Twitter by Mykolas Romeris University shows Giammaria sitting among workshop participants during the event organized with the Lithuanian Cybercrime Center of Excellence for Training, Research and Education on September 29 .

A brochure for the Vilnius seminar says attendees at the event would look at different scenarios, including a case of “stopping the flow of gas after a gas pipeline explosion”. In the case study, the “initial findings support the hypothesis that it was probably sabotage and not an accident”.

EU warns of ‘robust’ sabotage response after Nord Stream blasts

Information about the suspect is still emerging. Norwegian internal security officials announced the arrest this week, saying the suspect posed “a threat to fundamental national interests”.

It is feared that he “has acquired a network and information about Norwegian politics in the northern region”, Deputy Chief Hedvig Moe of the Norwegian Police Security Service told Norwegian media. Even if the information acquired by the person does not directly compromise Norway’s security, it could be misused by Russia, she said.

Since October 21, Giammaria has been listed as a researcher at the Norwegian think tank “The Gray Zone” at the Arctic University of Norway. It is no longer listed on their site.

Prior to moving to Norway, the suspect lived in Canada, where he attended the University of Ottawa and the University of Calgary. While in Ottawa, he volunteered to canvass a local political campaign, according to World News.

In 2019 he wrote an article for the Canadian Naval Review. The articletitled “Third Base: The Case of CFB Churchill,” argues for the establishment of a naval base in northern Canada.

The case comes months after another alleged Russian ‘illegal’ was arrested in the Netherlands. In this case, an alleged Russian spy claimed to be a Brazilian seeking an internship at the International Criminal Court. He had previously studied in the United States.