On October 26, 2017, Victor Tiradillas sent Carles Puigdemont, then-President of the Catalan government: “Putin’s envoy will arrive at five in the morning.” The next day, the Catalan parliament was to declare independence, following a referendum. What followed was chaos. Madrid deposed Puigdemont, he fled to Belgium.
But on the eve of independence, Puigdemont still made time to receive the Russian delegation at his official residence. Journalists from various media outlets, including the well-known investigative groups OCCRP and Bellingcat, identified the name “Putin’s Envoy”.
Flight records show that Nikolai Sadovnikov arrived in Barcelona at 3:44 p.m. that day on Aeroflot Flight 2514 from Moscow. At the meeting, Sadovnikov offered an astronomical sum of $500 billion, as well as 10,000 Russian soldiers to help Catalonia’s independence. Terradellas, a close contact with Puigdemont, confirmed this to the research group.
In return, Sadovnikov reportedly requested that Catalonia be made a cryptocurrency paradise. Subsequently, Tiradelas referred to him as “the mysterious Nikolai” in his letters to his colleagues. Submit “Where is the difference between mafia and political power?”
“I think in the end this was not too dangerous on either side, because of the ridiculous offer, but also because Moscow never recognized Catalan independence,” said Eric Storm, lecturer in European history and nationalism at Leiden University. Morning† He added, “It shows that the Russian side was eager to stir up European affairs and that the Catalans could use any support for their mission the night before the declaration of independence.”
According to investigative journalists, Puigdemont asked Terradellas to keep in touch with the Russians. They promised a lot of money several times, but in the end it only transferred 1 bitcoin, worth about $10,000 at the time.
“The Catalan government sought extensive international support for the independence project from 2015 to 2017, so it seems logical to me that contacts were also made with Russia,” says Bart Maddens, a political expert at KU Leuven who closely monitors the case. Catalan. “But the main motivation for that was the search for international legitimacy, not a lot of financial resources.”
In Catalonia, the news does not raise much controversy. Puigdemont has just announced that he is stepping down as chairman of his Junts party. Moreover, there were suspicions of confrontations with the Russians for some time. These leaks have long been dismissed from a legal investigation as demolitions, whether or not they were orchestrated from Madrid. This spring, a lot of attention was paid to an entirely different spy scandal: Puigdemont was bugged by the Pegasus program, possibly by central Spanish authorities.
But with the war in Ukraine, it is not a detail that Russia intervened in Spanish politics in 2017, three years after the invasion of Crimea. Nikolai Sadovnikov has a long history as a diplomat, first for the Soviet Union, and later for the Russian Federation. He’s been on Western intelligence’s radar since 2012. A report from that time suggests he has direct ties to Putin and describes her as a secret agent. Five years later, he offered his services in Catalonia.
“This is typical hybrid warfare, a classic SVR fingerprinting operation,” said Kenneth Lawson, professor of intelligence studies at UAntwerp and affiliated with the Clingendael Institute. “They are looking for fault lines in Western societies, to sow divisions.”
It’s anything but new. Lasoen provides an analysis of the Belgian military intelligence service ADIV from 1962. He listed organizations such as peace movements, youth movements, and international federations, which ADIV considered “coded communism”. The Kremlin was already using those organizations to sow divisions, often without the individuals involved “even realizing they were playing the Moscow game.”
“In the case of Puigdemont, it seems to me that they were well aware of the source of the support, but they may have found each other in the principle of ‘the enemy is your enemy,'” Lason says.
Carles Puigdemont was unable to free himself to comment on Tuesday, but his entourage confirms Sadovnikov’s meeting with MorningAlthough a number of things are not true.
After earlier reports of confrontations with the Russians, Puigdemont entered the pen. In an opinion piece in March, he stated that “none of these meetings and meetings were with any official, former official or person representing the Russian Federation.” Given the background of Nikolai Sadovnikov, this does not seem to apply to the meeting with “Putin’s envoy” on the eve of independence.
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