Recent developments in Colombia show that Ukraine and Georgia aren’t the only country novo-tsar Vladimir Putin is menacing. Last month’s arrest of alleged Russian Spy Sergei Vagin by Colombian CTI investigative police, accused of running a $146 million USD “active measures” (destabilization) operation comes not long after Russian spies Alexander Paristov and Alexander Belousov were expelled from Colombia in 2020.
Now, an investigation by Colombia’s attorney general shows the situation is much worse than a Russian “illegal” (Sergei Vagin) paying off street thugs and vandals. According to documents leaked to Blu Radio by the Colombian attorney general’s office, an internal counterintelligence investigation has identified a Russian Colonel, credentialed as a senior joint naval and air military attaché affiliated with the “Russian Intelligence And Counterintelligence department of General Command J2,” (further referred to as “J2”) who sought to compromise Colombian Colonel Armando Rodríguez Jiménez by paying him an apartment and 200 million pesos (approximately $54,000 USD) in exchange for becoming a Russian agent and passing on Colombian, US and NATO secrets.
“The Born Identity?” — Colombian CTI documents identify “J2” as Russian Colonel Vladimir Born, appointed military attaché in 2018
“In our territory, all diplomats who come to strengthen ties are welcome, but we will also be clear, relentless and forceful with those who intend, in the exercise of diplomatic functions, to come to our country to try to interfere in the healthy development of our Colombian institutions,” said Colombian President Ivan Duque when asked last year about emerging Russian espionage allegations.
Colombia holds several military industrial events, usually every two years. F-AIR is held in Rionegro and focuses on military and civilian aviation. Colombiamar focuses on the naval sector, and the biggest event, Expodefensa is Colombia’s biggest military expo. The last one, held in 2021 saw 228 exhibitors from 25 countries, and 62 foreign delegations from 24 different countries. Customarily, the military attachés from the Russian Embassy (pictured above) would receive invitations.
In 2019, Colonel Rodriguez was responsible for coordinating the attendance of foreign military attachés assigned to Colombia, including J2. They originally met that year at Bogotá’s Corferias convention and meeting center, but then had lunch almost a year later at a British themed restaurant called “London Calling,” facing Bogotá’s “Parque 93,” the capital city’s epicenter of expatriate residential and social life.
According to the testimony provided by Colonel Rodriguez to Colombian counterintelligence prosecutors, after small talk about personal and family life, J2 got down to business, and began by asking for details on US military activities.
J2: “Are there US troops here?”
Rodriguez: “No, not in Colombia, there can’t be armed troops, they can’t even be in transit.”
J2: “So what are they doing here?”
Rodriguez: “The gringos only give us training and instruction.”
J2: “What about the British?”
Rodriguez: “Well, it’s also Israel because they give us communications elements, and training.”
J2: “And NATO?”
Rodriguez: “No, well we are with NATO but NATO does not offer us anything, it’s about what we can offer them.”
The two went on to discuss the Russian’s career, with the J2 telling Rodriguez he comes from a military family and had served in Afghanistan and Chechnya, where he also had family ties. J2 said his wife and children were also stationed in Colombia with him. Rodriguez was curious about any tourism J2 had enjoyed in Colombia, but J2 was fixated on the Americans.
J2: “You know what they plan to give to the gringos or buy from them or give to you. You gave me to understand that there were some Russian companies that wanted to submit offers.” (Compete for contracts with the Colombian military).
According to testimony by Rodriguez, J2 then asked that he share documents on capabilities, but Rodriguez declined, saying he was focused on doctrine, not capabilities. J2 then became more blunt.
J2: “It’s that you can win, I win and you can win, it is simply to see what we can offer.”
The Venezuelan Connection
Rodriguez says J2 then asked about the possibility of Colombia invading Venezuela, to which Rodriguez said no, they were sister countries.
According to the prosecutor’s report, J2 participated in a May 2018 meeting in Moscow with Russian cyberwarfare personnel and officers of the FSB (Russian intelligence successor to the KGB) to hatch “Operation Sebastián,” a $37 million dollar plan to develop Venezuelan cyber operations, including hardware, software, and cyberdefenses, financed between a joint Chinese – Venezuelan fund.
Blue Radio indicates that J2 would direct participation in Operation Sebastián through ROSTEC, the representative in Colombia of the Russian entity ROSOBORONEXPORT, sanctioned by the US government since 2015 for violating INKSNA: The Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act. According to the attorney general’s office, Sebastián coordinates Russian espionage activities in Colombia and the activities of Russian soldiers and mercenaries currently operating in Venezuela.
Such operations would include at least four Russian signals intelligence posts established in Venezuela, by Russia, according to the Colombian government, to eavesdrop on Colombian communications and traffic.