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Ukraine detains spy suspect over Russian toxic disaster plot

January 18, 2024

The Ukrainian domestic security service says it has detained an agent working for Russia tasked with finding sites that stored toxic substances. Kyiv claims the Moscow's forces hoped to create an environmental disaster.

A toxicity sign in a crop field
The agent's Russian handlers hoped for information on toxic sites to bring about an environmental disasterImage: Christian Ohde/picture alliance

Cyber units from Ukraine's SBU domestic security service on Thursday said in a statement they had detained an agent who was "spying for the enemy" in the Odesa region.

The suspect was tasked with identifying and providing the aggressor with the coordinates of sites where toxic substances are stored, including pesticide depots.

What was the suspect accused of?

To collect the information for Russian intelligence, the SBU said the perpetrator had started working as a taxi driver and, under the pretext of transporting passengers, recorded the locations of the targets.

The SBU said "the "enemy hoped to cause an environmental disaster in the region and undermine the internal situation in the country."

Moscow's forces were said to have planned to carry out strikes using missiles and Iranian-made Shahed-type kamikaze drones to do this.

The intelligence agency said the agent had also scouted possible bases and the routes of movement of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The SBU documented the suspect's criminal actions and apprehended him at the end of a multi-stage special operation.

The enemy asset was said to be a student at a university in Odesa and was contacted remotely by an officer of Russia's FSB security service, whom the SBU said it had identified.

In return for cooperation, the student was promised he would receive a "salary" from the FSB.

The agent used a popular messaging app and several SIM cards and mobile phones to communicate with his Russian employers, the SBU said.

Ukrainian agents swooped on the suspect and seized all the devices he had used in the "reconnaissance and sabotage activities against Ukraine."

In proceedings overseen by the Prosecutor General's office, the suspect was served a notice of high treason committed under martial law and faces life imprisonment.

Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.