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Media outlet uncovers which OSCE officials may still be working for the Kremlin

Wednesday, 29 November 2023, 17:11
Media outlet uncovers which OSCE officials may still be working for the Kremlin
Photo: Getty Images

An investigation by Radio Liberty has found that a number of prominent figures in the Russian elite hold positions of authority within the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that could be exploited to gather intelligence and sway the organisation's decisions in favour of the Kremlin.

Source: an investigation by Radio Liberty, as reported by European Pravda 

Details: The Radio Liberty journalists discovered that individuals close to the Russian elite hold a number of significant positions, and European officials are alarmed that Russia may have taken advantage of these individuals' official positions.


According to the reports, they include Anton Vushkarnik, a senior strategic adviser to the OSCE Secretariat and a former employee at the Russian Embassy in Washington; Daria Boyarskaya, who works for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's International Secretariat and was once Putin's interpreter for the Russian Foreign Ministry; and Saltanat Sakembaeva, a former employee of the OSCE’s General Secretariat and the wife of Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko (he was previously a representative of Russia at the OSCE).

Based on the investigation's findings, the journalists believe all these people had access to a wide range of materials for official use as well as sensitive information.

According to a European diplomat who spoke with Radio Liberty, Sakembaeva was privy to information regarding the operations of the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and the Trilateral Contact Group, which brought representatives of Russia and Ukraine together for dialogue mediated by the OSCE.

As a member of official delegations, Sakembaeva also attended meetings concerning other conflicts involving Russia, such as those in Moldova, Georgia and the Caucasus. She also attended meetings of the Council of Ministers of the OSCE member nations and OSCE Security Days, which function as meeting places for senior OSCE and foreign ministry representatives.

Sakembaeva continued to hold her position at the OSCE Secretariat despite the worsening of the situation between Russia and Ukraine; the leadership did not consider this to be a problem. She was employed at the Secretariat up until July 2022.

All OSCE employees sign a confidentiality agreement, according to a former colleague of Sakembaeva's who spoke with the journalists. However, it's possible that Sakembaeva shared information that would have been of interest to her husband.

Colleagues of Anton Vushkarnik refer to him as "the Colonel", implying that he is linked to the secret services. A joint investigation conducted by three German media outlets found that many diplomatic sources believe he is employed by Russian intelligence. Radio Liberty did not obtain any evidence of its own, but a comment from a source in Washington suggested that US intelligence takes a greater interest in Vushkarnik than in an "average Russian Embassy employee".

Vushkarnik was appointed to the Strategic Policy Support Unit (SPSU) in 2017. The Russian Foreign Ministry had put him forward as a candidate when the group was established and also paid for his work. Meanwhile, it was said that many OSCE member states "did not understand the tasks and goals of the SPSU", and that some of them were outraged that Russia was permitted to be a member of the unit at all.

Boyarskaya joined the OSCE in February 2021 and took up her position as Head of the Vienna Liaison Office of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) in September that year. She also acquired the title of "Deputy Special Representative". One of her responsibilities is to "maintain diplomatic as well as operational contacts, cooperation and coordination with the permanent representatives of the OSCE participating states and all decision-making bodies of the OSCE". Her appointment drew sharp criticism from a number of countries.

The investigation noted that Boyarskaya is responsible for the Russian-language version of the International Secretariat’s website, and there have been cases where Russian translations have avoided mentioning Russia in the context of the war in Ukraine.

A European diplomat who has a permanent position at the OSCE pointed out to Radio Liberty that Boyarskaya is not "not just any Russian national", taking into account that "as Putin's interpreter, she would have been subject to security procedures in Russia, which are well-known for their KGB-style approaches. We ask questions and don't receive proper answers."

Following the publication of the investigation by the three German media outlets, which also referenced Boyarskaya's work at the OSCE, her position on the OSCE PA website was renamed "Senior Advisor", and she was no longer listed as head of the Vienna Liaison Office.

The Office of the OSCE Secretary General sent Radio Liberty a comment stating that all officials of the organisation, "regardless of their nationality or contract type, are required to represent solely the interests of the OSCE and are subject to the Code of Conduct, which is publicly available".

"Although we cannot discuss individual cases, we assure you that the OSCE takes any potential breach of the Code of Conduct extremely seriously, and consistently applies the proper internal procedures when addressing alleged violations," said OSCE spokesman David Dadge.


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