The man has been accused of spreading ?false information? about the Russian military
A Colombian national has been arrested in Moscow over his alleged involvement in a US-run disinformation operation, Russia's Investigative Committee announced on Monday. The suspect, Giraldo Saraya Alberto Enrique, stands accused of spreading "false information" about the Russian military amid the ongoing fighting in Ukraine.
"As part of an organized group involving individuals, who directed his actions from abroad, [the suspect] provided technical support and subsequent covert placement of mobile devices in one of the shopping malls in Moscow," the Committee said in a statement, adding that the devices were subsequently used for sending messages en-masse that tarnished the image of the country's military. The messages were carefully crafted to imitate statements made by real Russian nationals, the investigators noted.
The offense, introduced into Russian legislation earlier this year, carries a heavy penalty and Giraldo Saraya now risks landing behind bars for up to ten years. The group, which involved several nationals of an unspecified South American nation, has been operating "in the interests of US-based organization Digital Humanity, which is associated with the US state Agency for International Development," the Committee alleged.
Russian investigators say they've obtained evidence that the group ran a similar scheme as early as 2020, when they tried "to compromise the 2020 US presidential election and imitate Russian interference in the said electoral campaign."
Giraldo Saraya, who has been living in Russia for some 25 years, told RT he thought the operation was designed to somehow help "independent journalists."
"After the pandemic and all these events related to Covid, I effectively lost my job. I have worked in the tourism industry for a long time, receiving foreign nationals in Russia. I was in dire need of money," the suspect told RT's Igor Zhdanov.
First, the operation looked rather innocent, almost like a "game," Giraldo Saraya admitted. Some "foreign acquaintances" first asked him to keep a bunch of mobile phones, but soon the man found himself maintaining a whole set of mobile devices, keeping them charged, using them to register on social media and so on - and frequently disposing of them and procuring a new set. The 'job' fetched him around $1,000 monthly - but it was not easy to quit, when he grew more and more suspicious of the operation, Giraldo Saraya insisted.
"When I said that I want to give up , that I did not need it, since my work was fine, everything was, they started somehow, well, gently threatening that these are very serious people, that you can't leave this project, that everything will end soon," he said, adding that in late 2021 the operation seemed to be about to end. The situation, however, changed with the beginning of the military operation and the activities picked up again - ultimately leading to his arrest.