Russian spy gathered intel on Israeli political party leader

Russian spy Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov operated for a decade under a Brazilian alias and targeted the US and ICC in The Hague. However, he also gathered information on Israeli figures.

A Russian flag is reflected in an eye in this picture illustration taken October 4, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION)
A Russian flag is reflected in an eye in this picture illustration taken October 4, 2018.

Alleged Russian spy Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov supposedly committed espionage against Israel as part of his years-long mission for Russian intelligence, gathering information on several Israeli officials including a political party leader, according to the US Justice Department indictment.

Cherkasov, 37, was indicted last Friday after operating for years as a Russian operative under the Brazilian alias of Victor Muller Ferreira. He faces charges of espionage, bank fraud, visa fraud, wire fraud and more.

Cherkasov's sources are currently unknown, but they allegedly came from sources close to figures like US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Ynet reported.

How was Israel a target in a Russian spy operation against the US?

Cherkasov began his espionage activities in Brazil in 2012 before moving to the US in 2018 to attend the prestigious John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and had been working as a spy from 2012 until April 2022, according to the indictment.

He was caught after attempting to find work at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague in the Netherlands, where he attempted to send Russia information regarding investigations into war crimes committed during the war in Ukraine, AFP reported. Once caught, he was deported back to Brazil.

US Embassy Jerusalem (credit: US EMBASSY IN JERUSALEM)US Embassy Jerusalem (credit: US EMBASSY IN JERUSALEM)

But how was Israel involved in this entire incident?

According to court documents, Cherkasov was part of a University delegation visiting Israel in 2020. While there, he met with Israeli officials at the US Embassy in Jerusalem and managed to relay them to Russian officials in the Philippines. 

It isn't clear who Cherkasov managed to gain information about, though he specifically mentions an LGBTQ+ adviser, a security expert identified only as "N.G." in court documents and an Israeli political party leader said to have been a "kingmaker" who is identified in court documents only as "L." The full names were used in the original correspondence but were redacted for the court filing.

What information was relayed by this spy about these individuals is currently unknown.

At the time of writing, Cherkasov is imprisoned in Brazil on fraud charges. However, Russia has requested his extradition, claiming he is a wanted drug dealer, AFP reported.