Suspected Russian spy arrested by Norway attended conference on hybrid warfare


BRUSSELS – The suspected Russian spy arrested in Norway this week recently attended a seminar on hybrid threats that included a scenario about responding to a pipeline explosion, according to Norwegian media, a coordinator for the group that staged the event, and a photo of the event.

Norwegian security officials announced this week that they have arrested a man claiming to be a Brazilian academic conducting research on Arctic issues in the city of Tromso who they say is an “illegal” Russian. He has been identified in news reports as José Assis Giammaria.

The arrest comes after at least seven Russians – including the son of a close associate of President Vladimir Putin – were detained in recent weeks for flying drones or taking photos near sensitive areas.

Norway and other countries in Europe are rushing to secure critical infrastructure after the damage to the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines. In recent months, multiple drones have been seen in Norway’s offshore oil and gas fields and at Norwegian airports.

Norway – and Europe – is bordering on the number of incidents. The oil and gas sector is the core of the Norwegian economy. Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the country has become a vital supplier to Europe.

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The Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang it was first reported Thursday that the suspect attended a September 29-30 seminar in Vilnius, Lithuania, on combating hybrid threats.

The seminar was organized by EU-HYBNET, a European network on hybrid threats a concept that includes things like sabotage, disinformation, cyber attacks and other methods of fighting outside of traditional state-to-state military conflict.

Paivi Mattila, a professor at Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Finland who coordinates the EU-HYBNET program, confirmed by phone that the suspected spy attended the event. He said he had not gone through a security check but declined to comment further, citing the investigation.

An image shared on Twitter by Mykolas Romeris University shows Giammaria sitting among workshop participants at the event, organized with the Lithuanian Cybercrime Training, Research and Education Center of Excellence on 29 September.

The EU-HYBNET website and flyer for EU spotlight funding of the Vilnius event Peter Stano, a spokesman for the European Commission, confirmed the funding, but said EU institutions are not involved in the group’s day-to-day activities.

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The “training and exercise” event aimed to help participants understand “vulnerabilities that adversaries could exploit” and “sketch hybrid challenges within a realistic near-future operational environment,” according to a pamphlet for the gathering.

The participants explored different scenarios, including one case of “shutdown of gas flow after a gas pipeline explosion.” In that case study, the “initial findings support the assumption that it is more likely to be sabotage and not an accident” – an eerie echo of the recent Nord Stream pipeline damage.

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Norway’s domestic security officials announced they had arrested the 37-year-old suspect earlier this week, saying he was a “threat to fundamental national interests.”

There is concern that he “could have acquired a network and information about Norwegian politics in the northern area,” Deputy Chief Executive of the Norwegian Police Security Service, Hedvig Moe, told Norwegian media. Even if the information the person obtained does not directly endanger Norway’s security, Russia could be misused, he said. Officials did not provide information on the timing of his arrest.

Details of the case are still emerging. Giammaria was conducting research at the Arctic University of Norway. As of October 25, he was listed as a researcher at a university think tank called “The Gray Zone.” It is no longer listed on their website.

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Before moving to Norway, he lived in Canada, where he attended the University of Ottawa and the University of Calgary. While in Ottawa, he volunteered to canvass for a political campaign, according to Global News. He graduated with a master’s degree from the University of Calgary’s Center for Military, Security and Strategic Studies in 2018.

In 2019, he wrote an article for the Canadian Naval Review. The article, entitled “Third Base: The Case for CFB Churchill,” argues in favor of establishing a naval base in northern Canada.

The case comes months after another suspected “illegal” Russian was arrested in the Netherlands. In that case, an alleged Russian spy claimed to be in Brazil seeking an internship at the International Criminal Court. He had previously studied in the United States.

“Ilegals” operate without diplomatic cover, building a cover story over time, often many years. In one high-profile case in 2010, the United States arrested 10 Russian workers who had been living in the United States for years while secretly reporting to Moscow’s Foreign Intelligence Agency.


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