The investigative website Bellingcat and its Russian partner The Insider have revealed the identity of a second Russian military intelligence officer suspected of launching a failed coup in Montenegro. The investigative journalists were able to identify Vladimir Nikolaevich Moiseev, a colonel or lieutenant colonel in the GRU, as the man being sought by Interpol for plotting to overthrow the Montenegrin government before the 2016 general election.
The first officer, Eduard Shismakov, had already been identified by Bellingcat and the Insider, but until now the second officer, Moiseev, had only been known by the cover name Vladimir Popov. The men were charged with providing cash and equipment to a group of Serbian and Montenegrin citizens who planned to storm the Montenegrin parliament and assassinate the prime minister, Milo Djuckanovic, on election day. The prosecution alleged that the conspirators’ aimed to install a pro-Russian government that would halt Montenegro’s planned entry into NATO. Shishmakov and Moiseev, who were suspected of fleeing to Russia, were tried in absentia. Twelve others, including two pro-Russian opposition politicians were also indicted.
According to Bellingcat, unmasking Popov as the second GRU officer adds “important and intriguing details to GRU’s modus operandi in undercover operations, including use of sham business operations, and add[s] to the understanding of GRU’s covert operatives’ world.”Bellingcat notes that its findings “directly contradict [the] Kremlin’s statements that “Popov” was an innocent Russian tourist unjustly accused by a hostile foreign government.”
Using publicly available government databases the UK-based investigators were able to determine that Moiseev had studied in a military engineering institute in the Siberian city of Tyumen, where he was recruited by the GRU before being relocated to Moscow. There he joined the GRU airborne Spetsnaz unit, which in 2008 took part in operations in Georgia during the Ossetia-Georgian conflict and the Russia-Georgia war. “Thus, assuming Moiseev was assigned to this unit prior to 2008, he would have taken part in Russia’s military operations in Georgia,” Bellingcat says.
In 2009, Moiseev was given the alias Vladimir Popov, under which he made a trip to Belgrade in October 2016 around the time of the alleged coup, before returning to Russia four days later. In August 2017, Britain’s Telegraph newspaper published what it said were surveillance photos from spy agencies allegedly showing both Popov and Shishmakov in Belgrade around the time of the failed coup.
In September Bellingcat revealed that one of the two men accused of carrying out the poisoning of Sergei and Julia Skripal in Salisbury last march was also a GRU officer, despite his being presented by Russia as an innocent tourist to the city. The Kremlin has denied any involvement in either the Skripal poisoning or the attempted coup in Montenegro.