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Russia Preparing Violent Acts of Sabotage Across Europe, Intelligence Warns

European intelligence agencies have alerted their respective governments that Russia is scheming to carry out violent acts of sabotage across the continent.

Assessments from three European countries, shared with the Financial Times, report that there is increasing evidence of Russia more actively preparing for hidden explosions, arson, and damage to infrastructure on European territory, directly and through cover persons.

“We assess the risk of state-controlled acts of sabotage to be significantly increased,” said Thomas Haldenwang, head of German domestic intelligence. Russia now seems comfortable carrying out operations on European soil “[with] a high potential for damage,” he told a security conference last month hosted by his agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

Haldenwang said that just days after Germany arrested two men suspected of spying for Russia and allegedly collecting information on potential attack targets, agreeing to carry out arson and explosive attacks on military infrastructure.

“The obvious conclusion is that there has been a real stepping up of Russian activity,” said Keir Giles, a Senior Consulting Fellow at the UK’s Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House).

“One cannot tell if that’s a reflection of the fact that the Russians are throwing more resources at it; whether they are being more sloppy and getting caught; or whether western counter-intelligence has simply become better at detecting and stopping it,” he added.

In early 2024, consistent reports of GPS interference plagued Finland, Poland, the Baltic states, and the Baltic Sea, since it poses a significant threat to civilian aviation and regional military security. Suspicions point to Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave as the source of these disruptions.

“As ever with Russia, it’s wise not to look for a single explanation of why they are doing anything. There’s always a combination of things going on,” said Giles.

“These pinprick attacks we’ve seen so far are of course to create disruption, but they can also be used for disinformation. And then there is what Russia learns from these attacks if they want to immobilize Europe for real . . . They’re practice runs,” Giles added.

On May 3, NATO and EU expressed solidarity with Germany and the Czech Republic in connection with cyber attacks carried out by a Russian hacker group and are considering a coordinated response to the threat.

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