The Spanish journalist of Russian origin Pablo González, who has been detained in Poland since February 2022 on suspicion of espionage, collected information for years about the environment of people from the Russian opposition abroad such as Zanna Nemtsova, a dissident and daughter of the murdered Russian opposition member. in 2015 Boris Nemtsov. On Pablo González’s mobile phone, the Polish authorities found reports on Nemtsova and on her Boris Nemtsov foundation and even documentation that they believe was copied from her computer.

The Russian media Agentstvo (formed by independent journalists from Russia who have had to flee the country) has obtained this information through two sources, which it does not cite by name. According to a source from the Boris Nemtsov Foundation, González met Zhanna Nemtsova in 2016 in Brussels. They became friends and the Spaniard began to be invited to the foundation’s events at the same time that he continued his journalistic work in Basque newspapers such as Naiz and Gara and media from the rest of the country such as Público or La Sexta.

On Pablo’s computer and mobile phone – which was copied by the Ukrainian security services in 2022 during an interrogation and which was later reviewed by Polish investigators – there are reports allegedly written by Pablo González. They are about people he met through the Nemtsov Foundation, including lawyer Ilya Novikov and prominent opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza, currently jailed in Russia. Agentstvo is unclear to whom these reports were directed, but they do not appear to be journalistic materials. Two sources have told this Russian media outlet that Pablo González was probably an infiltrated agent of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU, Russia’s military espionage service) in Zhanna Nemtsova’s environment.

Pablo González, who in the past had been highly critical of the Ukrainian authorities after the Maidan riots and of the Russian opposition, also reached out to prominent Muscovite dissident Ilya Yashin, currently imprisoned by the Putin regime. Both coincided in various forums, including in Spain. The European Council on Foreign Relations (EFCR) invited Yashin to a conference in Madrid in 2016 to explain to journalists, deputies and experts the authoritarian drift that existed in his country, a democratic degradation about which González was skeptical on several occasions. Even so, he attended that forum in Madrid and even collaborated voluntarily and informally as an interpreter in some presentations, since he is fully fluent in Russian. At the end of the conference, despite the ideological distance that separated them, González and Yashin went together to a soccer game that was taking place that weekend and they spent time alone.

The seized documents reveal that his work was methodical. Each report typically consisted of three parts: a description of the contacts made, an estimate of the expenses incurred, and an outlook on plans for the future.

Investigators have also found letters from Boris Nemtsov in the files confiscated from the journalist, documents allegedly copied from Zanna Nemtsova’s laptop. Due to this finding, González faces another accusation: illegal access to private information.

Nemtsova did not want to answer questions from the media, claiming that she has a confidentiality agreement with the Polish authorities. But at the time she spoke openly that she knew González and that he had made a very good impression on her. Pablo González even invited people from the Nemtsov Foundation to visit him in the Basque Country.

Olga Shorina, co-founder of the Nemtsov Foundation, admitted in statements to the media that González maintained communication with the foundation’s leaders and participated in various events. She but she assures that he did not have access to the documentation or confidential information of the entity.

In the reports to his bosses or clients, González wrote how he crossed some borders, and whether or not there was surveillance. In one of the reports, he describes the experience of interrogation while crossing the Ukrainian border. In another document, he explains that he is afraid to use his bank accounts and comments that he would use cash and family cards.

Pablo González’s personal files fell into the hands of the Ukrainian security services shortly before the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, when he was interrogated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) while working near the front accredited as a journalist, working mainly for the newspaper abertzale Gara. The SBU demanded that González leave Ukraine, but first copied all the data from his phone.

González was later arrested in the Polish city of Przemysl, near the border with Ukraine. It happened on February 28, 2022, causing a wide surprise. “He has been identified as an agent of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff, he was focused on carrying out activities for Russia, using his journalistic status and, thanks to this, he was able to move freely throughout Europe and the world, even by areas affected by armed conflicts and areas of tension”, detailed on March 4, 2022 Stanislav Zharin, intelligence coordinator of the Polish government. Since then, Warsaw has barely provided information on the case and has kept Pablo González in a regime of almost total isolation, as his colleagues and groups of journalists have denounced.

Pablo González has worked as a reporter in Ukraine since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. He holds Russian and Spanish passports, having been born in the Soviet Union. In his Russian passport he does not appear as Pablo González transliterated into Cyrillic, but rather as Pavel Rubtsov, which aroused suspicion at first. It is actually the surname of his father, Alexei Rubtsov, who has been working in media such as RBC since 1999. Perhaps that is why this sentence appears in one of the reports: “It is good that there was no one from RBC who could recognize me in the Boris Nemtsov [Foundation] forum in Prague”. In the messages sent to his bosses, González also asks that they pay him for the expenses related to his infiltration into Nemtsova’s organization.

González has a deep understanding of Ukrainian politics and is co-author of the book Ukraine. From the Maidan Revolution to the Donbas War, one of the first and most complete investigations that appeared in Spanish about these events, a book coordinated by Rubén Ruiz Ramas and where González wrote several chapters for free.

For the past decade he has specialized in unrecognized republics and the conflicts within them. His subjects were Kosovo, Nagorno-Karabakh (where he covered frontline fighting), Transnistria, Crimea and the Donetsk People’s Republic, where he had a wealth of sources among the Moscow-controlled separatist authorities. In the summer of 2014, he was involved in a scandal when he denounced without proof that both EL MUNDO and the newspaper El País received money from the Ukrainian government, which at that time had the oligarch Petro Poroshenko in the Presidency, in exchange for positive coverage. The RT propaganda channel echoed González’s accusations against EL MUNDO, accusations that he refused to document unless someone gave him money in exchange.

He also criticized Alexei Navalny and the investigation into MH17. During the last Ukrainian presidential election in 2019, when comedian Volodimir Zelensky won, González spread that the ballots contained serial numbers that made it impossible for the vote to be secret, an accusation that after election night he had to withdraw.

The seized reports mention several relevant people that González met through connections with the Nemtsov Foundation. González also reports on his participation in European conferences, where he was invited to moderate panels. “It seems that I managed to sow a seed of doubt among Euro-Atlantists,” he boasted, speaking of the results of the Forum in Rzeszow, Poland.

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