The Catalan independence movement continued to ask for Putin’s help after the 1-O

Carles Puigdemont, former president of Catalonia, and Vladimir Putin. Russian president. / Eph

Puigdemont’s right-hand man traveled to Moscow three times in 2019 and 2020 to meet with senior Kremlin officials to drum up support for secession.

Melchor Saiz Pardo

The Catalan independence movement not only asked for help from the Kremlin before the secessionist attempt that led to the referendum on October 1, 2017. Far from throwing in the towel after the referendum, separatism increased contacts with those close to Vladimir Putin once verified that the fall 2017 breakaway order with Spain had failed.

These attempts by the government of Quim Torra and Carles Puigdemont’s closest circle to involve Russia in seeking independence were particularly intense in 2019, when the independence movement again turned to the Kremlin in the hope that the mobilizations in Catalonia during the trial of the “trial”, and especially the protests after the judgment of the Supreme Court in October of the same year, could give a new impetus to independence. The travels and contacts of Torra and Puigdemont’s emissaries in Moscow continued until February 2020, when the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic made personal meetings impossible.

‘The New York Times’ had already revealed in its time that the Kremlin during the procedure had not only devoted itself to disinformation, by sending spies to Catalonia or by promising to send alleged mercenaries. The prestigious American newspaper revealed that after 1-O, a key figure had emerged in the new offensive to win Putin’s support. It was the historian Josep Lluís Alay Rodríguez, current head of the office that Puigdemont has as former president of the Generalitat and former coordinator of international policies of the presidency of the government of Quim Torra. As published Monday by ‘El Confidencial’ and ‘El Periódico’ and confirmed by various state security sources, Alay traveled three times between 2019 and 2020 to Moscow to meet with senior Kremlin officials and with the Russian spy environment, using university trips as a cover.

Alay, who was one of three people who accompanied Puigdemont during his arrest in Germany, had already been arrested in 2020 as part of the Civil Guard’s Operation Voloh on the alleged embezzlement of public funds to pro-independence platforms, including some like the Democratic Tsunami, which favored the serious riots of autumn 2019.

This confidant from Puigdemont flew to Moscow in March 2019, a few days after the start of the trial before the Supreme Court, supposedly to participate in a series of conferences organized at the Russian State Academic University of social science. However, on this first trip, he managed to meet one of Putin’s closest people, Sergei Sumin, a colonel in the Federal Protective Service (FSO) and a member of the Russian president’s security team. Alay made that first trip – service and intelligence sources confirmed – with Russian businessman Alexander Dmitrenko, then Russian president of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce and who was denied Spanish citizenship in 2018 due to a CNI report revealing his ties to Kremlin intelligence. services.

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Four days after the end of the trial before the Supreme Court, on June 16, 2019, Alay and Dmitrenko returned to Moscow accompanied by Roc Fernández i Badiella, then head of digital content for the Generalitat. According to state security sources, Alay was seen on this occasion with famous Russian ex-spy Andrei Bezrukov, a former SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service) officer, a veteran undercover agent in the United States and considered by many to be the current “entry contact”. to Russian espionage. During this same trip, the man from Puigdemont manages to join the former deputy Eugeni Primakov, very close to Putin, who will appoint him a year later director of the Federal Agency for Compatriots Abroad and Humanitarian Cooperation international. Primakov, at the request of Alay, opened the doors of major Kremlin-controlled media outlets to the fugitive ex-president, including Russia 24, Russa Today and Sputnik, now banned in the EU.

Amid protests following the sentencing of the trial, in October 2019, Sumin and another person of absolute trust to the Russian president, Artyom Lukoyanov, arrived in Barcelona. This character, according to ‘The New York Times’, is the adopted son of a senior Putin adviser and was “deeply involved” in “Russian efforts to support separatists in eastern Ukraine”.

Alay’s third trip to Moscow in February 2020, just days before the coronavirus pandemic led to the closure of international borders. Puigdemont’s collaborator is meeting Primakov again, just as the Moscow-controlled media are stepping up their media campaign over the alleged crackdown on separatists.

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