The US newspaper, in an article penned by Michael Schwirtz, reported that operations such a destabilisation campaign in Moldova, the poisoning of an arms dealer in Bulgaria, a thwarted coup in Montenegro, and an attempt last year to assassinate a former Russian spy in Britain using a nerve agent—all bore the fingerprints of Russia’s intelligence services, but Western security officials initially saw them as isolated, unconnected attacks.
According to the paper’s investigative reporter, officials on both sides on the Atlantic have now concluded that these operations, and potentially many others, were part of a coordinated and ongoing campaign to destabilise Europe, carried out by an elite Russian intelligence unit skilled in subversion, sabotage and assassination.
The group, known as Unit 29155, has operated for at least a decade, The New York Times reported, yet Western officials only recently discovered it, according to the paper.
According to the NYT investigative reporter, the purpose of Unit 29155 underscores the degree to which Russian President Vladimir Putin "is actively fighting the West with his brand of so-called hybrid warfare—a blend of propaganda, hacking attacks and disinformation—as well as open military confrontation."
The article says the top-secret unit sits within the command hierarchy of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency and is hidden behind concrete walls at the headquarters of the 161st Special-Purpose Specialist Training Centre in eastern Moscow.
Unit 29155 officers include decorated veterans of Russia’s bloodiest wars, including in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Ukraine, The New York Times reported.
It also said that, according to assessments by Western intelligence services, the unit’s operations were so secret that its existence was most likely unknown even to other GRU operatives.