Espreso. Global

Havana Syndrome among diplomats: journalistic investigation points to Russian intelligence services' trail

1 April, 2024 Monday

The mysterious health incidents, commonly referred to as Havana Syndrome, might trace their roots to the deployment of directed energy weapons by operatives of Russian GRU Unit 29155

An investigation conducted by the Insider, the CBS News program 60 Minutes, and Der Spiegel suggests that members of the military unit No. 29155 of Russia's Main Directorate of the General Staff (GRU) may have utilized a covert weapon to induce the symptoms associated with the Havana Syndrome.

What is the Havana Syndrome

Havana Syndrome, previously believed to stem from the cumulative biological impact of a distinct type of weapon, presents a spectrum of symptoms, including chronic headaches, vertigo, tinnitus, insomnia, nausea, persistent psychophysiological impairment, and, in severe instances, blindness or hearing loss. 

Many affected individuals recount a sudden transition from feeling normal to experiencing intense pain or pressure in their skull, often localized to one side, akin to being targeted by a concentrated energy beam. Numerous cases have resulted in diagnoses of mild traumatic brain injuries, while others endure debilitating long-term cognitive and vestibular complications, rendering them unable to perform daily tasks and leading to their medical retirement from government service.

The Havana Syndrome first surfaced in 2016 when numerous US diplomats in Cuba reported experiencing headaches, dizziness, and blurred vision following exposure to an unusual sound, which later became synonymous with the syndrome. Subsequent cases emerged among American diplomats and military personnel stationed in various other countries. Despite extensive investigations by US intelligence agencies, no definitive link to a specific weapon has been established.

GRU Unit 29155

Evidence compiled by the outlets suggests that the enigmatic health incidents, commonly known as Havana Syndrome, may be linked to the utilization of directed energy weapons by members of Unit 29155.

Central to this inquiry's discoveries is the revelation that senior figures within the unit received accolades and advancements for their involvement in the development of "non-lethal acoustic weapons," a term featured in Russian military literature to encompass both sound- and radiofrequency-based directed energy devices, both of which could result in auditory effects within the victim's brain.

Operatives affiliated with Unit 29155, operating under deep cover, have been identified in various locations worldwide shortly before or during reported instances of anomalous health incidents — formally designated as AHIs by the U.S. government, referring to Havana Syndrome.

Documentary evidence uncovered by The Insider, 60 Minutes, and Der Spiegel indicates that Unit 29155 has been engaged in experimentation with precisely the type of weaponized technology experts posit as a plausible cause for the mysterious medical condition affecting over a hundred U.S. spies and diplomats worldwide, as well as several Canadian officials. 

Unit 29155 carries significant notoriety within the U.S. intelligence community, with a former high-ranking CIA officer describing its mission as “conducting lethal operations and acts of sabotage. Their mission is to find, fix, and finish, all in support of Vladimir Putin’s imperial dreams.”

Originally established as a training unit within the GRU, it underwent reorganization and expansion in 2008 to become an operational team focused on assassination, sabotage, and political destabilization campaigns worldwide.

Unlike other units within Russia's extensive intelligence network, Unit 29155 does not primarily engage in traditional espionage for intelligence gathering purposes. Instead, its focus lies solely on kinetic military operations, comparable to the Soviet KGB's "special tasks" department, infamous for assassinations and terrorism abroad.

The GRU’s race

The journalists' probe revealed that instances of the Havana Syndrome coincided with visits by GRU agents from military unit 29155 to the same locations during the same timeframes. This unit has previously been implicated in the 2018 poisonings of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the UK and businessman Emilian Gebrev in Bulgaria, where the Novichok nerve agent was used.

Flight records of GRU agents were scrutinized, revealing a correlation between their arrivals and the initial occurrences of the Havana syndrome in 2014, as well as subsequent cases in Europe and China.

For instance, in late 2014, a group of GRU officers was present in Geneva, where shortly afterward, an American Consulate employee in Frankfurt experienced symptoms consistent with the syndrome. The employee later identified GRU officer Yegor Gordienko, who was observed taking photographs of the consulate's premises.

Similarly, GRU agents' visits to China in 2016 and 2017 coincided with reports of Havana Syndrome cases among American personnel participating in the Silk Road rally organized by the Russian side.

Moreover, in 2021, an American Embassy staffer in Tbilisi developed Havana Syndrome symptoms after exposure to intense sound radiation. The staffer identified GRU agent Albert Averyanov, son of military unit commander Andrei Averyanov, as having been seen near her residence prior to the manifestation of symptoms.

Furthermore, a document was uncovered indicating that Ivan Terentyev, deputy commander of GRU unit 29155, received a government directive to explore the potential capabilities of non-lethal acoustic weapons for military operations in urban settings.

While direct evidence linking the GRU to the employment of acoustic weapons remains elusive, the investigation suggests a potential connection. The report raises the possibility that microwave radiation, which can be converted into an acoustic signal by the human ear under certain conditions (known as the Frey effect), might explain the phenomenon associated with the Havana Syndrome.

The findings challenge the previous conclusion by US intelligence services in 2023, which dismissed foreign involvement in the syndrome's emergence. Despite reviewing numerous cases globally, they attributed most instances to diverse factors ranging from environmental conditions to undiagnosed illnesses. However, sources cited by the journalists suggest that such conclusions might stem from a reluctance to acknowledge potential lapses in protecting American personnel.

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