This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The Spies Who Came In From The Cold North

"I am first and foremost Canadian. I have lived for twenty years believing that I was Canadian and still believe I am Canadian, nothing can change that."
Timothy Vavilov

"[My Canadian heritage was] an important part of who I am. It is the only culture I can associate with, and has been a cornerstone of my identity."
Alexander Vavilov
Timothy Vavilov, 25, left, and brother Alexander, 21, pictured in 2010. Their parents are spies who came to Canada in the 1990s and took over the identities of dead Canadians.
Elise Amendola / The Associated Press   Timothy Vavilov, 25, left, and brother Alexander, 21, pictured in 2010. Their parents are spies who came to Canada in the 1990s and took over the identities of dead Canadians.
"It is interesting that it took so long for the authorities to realize that the application for citizenship was without merit, since they had already known that the parents' citizenship was fraudulent."
Sergio Karas, Toronto immigration lawyer

"Anyone who moves to this country with the explicit goal of establishing a life to further a foreign intelligence operation, be it in this country or any other, is clearly doing so in the service of, or as an employee or representative, of a foreign government."
Federal Court of Canada

It is the stuff of best-selling spy thriller novels; Russian espionage in Western countries. Not that Western countries don't themselves engage in espionage activities targeting Russia. Or, for that matter, any other country. But the excruciating lengths to which Russian intelligence has gone on occasion to install agents, assuming identities of another nation's citizenry, and laying low for decades while appearing as ordinary citizens, does boggle the mind.

And when a country's intelligence agencies discover the existence of such deeply engrained covert activity, there is denial, embarrassment, and swift withdrawal of tainted nationals. In the case of revealed undercover spies Elena Vavilova and Andrey Bezrukov, whose two sons were born in Canada while their parents purported to be ordinary Canadians, it is heartbreaking to read the testimonials of the two young men protesting the revocation of their Canadian citizenship.

Associated Press/ FBI
Associated Press/ FBI    Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova, Russian operatives who were sent to Canada to develop “legends” that would mask their spying activities in the United States.

At first glance, in any event. The complex arrangement of infiltrating Canada to appear as Canadians with solid bona fides established over a prolonged length of time, was to enable the parents to eventually migrate to the United States, and there to conduct their undercover studies, relaying the information back to Moscow. The two took the identities of two dead Canadian children. And for twenty years lived their faux Canadian lives.
Court  Documents
Court Documents   A court document showing the Canadian passport of Tracey Lee Ann Foley (a.k.a. Elena Vavilova). A Russian couple stole the identities of Tracey Foley and Donald Heathfield, Canadians who had died as infants. The couple maintained the fiction for two decades until they were arrested in 2010 and sent back to Russia in a spy swap.
Once their Canadian identities were firmly established the two spies moved with their sons to France, and from there to Boston, to become naturalized American citizens, with the aid of their faux Canadian identities. An FBI investigation revealed the identities of ten Russian spies busily searching out useful data for Russian intelligence; among them this pair. They were eventually traded for four Russians imprisoned in Moscow for spying on Russia.

Their two boys who attest to their Canadian personas actually hadn't lived very long in Canada; the younger of the two for only one year; so much for being first and foremost Canadian. Citizen and Immigration Canada revoked the citizenship of both brothers a year ago with the explanation that as they were born of parents who were representatives of a foreign government they were not eligible for Canadian citizenship.

The parents, according to a report from Citizenship and Immigration, were sent to Canada "specifically for the task of stealing the identities of Canadians and building their respective legends prior to relocating to the United States, the 'target country', as Canadians." The pair worked for the Russian SVR Foreign Intelligence Service and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is convinced that the older brother had become an operative with the SVR.
"CSIS has since informed CIC that Timothy Vavilov had been 'sworn in' by the SVR prior to his parents' arrest. It is not known if Alexander has also pledged allegiance to the SVR."   

For his part, Timothy Vavilov denies any "grooming me for espionage" on the part of his parents, accusing authorities in Canada of attempting to "tarnish our lives". He and his brother had been "indirectly notified by top officials of the Canadian Secret Services" they would lose their battle to have citizenship restored.

Court Documents
Court Documents A court document showing the application for Canadian Citizenship for Timothy Foley (a.k.a Timothy Vavilov).

In his affidavit, Timothy Vavilov wrote: "The representatives of the Canadian Secret Service stated that 'if you continue, there will be consequences -- for example, a campaign to publish damaging information about you in the press. I have a strong belief that the reason for the revocation is political and is not something we can influence."


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