Russia is using spies in Ireland to target economic and military assets, security sources believe.
The Irish Mirror learned Vladimir Putin has ordered agents to monitor the EU and NATO from their Dublin base.
Kremlin operatives are slipping over the border and taking a ferry to Britain before heading down to London.
Security sources also claim they have attempted to infiltrate the media here or have operatives posing as accredited journalists based in Ireland. Insiders believe Russia has spies linked to the SVR, the foreign intelligence service, and GRU, the Kremlin’s military intelligence, based in Dublin.
They are here to spy on the EU’s economic operations but also on the UK’s military capabilities.
There are around 30 staff accredited to the Russian Embassy on Orwell Road in South Dublin.
They are officially diplomats but there are at least two defence attaches.
And a number, either within the embassy or located in the capital, are suspected of being linked to Russia’s spy agencies.
A source said: “Ireland is a free country and it is essentially being used as a back door to Britain and the EU.
“The Russian operatives in Dublin head over there by ferry from the North and that’s how they avoid getting flights over to Britain. Their spies also keep a close eye on events in Europe and report to Moscow.
“Gardai are not able to keep up with these operatives because they simply do not have the resources or the manpower to do so.”
Another sinister element of their presence is the attempted infiltration of the media and to get accreditation as journalists. These spies are known as “agents of influence”.
It is seen as a target because reporters here can have a high level of access to senior politicians. Almost the entire media in Russia is State-controlled.
It’s understood journalists may have been approached to work for the Kremlin’s rolling news channel RT – formerly known as Russia Today.
A source said: “It’s a big thing for the Russians – get accredited journalists into the country. But they may not be what they seem.
“So apart from the operatives we suspect are linked to the SVR and GRU, there is a second tier of espionage.” In the past Russia has tried to get Irish journalists to work for outlets such as RT, now banned from broadcasting in the EU.
Dublin is also the headquarters of social media giants Facebook and Google, which are targets of this infiltration.
The plan to transform the Russian Embassy into four times its current size set off alarm bells at Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park.
In 2015, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council granted permission for the development. A source said: “The Garda’s National Crime and Security Intelligence Service along with the Defence Forces’ G2 section were alarmed when they became aware of the plans for the underground bunker at the embassy.
“What did the Russians need this huge below-ground complex for?”
As RTE’s Prime Time reported last month, the then Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy was briefed in a top security meeting. In March 2020, he revoked the planning permission under new legislation which allowed him to do so on security grounds.
Another source explained: “This really spooked those officials here and the basement raised a lot of red flags.
“Not only because there was so much space on the site just to build above ground, but this bunker of sorts was like a war room.
“They were preparing something. There were 13 toilets planned for the basement, it didn’t make sense.”
The Irish Mirror asked the Russian Embassy how many individuals attached to Russia’s SVR and GRU are in Ireland.
Source: Irish Mirror