Russian Embassy, Copenhagen, Denmark
The Russian Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark. Image: Wikimedia Commons / Niels Elgaard Larsen

Denmark warns of Russian spies posing as ‘journalists or business people’

Denmark’s security and intelligence service has warned that last year’s expulsions of Russian intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover could result in a new wave of undercover spies posing as “journalists or business people.”

In its annual assessment of the espionage threat to Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland published this week, the Politiets Efterretningstjeneste (PET) said foreign states were using a range of methods to spy on and influence the country, from “human sources, [to] cyber espionage and interception of telecommunications and data traffic.”

“The espionage threat is not exclusively directed against politicians and public officials in key ministries, staff from the intelligence services and Danish Armed Forces, but also against other public authorities, critical infrastructure in Denmark, companies, research institutions, researchers, students, refugees and dissidents,” said the report.

Denmark, which is a founding member of NATO, expelled 15 Russian intelligence officers last April whom it said were working under diplomatic cover, in response to the invasion of Ukraine and the discovery of mass graves in the liberated town of Bucha.

However the PET has warned that Russia will “attempt to compensate for the expulsions by using other methods for spying … for instance [by placing spies] undercover as journalists or business people.”

It said that it was aware of “several foreign cases where private companies and NGOs with more or less direct ties to Russian intelligence services are engaged in intelligence activities,” often for the purposes of exerting influence on the target state’s activities.

The PET warned in particular that Russia’s intelligence services were “continuously” attempting to “collect information on Danish technology and research in areas where Danish companies and research institutions are market leaders.”

The items “include maritime technology, sensor and laser equipment as well as various types of industrial machines used by the Russian armed forces,” reported PET.

Last September, experts told The Record that Western companies should be on “full alert” regarding Moscow’s intelligence activities following President Putin calling on the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service, to support the country’s technological development as it deals with mounting sanctions.

“As always, one priority area of the SVR’s work is its support of the industrial and technological development of our country; the strengthening of our defense potential. This effort is always acute, particularly now amidst attempts to apply sanctions pressure on Russia,” Putin told the agency’s staff on June 30.

The PET report cited Denmark’s Centre for Cyber Security, which described Russia as possessing “substantial cyber espionage capabilities” and warned that “Russian cyber actors pose a constant threat to Danish authorities and companies.”

Alongside “the physical presence of intelligence officers” the PET said that the Russian intelligence services also use “various kinds of electronic collection and cyber espionage.”

“Russia uses its very significant cyber capabilities for systematic support of its national interests,” the report said, while adding that “cyber espionage can also be used for preparing destructive cyber attacks.” It did not offer an assessment of how likely such attacks were.

Get more insights with the
Recorded Future
Intelligence Cloud.
Learn more.
No previous article
No new articles
Alexander Martin

Alexander Martin

is the UK Editor for Recorded Future News. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.