Russian citizen Vladimir Popov, who was placed on the international wanted list after organizing an attempted coup in Montenegro, has been identified as Vladimir Moiseev, an agent of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), as reported by the investigative group Bellingcat and The Insider on November 22.
The journalists’ investigation materials show that 38 year-old Moiseev, after graduating from the Tyumen High Military Engineering Command School, was trained between 2006 and 2009 in combat unit 48427 in Moscow, which is part of the GRU special forces. He acquired his second identity – Vladimir Popov – in 2009, and has used it regularly while traveling to Europe as a “photojournalist” and a “maritime insurance agent”. His travels have taken him to the Balkans, the Caucasus and Turkey.
Moiseev-Popov has repeatedly aroused the suspicion of the local law enforcement authorities of various countries. For example, this happened in 2014 in Moldova, which was preparing to sign an association agreement with the EU at the time. “According to local intelligence, GRU employees planned to organize a riot in Moldova according to the Ukrainian scenario, relying on local militarized groups trained in Rostov,” the investigation materials state.
In October 2016, traveling as Popov, Moiseev went to Serbia, where it is believed he prepared for the coup in Montenegro. It was then that counterintelligence managed to photograph him meeting with his GRU colleague Eduard Shirokov, who was later identified as Eduard Shishmakov.
In 2016, Montenegro initiated a criminal case surrounding the coup attempt. The investigation believes that the conspirators plotted to seize the parliament building on election day (October 17, 2016) and to detain or kill Prime Minister Milo Đukanović and bring the pro-Russian party “Democratic Front” into power, all in order to prevent the country from joining NATO. When the coup failed, 20 people who had been seen carrying various firearms were arrested. On October 24, three Russian citizens were arrested in Serbia. The were found in possession of forged Montenegrin police documents, €122,000 in cash, and equipment for encrypted communication. Following a visit by Nikolay Patrushev, head of Russia’s Security Council, to Belgrade, Serbia handed the arrested Russians over to Moscow.
Montenegro has placed Eduard Shirokov and Vladimir Popov on the Interpol wanted list.