(Featured Image provided by The Guardian)
Recently, Norway’s domestic security agency arrested a man who is suspected to be a Russian spy on Monday, October 24, 2022. The suspect, José Assis Giammaria, is supposedly a Brazilian national who worked at the University of Tromsø as a researcher. According to the agency, they’re worried that he “may have acquired a network and information about Norway’s policy in the north.” Investigators believe that he was working for one of Russia’s intelligence networks as an “illegal agent,” someone who often assumes a real (or dead) person’s identity.
According to Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv, a professor in security studies at the university of Tromsø, Giammaria first arrived in December 2021 as an unpaid guest researcher who asked to research Arctic security. Publicly available information revealed that he had also just recently completed a master’s degree at the Canadian University of Calgary’s Centre for Military, Security, and Strategic Studies in 2018. “He was recommended by a professor that I knew in Canada where he studied,” said Gjørv. “We did the standard background check and called the references he listed.”
For the most part, nobody really expected Giammaria was a secret Russian spy. “He was a really lovely guy, very good at his job,” added Gjørv. “We had no reason to suspect him of being anything else than what he said he was.” One colleague of his described him as very friendly, although he did note that Giammaria was very strict about his privacy. He was reportedly against social media and only communicated with other employees via Telegram. No one even knew his age, with many only estimating him to be in his late 30s. However, the colleague did mention a few strange things, such as Giammaria’s “funny accent,” which reminded him of a Russian one. He had also made a joke about Giammaria, asking him whether he was a spy, which made Giammaria behave strangely.
When he was arrested on Monday, Giammaria was given a court detention order in which he would be expelled from the country because he was “in Norway on assignment for the Russian authorities and may be a Russian citizen with false Brazilian papers”. So far, the court says there has been no evidence to dismiss the ministry’s judgment. Gimmaria’s lawyer, Thomas Hansen, has dismissed the allegations, stating that his client “does not understand” them, and asked for his release.
This incident comes after many instances where Russian citizens have been arrested in Norway for taking photos and videos of strategic areas using drones. Since Norway is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and a large supplier of gas to western Europe, tensions have been brewing between it and Russia over the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine. Moreover, the suspected sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines several weeks ago has done nothing to help relations between the countries.