Accused Russian ‘Spy’ Is Actually Basque Journalist, Spanish Official Says

Pablo González was arrested last week in Poland and accused of being part of Russian military intelligence.
A man from Leipzig stands at the Ukrainian-Polish border in Medyka. Photo: Kay Nietfeld/dpa
A man from Leipzig stands at the Ukrainian-Polish border in Medyka. Photo: Kay Nietfeld/dpa (Photo by Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images)

A Spanish congressman says the Spanish citizen arrested last week by Polish intelligence and accused of being a Russian operative isn’t actually a spy.

“I know Mr. Pablo González because he is a Basque journalist, living in my constituency,” said Jon Inarritu, a Basque congressman in Spain, in a message to VICE News about González, who’s accused of being a Kremlin agent using journalism as a cover. “I am sure that he is just a journalist and he is not working as a spy. He was born in Russia, but just that.”

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In the early hours of last Friday, the Agencja Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego (ABW), a federal agency tasked with thwarting national security threats inside Poland, announced that González, a Russian-born Spanish citizen, was apprehended in late February in the eastern town of Przemyśl, where Ukrainian refugees have been amassing as they flee the war. The agency accused him of being an agent of the GRU, the infamous and active Russian military intelligence branch, and of planning on entering Ukraine under the pretext of being a journalist, in order to spy for Russia.

According to Spanish publication Publico, González was reporting on waves of refugees in the area, who are flowing in from the Ukrainian border. The nonprofit journalist watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), issued its own statement demanding the Polish government release González and explain why he was imprisoned.

Innaritu said González’ imprisonment is scandalous and that neither his Spanish lawyer nor his family were able to contact him when Polish authorities first took him into custody. In its statement, the CPJ said González was also detained on February 6 in Kyiv after reporting in Donbas, where the conflict between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists had simmered since 2014.

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González, who focused on the post-Soviet region as a reporter, has both Spanish and Russian roots.

“‘Pavel’ Pablo, he is the grandson of Spanish refugees that left Spain in 1939 and went to Russia,” said Innaritu, adding that González came to Spain at the age of twelve. 

The Spanish congressman thinks that regardless of his constituents’ guilt, he deserves a chance to be afforded fair and accessible legal representation.

“I think that some [media] believe the accusation, I don’t,” said Innaritu. “But the most important [thing] is to ensure that he can be visited by his lawyer in order to know how he is and what his explanation [is] about this serious charge.”

Maria Zakharova, a Kremlin spokesperson, did not respond to a request for comment on the case of González, but email tracking software showed that the request had been viewed. 

If convicted of spying against Poland, he could face up to ten years in prison.