In April this year, 21 suspected spies were expelled from the Russian embassy in Uccle in Brussels. However, this did nothing to stop espionage activities based in the embassy, according to intelligence specialist Lars Bové, writing in De Tijd.
A flight from Zaventem in April carried those being expelled and their families, as well as 17 pseudo-diplomats from the Netherlands, away from Belgium.
The Russian embassy stands on Avenue Defré in Uccle, close to the Bois de la Cambre, on a plot of 46,000 square metres. It is surrounded by 900m of electric fencing and security cameras.
According to the investigation carried out by De Tijd and the Dutch broadcaster NOS, the building is surrounded by trees to limit the view of outsiders. Nonetheless, any stranger who is suspected of showing a little too much interest in the compound or comes too close is filmed, and an announcement is made to alert staff inside.
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Large satellite receivers are installed on the roof, which the reporters say are not only to pick up Russian TV.
“The embassy is a mini village with a communication centre with technological and other facilities for the Russian intelligence services, according to conversations with insiders and the analysis of photos and other (online) sources," Bové writes. The reporters also inspected documents which reveal that Russia has a “disproportionate” number of intelligence officers compared to other countries.
The embassy is described as a “very closed community” with all manner of facilities provided within the embassy location, from apartments to sports facilities to schools. Intelligence officers (before the expulsions) are thought to have numbered 70 to 80, from a total staff of around 220.
Since the start of Russia’s war with Ukraine, it is thought that espionage activities – already trained on the EU and Nato – have increased substantially.