InformNapalm Belarus team conducted its own OSINT investigation in which it reviewed the changes in the staff of the Russian Embassy in Belarus in 2021, during a period of significant pressure on the Republic of Belarus.
It is no secret that the embassies of the Russian Federation in different countries of the world, and especially in the countries of the former USSR, conduct illegal intelligence operations. Also, they are crucial in applying Russia’s soft power and spreading the “Russian world”.
Taking advantage of new political opportunities in 2021, Russia sharply increased pressure on the Republic of Belarus and decided to speed up the process of hybrid takeover and destroy even the formal independence of this state. Considering this process, it is interesting to look at the changes in the staff of the Russian Embassy in Belarus that took place during 2021, who the “new people” are and what they are known for (archive).
For comparison, you can use the materials of investigations in the Novy Chas newspaper for 2019-2020 which were published by the editor of the Belarusian edition of InformNapalm, Belarusian journalist Dzianis Ivashyn (he was illegally arrested by the Lukashenka regime on March 12, 2021, and has been in prison since; he was recognized by human rights organizations as a political prisoner).
Publications are available in Belarusian:
- Russian influence and control in Belarus: Spies (2019)
- Russian influence and control in Belarus: Spies. Part 2 (2019)
- Russian influence and control in Belarus: Spies. Part 3 (2020)
- Russian influence and control in Belarus: Spies. Part 4 (2020)
Igor Elkin is, Military and Air Force Attaché of the Russian Federation in Belarus. He replaced in this position Kirill Kolyuchkin who has been a persona non grata in Ukraine since April 2014 for activities incompatible with the status of a diplomat. Kolyuchkin was included in the list of criminals on the Myrotvorets website. Like Kolyuchkin, Elkin has a military rank of captain of the 1st rank.
It is interesting that the Russian diplomatic mission in Belarus did not publicly announce either the fact of Elkin’s appointment, or the fact of Kolyuchkin’s dismissal. However, we know that Igor Elkin as a military attaché took part in the Navy Day celebration in Minsk on July 25, 2021 (web archive).
In November 2021, he took part in the presentation of medical equipment from the Russian Ministry of Defense to a Belarusian clinical hospital.
As we found out, Igor Elkin previously held the position of assistant naval attaché of the Russian Federation in the USA and Great Britain.
In the UK, Elkin held this position from 2013 to 2017. Mr. Elkin was listed as Naval Attaché Assistant in the UK as of December 2013 (web archive). According to the article in the Jersey Evening Post, Igor Elkin, as a military representative of the Russian embassy, participated in the Liberation ceremonies at the POW memorial in 2015-2017 (web archive).
Eduard Krustkaln is Counselor of the Russian Embassy in Belarus, and conscientiously head of the Rossotrudnichestvo branch in Belarus, as well as the Russian House in Minsk (web archive). Before he headed Rossotrudnichestvo in Belarus, Krustkaln represented this Russian government agency in Kyrgyzstan (web archive).
Eduard Krustkaln is an official who worked in the apparatus of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and then in the press services of several Russian high-ranking officials. He entered services for Rossotrudnichestvo in 2014 (web archive 1, web archive 2).
Eduard Krustkaln openly stated his goal of the so-called “unification” of Belarusian history and Belarusian education by actually replacing it with Russian history and Russian educational standards in September 2020 during the Forum of the Regions of Russia and Belarus (web archive).
Vladimir Kirdyanov is Senior Counselor of the Russian Embassy in Belarus. His name was mentioned in the article of the Russian news outlet Tema Dnia (predecessor of “Newsru.com”) dated March 23, 2001 in the list of employees of the Russian Embassy in the United States. The author of the article pondered which of the listed diplomats could fall under the US decision to expel 50 employees of the Russian embassy in connection with activities incompatible with the status of a diplomat (web archive).
There is so little information on the Internet about Vladimir Kirdyanov that even his photograph could not be found.
Anton Kunitsky is Second Secretary of the Russian Embassy in Belarus. This young diplomat has a degree in economics. On the page of the Russian institute MGIMO he is listed as a lecturer in the Department of Economics (web archive). The topic of his dissertation was: The mechanism of mergers and acquisitions as a tool for ensuring the economic security of enterprises during the economic crisis (web archive).
Perhaps it is planned that he will oversee the processes of absorption of Belarusian enterprises by Russian during the economic crisis artificially created by Russia.
There is one more interesting detail about changes in the Russian Embassy. Konstantin Gusev is no longer listed as an employee of the Russian embassy in Belarus. Like Kirill Kolyuchkin, he was listed on the Myrotvorets web-site.
Before the start of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, he served as the first secretary of the Russian Embassy in Ukraine and, according to Myrotvorets, served in the GRU of the General Staff of the Russian Federation. As of June 2021, Konstantin Gusev was still listed among the staff of the Russian Embassy in Belarus (web archive).
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