“He was generally there, he was smiling,” mentioned Tiny Kox, a Dutch politician, talking of a Russian spy he used to see round within the corridors of the Council of Europe constructing in Strasbourg, France.
“He was no James Bond,” Kox added, referring to a British spy-movie icon.
“He was there, however not saying or doing something. I am undecided if that is a part of the behaviour of spies,” Kox mentioned.
“I by no means communicate with secretaries however they at all times accompany their delegations,” he added.
Kox is at present president of the Parliamentary Meeting of the Council of Europe (PACE).
The low-key Russian was Valery Levitsky, who was secretary of Russia’s 80-strong delegation in Strasbourg, in addition to an officer in Russia’s GRU military-intelligence service.
France expelled him in 2018 on grounds of espionage.
Levitsky described Kox as a good friend of Russia in inside Russian paperwork revealed in September this yr by File Heart, a London-based NGO, prompting suspicion.
However Kox denied having recognized him or having ever had pro-Russian leanings.
“There was no relationship between me and no matter spy Russia may need despatched to the Council of Europe,” Kox mentioned.
“I have been concerned in numerous romances, though I am now 45 years with my spouse, however a romance with Russia I used to be by no means engaged in,” the Dutch socialist additionally mentioned.
Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe shortly after its invasion of Ukraine, in a transfer Kox endorsed.
“Should you cross the borders of a neighbouring state together with your military you then cross the borders of the Council of Europe, you then’re out,” he instructed EUobserver.
And if Russia had been relying on him for pleasant ties as PACE president, then its assist “boomeranged”, Kox mentioned.
PACE, on his watch, additionally named the Russian regime a “terrorist” entity and known as to create a particular tribunal to attempt Russian president Vladimir Putin for the crime of “aggression” in opposition to Ukraine, Kox famous.
“It could be necessary the EU additionally involves the identical conclusion,” he mentioned, as MEPs within the EU Parliament ready to vote on a decision on Russia’s “terrorist” standing on Wednesday (23 November).
The brand new “aggression” tribunal would go after the Russian authorities, which had additionally inflicted loss by itself folks, Kox mentioned.
Some 84,600 Russian troopers have reportedly died within the warfare, he mentioned, and whereas they have been “not victims however perpetrators of violence”, the determine nonetheless left him “chilly”, he added.
The UN already had warfare crimes tribunals for navy commanders and troopers, in order that nobody would go unpunished, Kox mentioned.
“We have seen one atrocity after one other [committed in Ukraine],” Kox mentioned, referring to reviews of mass rapes of Ukrainian girls and murders of civilians.
Requested why Russian troopers have been behaving so egregiously, he mentioned: “It is laborious to evaluate at this stage”.
“Atrocities happen in all wars dedicated by troopers who was sons and fathers and lived usually and this needs to be investigated what’s behind this,” Kox mentioned.
Going again to Levitsky, the File revelations steered he was a part of a wider pro-Russian clique that additionally included Bruno Aller (a French ex-PACE secretary basic) and René van der Linden (a Dutch former PACE president).
However when requested if he thought the Council of Europe had a severe Russian espionage drawback within the years earlier than the warfare, Kox disagreed.
Aller and van der Linden’s reputations have been past reproach, he mentioned.
“Not solely the Russians in diplomacy have their relations to secret providers,” he added.
However in any case, the Council of Europe had no inside safety crew to relay considerations to folks like Kox up within the hierarchy, he famous.
Council employees checked folks’s primary credentials and delegates needed to signal a code of conduct on what they did in Strasbourg.
However security-vetting or investigations into allegations of wrongdoing, similar to espionage or corruption, have been as much as nationwide authorities, Kox defined.