An academic who entered Norway as a Brazilian citizen and was arrested last year on suspicion of spying for Russia has confessed his real, Russian name, Norwegian authorities said Thursday.
The man was detained in the Arctic city of Tromsoe, where he worked as a lecturer at the Arctic University of Norway. Norwegian media have said he called himself Jose Assis Giammaria.
A prosecutor for Norway’s domestic security agency told The Associated Press that the suspect had confirmed his real name at a custody hearing last week.
The suspect arrived in Norway in 2021, and has researched the northern regions and hybrid threats. Norway’s Arctic border with Russia is 123 miles long.
However, Norwegian investigators believe he was in NATO-member Norway under a false name and identity while working for one of Russia’s intelligence services. Norwegian investigators have said his real name is Mikhail Mikushin.
Mikushin, who has been transferred to detention in the capital of Oslo, faces up to three years in prison under Norwegian espionage laws. Per Niklas Hafsmoe, a prosecutor with the agency, said the 45-year-old has declined to speak to the police but claims no wrongdoing.
“We think it is good that he now wants to clarify his true identity,” Hafsmoe told the AP. “However, this does not have much to say for our investigation because we believe we have strong evidence that he is indeed Mikhail Mikushin from Russia.”
According to the newspaper VG, the suspect was reported to have received consular assistance from the Russian Embassy, which Russia’s diplomatic mission in Norway denies. The investigative website Bellingcat and VG said that Mikushin has links to Russia’s military intelligence, the GRU.
Previously in Canada, where he also studied, he identified himself as Jose Assis Giammaria, according to Canadian Press. The news agency said the University of Calgary had reported he also attended the Alberta school and graduated in the fall of 2018 with a master’s in strategic studies.
Canadian Press also said a 2015 convocation list from Ottawa’s Carleton University shows he had graduated with honors as a bachelor of arts in political sciences, focusing on international relations.
In April, Norway expelled 15 Russian diplomats on suspicion of spying, saying they were working either as spy handlers or intercepting telephone and data traffic, and were employed either by Russia’s civilian spy agency, the Federal Security Service or FSB, or by the GRU, which runs military intelligence.