The Russian-language news outlet Insider reports that Vitaly Denisov, the recently deported head of Russian propaganda outlet Sputnik Moldova, is allegedly a career military intelligence officer with the GRU, Russia’s foreign military intelligence agency.
According to Insider, Denisov was born in 1967 in Ukraine’s Zakarpattia Oblast and studied at the Lviv Higher Military Political School, which trained political officers and military journalists. The school, since renamed the Academy of Land Forces of Ukraine, was struck by Russian Kalibr missiles in July 2022.
Insider claims Denisov refused to swear allegiance to Ukraine after graduating in 1992 and moved to Moscow, where tax records show he worked for the Defense Ministry’s Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper. His mentor was veteran Soviet military journalist Gennady Mironovich, who was embedded with the 40th Army during the Soviet-Afghan war.
At Krasnaya Zvezda, Denisov mostly covered the Airborne Forces and joint exercises between Russian special forces and Chinese units, says Insider. He also published work in Parlamentskaya Gazeta, Specnaz VDV magazine Vityaz-Bratishka, the Interfax news agency, Military-Industrial Courier, and Tribuna za Rubezhom, which reportedly provided journalistic cover for many GRU officers abroad.
Denisov’s trail goes cold after that until 2005, when he received a service apartment on Admiral Lazarev Street and a new officer’s ID, according to Insider. In 2013, he surfaced at the Main Investigative Directorate of the Moscow Region, part of Russia’s federal Investigative Committee, though he has no legal education.
An unnamed Defense Ministry source told Insider that Denisov then transferred to Military Unit 54777, the 72nd Special Service Center, which analyzes intelligence from GRU foreign residencies and conducts information warfare. The center also supposedly oversees several front organizations that receive state grants to target Russian-speakers abroad.
In 2016, Denisov was promoted to colonel and appointed Sputnik’s chief editor in South Ossetia in 2019, says Insider. There, he claimed someone tried to poison him with cooking gas, but a probe found the tube was simply old.
After a stint heading Sputnik in Baku, Azerbaijan, Denisov was sent to Moldova in 2022 to monitor the situation and push the Kremlin’s narrative, according to Insider. But Sputnik’s website and broadcasts were blocked after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Earlier this year, 36 Russian diplomats were expelled from Moldova after a joint investigation with Moldovan outlet Jurnal TV revealed intelligence officers operating from Russia’s Chisinau embassy.
Denisov could not be reached for comment, reports Insider.