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Media investigation: Russian intelligence unit could be behind Havana syndrome 

American diplomats may have been targeted by Russian sonic weaponry triggering mysterious conditions, say The Insider, Der Spiegel, and CBS’s 60 Minutes in a new investigation.
Media investigation: Russian intelligence unit could be behind Havana syndrome 

Members of Russia’s GRU intelligence agency may have used sonic weaponry to trigger the “Havana Syndrome,” which affected US diplomats and intelligence officers, according to the investigation by The Insider, the “60 Minutes” show, the American channel CBS News, and the German magazine Der Spiegel.

The condition initially surfaced in 2016 when US diplomatic staff working at the embassy in Cuba’s capital, Havana, reported suffering symptoms such as headaches, ringing in the ears, and cognitive dysfunction after hearing piercing sounds at night. Subsequently, this condition became known as the “Havana Syndrome.”

The journalists who conducted the year-long investigation say it “uncovered evidence” suggesting the health incidents “may have their origin in the use of directed energy weapons” wielded by members of the Russian GRU Unit 29155.

The unit, a part of Russia’s military intelligence agency, has been accused of orchestrating the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in the UK in 2018. Skripal had been arrested in Russia after being convicted of serving as a double agent for British intelligence.

Over 100 “Havana Syndrome” cases have been cited worldwide, affecting American spies, diplomats, military officers, contractors, and, in some instances, their spouses, children, and even household pets.

For instance, on 1 April, the Pentagon confirmed that a senior US Defense Department official who attended the 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, had symptoms similar to those reported by US officials who have experienced “Havana syndrome”, Associated Press informed.

The official, who was not identified, was not part of the official traveling delegation to Vilnius but was there separately, attending meetings that were part of the NATO summit.

Olivia Troye, who served as an adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism to Vice President Mike Pence, told 60 Minutes she has suffered from the same symptoms and fell ill in the summer of 2019 while descending a set of stairs in front of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the West Wing on the White House campus.

“It was like this piercing feeling on the side of my head, it was like, I remember it was on the right side of my head, and I got vertigo,” she said in an interview with 60 Minutes.

The reporters revealed that the attacks on diplomats began in 2014, despite the information that has been made public about “Havana Syndrome” — that it started in the Cuban capital in 2016. The investigation says that the first attacks occurred in Frankfurt when a US government employee stationed at the consulate there was knocked unconscious by something akin to an intense energy beam.

The journalists have analyzed the flight records of the Russian spies, which has allowed them to correlate the arrivals of the agents with the initial onset of the “Havana Syndrome”, as well as subsequent incidents that occurred in Europe and China thereafter.

Specifically, in the fall of 2014, a group of GRU spies was in Geneva. In November of that year, a female employee of the US consulate in Frankfurt suddenly felt nauseous and dizzy and experienced hallucinations. Later, she recognized from a photo one of the Russian agents, Yegor Gordiyenko, who “was walking around the residential complex designated for consulate staff and taking pictures of the territory.”

Journalists also found a document confirming that Ivan Terentyev, the deputy commander of Russia’s intelligence shadow unit, received a government order to study the “potential capabilities of non-lethal acoustic weapons during military operations in the city.” The exact type of weapon has remained unknown.

The investigation said that while there is no direct evidence linking the GRU to the use of “acoustic weapons,” now the American government may reconsider its stance on the “Havana syndrome”.

During an investigation conducted in the US, the experts have concluded that most such syndromes have various causes, ranging from environmental factors to undiagnosed illnesses. However, journalist sources claim that such conclusions in the US are made because authorities are unwilling to acknowledge possible gaps in the country’s security system.

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