Russian spy studied at Trinity College Dublin for four years before trying to infiltrate International Criminal Court
A Russian spy uncovered by Dutch intelligence officials while trying to infiltrate the International Criminal Court spent four years studying at Trinity College Dublin.
Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, a Russian operative who used the Brazilian alias of Victor Muller Ferreira, attended Trinity College for four years between 2014-2018 while completing a political science degree.
The Dutch Intelligence Service picked Cherkasov up at a Dutch airport for attempting to use a false identity to infiltrate the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is investigating accusations of war crimes in Ukraine.
Cherkasov (36), who studied at the Dublin university under the alias of Victor Muller, graduated with a first-class honours in November 2018, having finished his studies in May of that year, majoring in political science and quantitative methods of research.
Independent.ie also obtained a photograph of Victor Muller receiving his degree in November 2018, which he posted online captioned with “Leaving Trinity”.
Trinity College Dublin said it could not comment on the matter due to GDPR regulations prohibiting the college from discussing past students, but this paper was able to independently verify that Cherkasov did obtain a degree from Trinity College.
Cherkasov also lists the Dublin International Study Centre as a place of work from June 2014 to August 2015, where he claims to have taught students “reading skills, writing skills, listening and speaking skills”, as well as leading “small group academic tutorials on General Algebra and Geometry classes”.
Independent.ie has not been able to independently verify this claim.
The Russian spy created an elaborate cover story dating back years to try to enter the Netherlands as a Brazilian national for an internship at the Hague-based ICC in April. In an online CV, Cherkasov listed his studies in Dublin.
Cherkasov was identified by western intelligence officials as a Russian spy and travelled to the Netherlands under the false pretences that he had obtained an internship at the ICC. He was picked up by intelligence officials on arrival.
The Dutch Intelligence Service also published a four-page back story that Cherkasov had invented, including details of a troubled childhood in Brazil and an affinity for bean stew and trance music.
“Cherkasov used a well-constructed cover identity by which he concealed all his ties with Russia in general, and the GRU [the Russian foreign intelligence agency] in particular,” a statement from the Dutch authorities said.
His posing as a Brazilian national is believed to have dated as far back as a decade ago.
Cherkasov was declared an undesirable on being detained at a Dutch airport, and sent to Brazil where he will now face court proceedings.
“This was a long-term, multi-year GRU operation that cost a lot of time, energy and money,” said Dutch intelligence agency chief Erik Akerboom.
“It clearly shows us what the Russians are up to – trying to gain illegal access to information within the ICC.
"We classify this as a high-level threat,” Mr Akerboom added, saying the ICC had accepted him for an internship.
ICC spokesperson Sonia Robla said the court was grateful to Dutch authorities for the operation and the exposing of security risks. “The ICC takes these threats very seriously and will continue to work and cooperate with The Netherlands,” she said.
An associate professor in a US college which Cherkasov attended under the same alias after Trinity has said he feels “naive, angry and played” as he wrote a reference letter for the spy for the ICC.
Eugene Finkel said Cherkasov had a “weird accent” and claimed to have “Irish roots” in their interactions.
“I had good reasons to hate Russian security services before. Now I am just exploding. I feel angry, I feel stupid, I feel naive, I feel tired. I got played. I had him in class. Twice, in fact. One class was half-Zoom during Covid, several interactions outside [the] classroom,” Finkel said on Twitter on Thursday night.
“He had a weird accent I couldn’t identify, not a Russian one. Nothing Russian I could notice and I am a native speaker. Presented himself as Brazilian, Irish roots so [the] weird accent made sense. Unlike this crazy cover letter, he was very smart and competent in class.
“He didn’t take my class on violence in Russia, guess he already knew everything that was allowed and maybe not allowed to learn what is real. Took my class on genocide, apparently here the GRU still had a lot to learn. We haven’t discussed Russia even once.
“After the graduation he asked for a reference letter for the ICC. Given my research focus it made sense. I wrote him a letter. A strong one, in fact. Yes, me. I wrote a reference letter for a GRU officer. I will never get over this fact. I hate everything about GRU, him, this story. I am so glad he was exposed.”
A former classmate of Cherkasov in Dublin said that while they never had any reason to suspect 'Muller' was lying about his identity, they thought his accent sounded more German than Brazilian.
"We were confused, to be honest, because his name was Victor Muller and we thought he had a bit of a German accent, but he told us he was Brazilian. I remember we had some conversations where we kind of couldn't quite figure it out. But we were never worried about it," the former student said.