The Chief of Sputnik, Vitaliy Denisov, who was expelled from the Republic of Moldova on September 13, 2023, and banned from re-entry for 10 years, has been revealed to be an employee of Special Services Center 72, as reported by The Insider.
“Denisov has an indirect relationship with journalism and is likely a career officer of Special Services Center 72 (military unit 54777), which, on behalf of GRU, engages in information injections and disinformation targeting foreign audiences,” the publication stated.
Denisov is originally from the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine; in 1992, he graduated from the Lviv Higher Military-Political School (LVVPU) but refused to pledge allegiance to Ukraine and moved to Moscow, according to The Insider. In Moscow, he was accommodated in an officers’ dormitory at 38 Khoroshevskoye Shosse, not far from the headquarters of the GRU (Russia’s largest foreign intelligence agency).
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Denisov worked as an employee of the main “print organ” of the Russian Ministry of Defense – the newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda. He also worked at Tribune Zarubejov, a publication that, according to a source close to intelligence services cited by The Insider, issued journalist credentials to GRU employees for work abroad.
In 2005, he received a departmental apartment from the Russian Ministry of Defense, and since 2013, he has been working in the Main Investigation Department of the Moscow Region.
According to The Insider, citing a source from the Russian Ministry of Defense, Denisov transferred from the Investigation Committee to the 72nd Special Services Center, primarily involved in disseminating false information to foreign audiences. It is also mentioned that Denisov was promoted to colonel in 2016. Starting in 2019, he led Sputnik in the partially recognized South Ossetia, then in Azerbaijan, and from 2022 – in Moldova.
There are no comments from Denisov himself in the article.
On September 13, the Moldovan Migration Inspectorate issued a 10-year entry ban to Denisov due to a “threat to national security.” He was taken to the airport, and a ticket to Moscow was purchased for him. According to Denisov, he could not pack his belongings or take his pets with him.
Dmitri Kiselev, the CEO of the Rossiya Segodnya media group, which includes Sputnik Moldova, reacted to Denisov’s deportation. He emphasized that he had all the necessary documents to work in Moldova and stated that the “destructive policy of Moldovan authorities exceeds all appropriate limits of interstate relations.”
Immediately after the start of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Moldovan Intelligence and Security Service blocked the Sputnik Moldova website. The reason for the blocking was the concern that the publication could spread “false information affecting national security.” On March 7, 2023, Moldovan authorities also restricted access to five other websites belonging to the Russian state news agency Sputnik. Russia’s representation in Moldova condemned the actions and characterized the accusations against the publication as politicized.
In July 2023, The Insider and Jurnal TV launched an investigation into intelligence officers at the Russian Embassy in Chisinau. Following this, Moldova expelled 45 diplomats from the country.