Natalia Kardash-their man in Cyprus

Dmitry Khmelnitsky

Boris Demash

At the end of January, following an exposing publication by journalists of The Insider, the European Parliament launched an investigation into the links between Latvian MEP Tatiana Zhdanok and the Russian security services. As it turned out, Zhdanok kept an active correspondence with FSB officers and, among other things, sent them reports on her activities. The Insider‘s investigation, which involved Estonian, Latvian, and Swedish journalists, relied on Zhdanok’s hacked e-mail correspondence.

The Insider showed how the FSB’s Fifth Service recruits European politicians, particularly Zhdanok, who for decades has been an outspoken supporter of Moscow in both Riga and Strasbourg. It turned out that Zhdanok had been working under the guidance of FSB handlers since at least 2004. Russian intelligence services used Zhdanok’s Latvian agent to infiltrate EU institutions and spread pro-Kremlin narratives.

Tatiana Zhdanok was born in 1950 in Riga. In the late 1980s, she began her political activities based on the support of ethnic Russians in Latvia. At some point, Zhdanok was recruited by the KGB-FSB.

In 2004, she was elected as a member of the European Parliament from the Russian Union of Latvia. In Strasbourg and Riga, Zhdanok lobbied for Russian interests, coordinating her political activities with her FSB handlers. She regularly sent them progress reports and requested funding for various projects in Russia’s interests.

One of the tasks Zhdanok received after her election to the European Parliament was the creation of a pan-European Russian party.

In June 2004, at a conference of representatives of Russian parties and non-governmental organizations of the European Union in Prague, and then at conferences in Brussels in December 2004 and June 2005, Zhdanok, together with another agent of Moscow’s influence, Count Peter Sheremetev, tried to establish a Russian pan-European party with the working title «Russian Party of Europe».

In the end, the party could not be created because of the little support for the idea in the emigrant environment.
Instead of the party at the founding conference on June 17, 2005, the European Russian Alliance (ERA), a public organization uniting Russian public figures, journalists, and politicians of the European Union countries, was established.

Tatyana Zhdanok has been leading this organization since 2007.

The word «public organization» in this case needs to be deciphered. Real public organizations are created by a group of like-minded people, are not subordinated to anyone, and do not coordinate their activities with any government agencies. Organizations that were created by the government in Moscow to control public and political activities of the USSR natives and to influence through them the political situation in different countries, only imitate public activities. These are agents of Russian influence. There are many of them today, and the ERA is one of them.

In 2005, the Estonian Internal Security Service stated in its public annual report that the European Russian Alliance is nothing more than a cover for the activities of FSB agents, the creation of which was «prepared in St. Petersburg and presented as a triumph in a report directly to the director of the FSB». The Insider investigation confirmed this conclusion.

The European Russian Alliance includes representatives of 20 European states. There is no doubt that the FSB recruited them exclusively from among its agents in various European countries. People independent of the FSB could not stay there for 20 years, so the activities of each of them are worthy of a separate investigation.

Cyprus is represented in this organization by Natalia Kardash, General Director of the group of companies «Herald of Cyprus», editor-in-chief of the publishing house «Herald of Cyprus». In addition, she is the vice-president of the Association of Russian-speaking residents of Cyprus «Horizon», a member of the «World Association of Russian Press», and a member of the Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots of Cyprus. All these organizations, as well as the European Russian Alliance itself, are created and controlled by Moscow, which is, in fact, an offshoots of the Russian secret services.

With Russian Ambassador to Cyprus Osadchim (left)

They are all part of the overall system of state ideological, political, economic, religious, and cultural influence centered in Moscow.

Natalia Kardash, according to her official biography, appeared in Cyprus in 1999. In 2001 she became a shareholder and managing director of the newspaper «Vestnik Cyprus», which has been the main mouthpiece of Kremlin propaganda in Cyprus since 1995 and remains so to this day.

The World Association of the Russian Press (WARP) was established in Moscow in 1999 specifically for censorship control of the Russian press abroad. Every few years, it gathered its congresses in different countries of the world. In 2014, the WARP Foundation was added to the Association, which performs roughly the same tasks of recruiting agents of influence abroad as the Russian World Foundation, but only in the field of the press. The chairman of the foundation’s board of trustees is the current head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, which is under European and American sanctions, Sergei Naryshkin.

The official goals of the foundation sound more than unambiguous. «…development of cooperation with the Russian-language foreign press, aimed at forming an objective image of Russia, broad information about social, economic, cultural, scientific and other achievements of the peoples of Russia among Russian (Russian-speaking) diasporas abroad, the organization and conduct of events aimed at this in Russia and abroad». The Foundation finances, to varying degrees, all Kremlin-controlled Russian-language media in the world, including the publishing house of Natalia Kardash’s Herald of Cyprus.

In 2016, at the WARP congress, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev awarded the newspaper Vestnik Cyprus «for its great contribution to the preservation of the Russian language and culture, as well as to the consolidation of compatriots abroad».

In 2021, the Russian Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) presented Natalia Kardash with its departmental award — Honorary Badge of Rossotrudnichestvo «For Friendship and Cooperation». As it is said in the official congratulation, «Publishing House «Vestnik Cyprus» is a permanent informational sponsor of projects of the Russian House in Cyprus (RCSC Nicosia) and contributes to the promotion of the activities of Rossotrudnichestvo» — said in the official congratulation of the department. In other words, Rossotrudnichestvo admits that it is rewarding Kardash for acting in the interests of Russia as an agent of influence. A commendable candor.

With Alina Radchenko (right), representative of Rossotrudnichestvo in the Republic of Cyprus

The Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots of Cyprus (CCRCC), to which Natalia Kardash belongs, is the most influential of the central emigrant organizations created by Moscow. It is the local branch of the World Congress of Russian Compatriots (WCRC), established in 2001 in Moscow for the ideological consolidation of Russian emigrants. In Cyprus, CSRRC has existed since 2008. It is controlled by Rossotrudnichestvo and the Russian Embassy, which in reality means special services.

In the huge crowd of Russian agents of influence in Cyprus, whose activities are linked to the Russian Embassy and «Russian House» (Rossotrudnichestvo’s representative office), Kardash stands out for her capabilities, influence and connections with both pro-Russian pseudo-public organizations that play the role of agents of influence, as well as with the business and political circles of Cyprus. This makes her undoubtedly one of Russia’s most valuable agents of influence in Cyprus.

As a member of the CCRCC , it is responsible for the hostile activities of this organization against the Republic of Cyprus.

As a member of WARP, it is responsible for disseminating Russian state propaganda and disinformation to the European Union.

Its membership in the European Russian Alliance is also of obvious interest in the context of investigations into the hostile activities of Russian intelligence services against the Republic of Cyprus and the European Union.

Tatiana Zhdanok (center) and Natalia Kardash (first left) as part of the ERA delegation to Cyprus, in March 2018. Natalia Kardash is the organizer of the visit.

Another poignant moment. In 2005, Kardash became a member of the presidential pool and accompanied Cypriot presidents Tassos Papadopoulos, Demetris Christofias, and Nicos Anastasiades during their official visits. She was granted Cypriot citizenship in 2013.

«Since 2005, as editor-in-chief of one of the country’s leading newspapers, I have accompanied the presidents of the Republic of Cyprus on their foreign trips. In 2006 I visited the Kremlin for the first time: we journalists were even allowed to photograph the negotiations — and I saw the Russian president for the first time in my life at a distance of three or four meters. It was a huge event for me: a provincial teacher from Anapa at the presidential talks in the Kremlin… It was hard to realize. Then I got involved, got used to it, and was no longer as surprised as I was during my first visits. But I always appreciated the opportunity to travel with the president of the country, and the information that was shared with me, and the life experience that I gained during such trips,» Kardash shares her memories.

Key in those words, «appreciated the opportunity to travel with the president of the country, and the information that was shared with me…» An invaluable agent.

With Nicos Anastasiades, President of the Republic of Cyprus

How a Russian citizen, undoubtedly linked to the Russian security services, gained access to the presidential pool of a European Union member state and how the Cypriot security service allowed it is an open question. What damage Kardash was able to do to the interests and security of Cyprus on the instructions of her handlers in the Russian security services remains to be seen.


Original: CDN.