The independence movements in Catalonia, at least since 2017, were not spontaneous or the simple manifestation of popular feeling. Every collective action of that size has an address that transmits orders hierarchically to an entire organization. If, in addition, that agitation destabilizes a regime, the logical thing is that the intelligence services of another power are infiltrated. There have always been professionals of the rebellion, those people who know where to act and when, or how many are necessary to be effective and how the established power and the media will react. Just read the Curzio Malaparte classic about coups. It seems proven that Russian intelligence services were involved in the latest disorders in Catalonia. It is part of their geopolitical conception and what they call "hybrid warfare"; that is, to weaken the enemy by opening internal fractures, controlling his resources, playing with his external image and financing his "unruly." The purposes of these intelligence services are multiple, and in the case of the Russians, too. The same happened during the Spanish Civil War, fortunately saving distances, when Soviet spies intervened. The objective was not to know the plans of the Francoist troops, or of the Germans and Italians in Spain, which might have been the canonical thing, but to eliminate the Trotskyists and train the PCE. The Spanish secret services were very scattered.
The Russian who tried to kill Franco
In 1930 General Mola had created the Political and Social Research Brigade, which during the Republic grew a lot for the purpose of monitoring leftist revolutionaries and coup leaders of all kinds. More focused abroad was the Special Service Section of the Central General Staff, created by Manuel Azaña when he was Minister of War, between 1931 and 1933, but which was inoperative in July 36. The new Republican ambassadors did what they could to obtain information , until they were centralized in the Diplomatic and Special Information Service in March 1937. The Francoist side organized its own agencies, such as the Military Information Service, created in September 1936. A year later they were all controlled by Colonel Ungría, for which he counted on the advice of Italy and Germany. In contrast to this unit, Republican services were more divided and politicized. In the Republican rearguard, up to five official intelligence organizations acted. Only one of them was controlled by the Soviets. It was the Military Investigation Service (SIM) of the Ministry of Defense, created by the socialist Indalecio Prieto in August 1937 following the instructions of the NKVD, the Soviet Political Police, dedicated to repression and counterintelligence. Nothing that happened in Europe was foreign to the homeland of the proletariat. The brand-new USSR was to be the beacon of the world revolution, organized by the Communist International, the Komintern, always under the dictates of Moscow. Russian espionage, and its interference, were widespread, to the point that the possibility that the NKVD knew about the coup of 36 and kept silent is considered. Stalin's policy was to preserve his power, not to help the world revolution, as propaganda said. In 1936 he had initiated the "Great Purge" to eliminate any opponent of the "Father" Stalin. The number of "purged" is difficult to establish accurately. In addition to arrests, tortures and murders of anonymous people, it was staged with three major trials against the alleged traitors to the revolution; specifically, Zinoviev, Bukharin, Kamenev and Trotsky. They were "rightists", collaborators of the powers that wanted to end the path to communism. In that international fight against Trotskyism, the NKVD decided to send to Spain one of its agents, the hitman Lev Nikolsky, who operated in our country with the name of Alexander M. Orlov. The mission of this communist was not to reinforce the intelligence service of the Spanish Republic or to help Indalecio Prieto's SIM. Orlov's goal was another: to make the PCE the true center of power in the front-popularist side. Soon the Soviet gathered a group of ten agents, among which Gerö, Grigulevich, Koltsov and Kim Philby stood out. The latter had a special mission: to kill Franco. In order to fulfill his objective, he impersonated the "The Times" correspondent. He arrived in Seville in 1937 with the group of journalists destined to cover the war on the rebel side. Philby had no killer ways. He was a stuttering, elegant boy, titled by Cambridge, unable to raise suspicion. He slipped into Franco's surroundings thanks to an accident. A bomb exploded near his car, survived, and Franco received it in Burgos to deliver a decoration. The mission of killing the rebel chief was suicidal. I didn't even know how to handle a gun. He was a survivor; in fact, he was a double spy for thirty years. Philby disobeyed the order, and in return was passing information to the Soviets of the German and Italian plans. Unlike Philby, the rest of communist spies did know how to kill. Orlov's men dedicated themselves to organizing the PCE, training informants and recruiting agents who would work in Spain, Europe and Latin America. With that network, and moving freely through the deranged Republican territory, Orlov persecuted the Trotskyists. The NKVD in Spain made war on POUM, the party inspired by Trotskyism that denounced the crimes of Stalin. The plan to end them was elaborated by Orlov and was approved by Moscow. It consisted of creating false documents that involved the POUM with Falange, and consequently with Germany and Italy. This would allow their persecution, detention and liquidation. The document would be coded following the keys of the Francoist intelligence service to make it seem authentic. The trigger was the invitation of Andreu Nin, leader of the POUM, to Trotsky to come to Spain and the armed confrontation in Catalonia of communists against anarchists and Trotskyists. Orlov sent the false document to the counterintelligence service of the Republic.
On June 16, 1937 he was warned on two occasions that he would be arrested, to which he replied: "They will not dare." He was arrested in Barcelona, and was transferred to the building of the Iberian Communist Youth of Paseo de Gracia. From there he was taken to Valencia, and from there to Madrid. The lack of security in the prison, the fear that he was killed, advised to take him to Alcalá de Henares. Orlov's plan is that the Muscovite method – beating, not letting him sleep and threatening to kill his entire environment – would cause Nin to sign anything. It would not be like that. He was tortured and skinned, but he didn't release a word. Orlov then devised a false escape from the leader of the POUM: a group of his disguised as "fascists" stormed to rescue him, left evidence of his ideology and took Nin. They put him in a car, and at twenty kilometers he was lowered to kill him. It was worth more dead than alive. His disappearance made a great impression, and on the walls one read "Where is Nin?", To which the communists replied "In Salamanca or in Berlin!" Orlov's work only triumphed in the bloody aspect – they killed about twenty people – and little compared to the PCE or the CNT-FAI, or with what the communists later did in Poland, Finland and Hungary. Orlov did not infiltrate the high hierarchies of the republican government. He placed his agents in the army and security agencies, although he had no real power. The USSR was not limited to Orlov, but instead contacted the Intelligence Directorate of the Soviet Navy with the Spanish and the Komintern, through its Department of International Relations, closely monitored the International Brigades. The brigade members were recruited by Stalin's Russia and without sufficient training sent to the front as cannon fodder. The Spanish economy was supervised by the (Soviet) Commissioner of the People for Commerce. Added to this, of course, the Stalinist embassy and consulate in Spain.
The Soviet puppy that performed in Spain
Long before arriving in Spain, Alexander Orlov (above, an image of his passport) had already worked a name since the time of the Russian Revolution, where he joined the Red Army, becoming a counterintelligence officer of the Polish front, where he He himself was the thinking head of different sabotage operations to the enemy. In 1921 he would retire from the front line to resume his law studies in Moscow, which would be worth years later to work in the High Court. But it would be in May 1924 when he was introduced to the secret police. This would be the rise of a man who, among other actions, during the Spanish Civil War had a crucial role in the disappearance of Andreu Nin.
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