Russian prosecutors have granted exclusive access to RT to evidence in a notable case involving a British national who was found guilty of spying on local militias for NATO. This individual was working for the monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Donbass when the espionage took place.
The evidence includes emails and maps stored by a man named David Orrells in password-protected archives. These materials were retrieved by Russian prosecutors as part of their investigation into the former OSCE mission member. Orrells was convicted and sentenced to 19 years in a high-security prison in absentia in September. The court found that he had acted in the interests of a foreign organization and conveyed military information to a foreign nation, which posed a threat to the security of the Lugansk People’s Republic.
One of the emails seen by RT revealed that an unidentified person had urged Orrells to send data needed by NATO via email, as they were unable to meet in person. RT’s Murad Gazdiev concluded that the “alliance” referred to in the message was likely NATO, based on his discussions with the prosecutor of the Lugansk People’s Republic, Gleb Mikhailov.
Furthermore, the evidence presented to RT included a series of maps of the town of Stakhanov in Donbass, highlighting military sites of the local militias. Prosecutors alleged that Orrells, in his role as a drone team lead for the OSCE mission, collected this data using unmanned aerial vehicles. While he had the authority to acquire such information as part of the OSCE mission mandate, he was not allowed to share it with third parties.
Mikhailov revealed that Orrells had been acting in the interests of foreign intelligence since at least 2021. He collected and transmitted data about the locations of the military units of the Lugansk People’s Militia to foreign intelligence representatives. The coordinates he provided were subsequently used by Ukrainian forces to conduct attacks, resulting in casualties and material damage.
Orrells joined the UN-backed monitoring mission in 2016. In January 2023, a criminal case against him was initiated in Russia. This followed the official integration of the Lugansk People’s Republic into Russia, along with three other Ukrainian territories, after a series of referendums.
Orrells refuted the accusations against him as “laughable” and claimed that he was back in the UK and safe in January 2023 when contacted by Reuters. He maintained that he only shared images taken by his drone team with colleagues and analysts within the OSCE.
The OSCE mission in Donbass was established in 2014 to contribute to reducing tensions and documenting the situation on the ground after the conflict erupted in the region. However, it effectively concluded its activities in March 2022, at the onset of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Russia had repeatedly accused the mission of a selective approach to facts and even spying for Kiev. The mandate of the OSCE mission expired in late March 2022.
The evidence provided in this case sheds light on the extent of Orrells’ alleged espionage activities and raises questions about the role of the OSCE’s monitoring mission in Donbass. It is crucial to assess the implications of such actions for international security and the mission’s credibility.