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Russian spies ‘used sonic weapon’ on American in Tbilisi

2 April 2024
The US Embassy in Tbilisi. Image via diplomacy.state.gov.

Russian spies used a sonic weapon to attack an American official’s wife in Tbilisi, an international journalistic investigation has suggested.

On Monday, Russian news site The Insider, American broadcaster CBS’s 60 Minutes, and German newspaper Der Spiegel published a joint investigation claiming to have evidence of what is known as the Havana syndrome — a condition reported by a number of US and Canadian diplomats, intelligence officers, and military personnel abroad.

Reports of Havana syndrome first appeared in 2017, when several CIA agents and US diplomats stationed in Cuba suffered from ‘strange ailments’ whose symptoms include headaches, vertigo, tinnitus, insomnia, and nausea.

The existence of the syndrome and its causes remain disputed.

In their investigation, the three organisations interviewed the wife of a US official who was purportedly targeted by Russian agents using a sonic or energy weaponry in Tbilisi in 2021.

The woman, referred to by the investigation as ‘Joy’, and her husband, a US Department of Justice attaché, were stationed in Tbilisi in early 2020.

Joy told the investigation she experienced an ‘acute ringing sound’ that felt like ‘it came through the window into [her] left ear’ whilst she was in her house’s laundry room. 

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‘I immediately felt fullness in my head, and just a piercing headache’, she said, adding that she then vomited.

Sensing that something ‘didn’t feel right’, Joy checked the house’s security camera to see if anyone was outside the building. Upon doing so, she saw a black Mercedes parked near their house with a man standing next to it, right across from the laundry room.

‘It was like he locked eyes with me. He knew what I was doing’, she recalled of the incident.

She said that she was able to photograph the man’s car and license plate before he had driven off.

In the investigation, Joy fingered Albert Averyanov, the son of Andrei Averyanov, the Russian commander of Unit 29155 of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency as the man she had seen outside her home. Unit 29155 has been linked to previous assassination and sabotage operations. 

The investigation attempted to contact Albert Averyanov for comment on the alleged attack, but the man immediately hung up.

An attack gone unnoticed

Georgia’s State Security Service did not respond to a request for comment on the alleged attack. 

The US Embassy in Tbilisi also declined to comment, referring to US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller’s comments on the report in a press briefing on Monday.

Asked about the targeting of Americans in Georgia, Miller refused to ‘comment on specific reports’, but expressed concern with the ‘destabilising actions of Russia all around the region’.

Miller also appeared to dismiss the existence of Havana syndrome, stating that the ‘broad conclusion of the intelligence community since March 2023 that it is unlikely a foreign adversary is responsible for these anomalous health incidents’.

‘We will look at new information as it comes in and make assessments inside the State Department and with our intelligence community counterparts’, he said.

Despite Washington’s current assessment of the Havana syndrome, the three media organisations claimed that they were able to geolocate the movement of operatives linked to GRU Unit 29155 to places around the world at the time of reported Havana syndrome incidents using their phone and travel records.

They additionally reported that senior members of the unit received rewards and political promotions for work related to the development of ‘non-lethal acoustic weapons’. 

Read in Armenian on CivilNet.
Read in Azerbaijani on AbzasMedia.