Alleged Russian Spy Worked for US Government News Agency

Pablo Gonzalez / Twitter
March 5, 2022

A Spanish journalist arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia recently worked for Voice of America, the United States government's international media organization.

Pablo Gonzalez was arrested at the Poland-Ukraine border earlier this week on charges that he was secretly working for Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU. Gonzalez, a Spanish national born in Russia, was identified as a freelance reporter for the Spanish outlets El Sixto and Publico. He has also worked as a freelance reporter for Voice of America (VOA) since at least 2020. Gonzalez helped produce a VOA segment from inside Ukraine last month, according to a Washington Free Beacon investigation.

Gonzalez’s previously unreported work could raise concerns that he used his VOA position to collect intelligence for Russia. If Gonzalez is indeed a Russian spy, it would lend credence to concerns raised by Michael Pack, who oversaw VOA during the Trump administration. Pack came under fire from Democrats when he said VOA was "a great place to put a foreign spy" given the agency’s lax security standards. VOA staffers and others in the media accused Pack of undermining the agency and putting its journalists at risk.

Poland’s internal security agency said Friday that Gonzalez was "conducting his business for Russia while taking advantage of his journalist status." The counterintelligence agency said Gonzalez collected information for Russia’s spy service during his recent stay in Poland and that he planned to continue his activities in war torn Ukraine.

Gonzalez is identified as a cameraman for a Feb. 4 Voice of America story from Dnipro, a city in eastern Ukraine. The story told of residents’ preparations for a Russian invasion of Ukraine. A reporter who worked with Gonzalez on the story cast doubt on the allegations from Polish authorities.

"The accusations against Pablo are ridiculous, I have worked with him in many places and I know he is a top-notch professional," said Ricardo Marquinia, another VOA contributor.

Gonzalez was detained two days after the VOA report by Ukrainian authorities and accused of reporting from military-controlled areas without proper accreditation, Reuters reported. He was released hours after that initial arrest.

The GRU is one of the world’s most aggressive spy agencies. It was behind the cyber attacks during the 2016 U.S. elections and is alleged to have hacked Ukrainian government websites during the current war. Reuters has reported that American intelligence officials also determined that the GRU has long operated a so-called illegals program, where undercover spies live under assumed identities in their target countries, sometimes for years.

Founded in 1942, VOA is the United States’ megaphone to the world, operating in dozens of countries that have historically stifled the free press. The United States used VOA during the Cold War to broadcast anti-Communist messages, prompting Russia and Soviet republics to jam VOA’s radio signal. Russia designated VOA as a foreign agent of the United States in 2017 in retaliation for Washington placing the same label on Russia Today.

Gonzalez reported extensively last year for VOA about the Nagorno-Karabakh war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, according to his Twitter feed and VOA’s website.

Bridget Serchak, director of public relations at VOA, confirmed that Gonzalez worked with the agency as a stringer, another term for a freelancer. Serchak told the Free Beacon that VOA is aware of Gonzalez’s arrest, and that the agency reported it "to all relevant security authorities."

Serchak told the Free Beacon that Gonzalez "last filed a story for VOA—as in reported and wrote a piece—in 2021." But she confirmed that another VOA stringer "used him as a fixer driver and back up camera from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6 this year in Donbas Donetsk."

Update Mar. 7, 9:52 a.m.: This post has been updated with additional comment from VOA.