It's been revealed for the first time in a bombshell Der Spiegel report on Friday that a man found dead just outside the Russian embassy in Berlin last month was a Russian intelligence agent. Though Russia has not disclosed this, the allegation as to his identity is being made by German intelligence officials after his death under mysterious circumstances.
"The 35-year-old man's body was found early on Oct. 19, the magazine said. It said, citing security sources, that the man had fallen from an upper floor at the embassy," Reuters summarizes of the German media report.
He was officially considered a diplomat of the embassy, having been publicly listed in the position of second secretary. It's common for countries, including the United States, to place covert operatives in undercover roles as diplomatic personnel at their foreign embassies and consulates.
The man, whose name has not been given, was found at approximately 7:20 am on 19 October 2021 by police that are assigned to guard the embassy compound. Emergency paramedics arrived on the scene but could not resuscitate him.
Der Spiegel cited German intelligence sources to say that not only was the man "in fact" an undercover Federal Security Service (FSB) agent, but that he's also believed related to a top ranking FSB general. It remains however that nothing in the way of specific evidence was offered in the publication - but that the Russian's status appears to be the official view of German intelligence.
The Russian Embassy in Berlin, meanwhile, is calling the death a "tragic accident" but is no issuing any details or confirmation of specifics. According to Reuters:
Der Spiegel quoted the Russian embassy saying the incident was a "tragic accident" on which it would not comment "for ethical reasons". The embassy did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the Spiegel report.
Russian state media in reporting the incident is not disclosing or so much as acknowledging Berlin's allegation the he was a spy:
Reports said the embassy had not agreed to an autopsy being undertaken in Germany, and the body had therefore been transported to Russia. The German authorities were unable to investigate the incident due to the deceased’s diplomatic status, Der Spiegel said.
Such an instance of this mysterious death of either diplomatic personnel or spies so close to embassy grounds is almost unheard of, and is perhaps reminiscent of intense high stakes and high risk covert activity that reached its height in divided Berlin during the Cold War.
A suspected Russian spy working for the British embassy in Berlin was arrested Tuesday in connection with allegedly handing documents to Moscow. https://t.co/T5BnnEImEk— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 11, 2021
Meanwhile, though unclear if related, just months ago there was covert intrigue that caused scandal at the UK Embassy in Berlin after it was revealed that a British staffer there was spying on behalf of Russia, getting caught red-handed passing sensitive documents to Moscow for cash.