Ex-Russian military bomber engineer seeks asylum at U.S. border

A spot within the U.S.-Mexico border wall is illuminated at evening, Yuma, Ariz. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP by way of Getty Photos)

A Russian army bomber engineer drove as much as the U.S. Southwest border in late December, asking for asylum and providing to disclose a few of Russia’s most intently guarded army secrets and techniques, in keeping with an unclassified Customs and Border Safety report obtained by Yahoo Information.

The person and his household arrived in an armored SUV and requested to be admitted into the U.S. as a result of he feared persecution for collaborating in anti-Putin protests in assist of Alexei Navalny, an imprisoned Russian dissident. He then informed CBP officers that he had info needed by the U.S. authorities.

He mentioned he was a civil engineer and that “his previous employment had included working … from 2018 to 2021 within the making of a specific kind of army airplane on the Tupolev plane manufacturing facility within the metropolis of Kazan in west-central Russia,” in keeping with a Jan. 11 unclassified CBP report obtained by Yahoo Information.

“He described the plane kind as ‘an assault jet’ and mentioned it ‘was known as White Swan-TU160, the biggest army plane.’”

Protesters in Düsseldorf, Germany, rally to support Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, April 21, 2021

Protesters in Düsseldorf, Germany, rally to assist Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, April 21, 2021. (Ying Tang/NurPhoto by way of Getty Photos)

The CBP report is a every day roundup of things compiled by the company’s Nationwide Border Safety Intelligence Watch and is produced to focus on rising tendencies or notable occasions for management. The middle added a remark in daring italics after the paragraph detailing the engineer’s arrival and employment and explaining why his info may very well be beneficial.

“The TU-160 White Swan, additionally recognized by the NATO reporting title ‘Blackjack,’ is reportedly probably the most superior strategic bomber within the Russian stock and has been additionally utilized in a tactical airstrike function within the Ukraine struggle. In keeping with open-source reporting, a significant new building program of an improved model of the plane in addition to an improve program of present plane acquired underway on the Tupolev facility through the previous few years,” in keeping with the unclassified “CBP Indications and Warnings Each day.”

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CBP declined to reply Yahoo Information’ questions or in any other case remark, citing company coverage “to neither verify nor converse to probably improperly disclosed inside paperwork marked as legislation enforcement delicate or for official use solely.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents

Customs and Border Safety brokers at a processing facility in Brownsville, Texas. (Eric Homosexual/Reuters)

Russian army professional Michael Kofman mentioned he had no unbiased information of this Russian engineer however spoke usually concerning the form of info somebody in his place may present.

“A person working at a protection industrial facility comparable to Tuplov may have entry to a spread of knowledge on protection industrial manufacturing, specs associated to the Tu-160 bomber and its extra just lately developed modernized variant, varied manufacturing processes, dependencies and the place their limitations lie,” mentioned Kofman, director of the Russia research program on the Middle for Naval Analyses.

“Somebody in such a place may accumulate information by advantage of the kinds of info they’re uncovered to on the job, a few of which may show beneficial,” he informed Yahoo Information.

Because the U.S. continues to foyer allies to ship army gear to Ukraine, particulars about this explicit fighter jet, which underwent copy and upgrades through the time of the engineer’s acknowledged employment, would represent beneficial info, mentioned a senior army intelligence official.

“Would a web site supervisor know in the event that they modified the reworked bombers to shoot hypersonic missiles? He would possibly. And that may be a very massive deal, if the White Swan was retrofitted to fireplace hypersonic missiles. They’re quick and launched from a lot farther away,” the official defined. “We don’t have something that may defend in opposition to hypersonic missiles — that means, Patriot programs and all the remainder of what we’re supplying Ukraine, it’s ineffective.”

A Russian Tupolev Tu-160 jet bomber

A Russian Tupolev Tu-160 jet bomber in flight. (Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Company by way of Getty Photos)

The person’s title and particulars of his arrival within the U.S. had been included in an unclassified every day roundup of things of curiosity from across the nation and the world. It’s extremely uncommon and probably unprecedented for this explicit report to incorporate the complete title and detailed info of an asylum seeker, not to mention of somebody providing up army secrets and techniques of a international adversary that hunts down and poisons, launches from home windows or in any other case kills its defectors.

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Yahoo Information is withholding his title and particulars of the place he arrived and utilized for asylum after a number of officers raised considerations concerning the man’s security.

Everybody Yahoo Information spoke to mentioned they had been stunned the person’s identification and detailed work historical past was included in an unclassified CBP report. There have been a number of categorized briefings across the time the CBP report was circulated that seem to have included info on this similar man, in keeping with three U.S. authorities officers to whom Yahoo Information learn the CBP report. The officers wouldn’t present any further particulars, citing the extremely categorized nature of international army defectors.

When somebody exhibits up at a U.S. port of entry asking for admission and claiming to have info of curiosity to the US, CBP and the Division of Homeland Safety are tasked with verifying the data offered. If the data is confirmed as true and the particular person is deemed credible, they’re then handed off to the FBI.

“The cope with a walk-in is his ID must be verified and his story checked as effectively — that might take a while,” defined one U.S. intelligence official.

An FBI agent

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“If and provided that he checks out, that means he’s who he says he’s and labored the place he mentioned he did, if that had been to occur, then the FBI would take over and whisk him away to in all probability a protected home the place he’d be questioned.”

For a couple of week and a half, CBP and the DHS labored to confirm the person’s identification and former place of employment. By round Jan. 11 he was deemed credible and of potential curiosity to the U.S., and was handed to the FBI for additional questioning, in keeping with two authorities officers.

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The DHS and the Division of Protection didn’t reply to Yahoo Information’ requests for remark. The FBI additionally declined to remark.

The engineer is believed to be contained in the U.S. and continues to be being questioned by U.S. officers. He’s seemingly being questioned concerning the restart of the Blackjack manufacturing, and the revamped or upgraded variations believed to have been labored on through the time of the Russian engineer’s employment as “web site supervisor.”

He’s additionally seemingly being requested about issues unrelated to the bomber jet, which may embody every little thing from the e-mail system, software program, staffing and producer utilized by the plane manufacturing facility — info that may very well be used to hold out focused cyberattacks or for intelligence gathering or different efforts.

“We in fact know the Russian bomber effectively. However specs, the true specs, nuclear capabilities — there are definitely issues we’d be concerned about listening to about, if this man is credible. The massive factor is: Did they retrofit it for hypersonic missiles?” a army official defined to Yahoo Information.

Espionage photo-illustration

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“I’m not saying he does [know the answer] and I’m not saying he doesn’t. I’m not even saying we all know if he does or doesn’t have that info. I’m simply saying if he had something that speaks to that, that may be vital.”

Retired CIA senior clandestine providers officer Daniel Hoffman mentioned that he didn’t suppose this Russian engineer’s case was something out of the odd.

“The man’s right here so he’ll be processed, he’ll undergo our system and so they’ll discuss to him and listen to about what he used to do and that’s it, it’s fairly easy,” Hoffman mentioned.

“You realize, you may discuss to the man about the place he used to work and see what his entry was and if there’s something beneficial. Possibly now we have that info, perhaps we don’t, I don’t know. There’s nothing extra that he’s going to do for you, it’s all historic,” Hoffman informed Yahoo Information. “This sort of factor occurs on a regular basis.”