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Is Russia behind the “Havana Syndrome”?

Drowsiness, vision problems and headaches: Numerous US diplomats suffer from “Havana syndrome”. Where the problems come from is unclear. According to research, a trail leads to Russian military intelligence. Moscow denies.

According to media reports, Russian secret services could be behind the unexplained health problems of numerous US diplomats known as “Havana syndrome”. Journalists from “The Insider”, CBS and “Spiegel” found evidence that members of Special Unit 29,155 of the Russian military intelligence service GRU could have triggered the incidents – with so-called energy weapons.

The journalists come to a different conclusion than a report by the US secret services published in March 2023. According to intelligence coordinator Avril Haines, the report found that the responsibility of an “adversary state” for the incidents was “highly unlikely.”

According to previous findings, the first cases of “Havana Syndrome” appeared among US diplomats in the Cuban capital in 2016 – this is how it got its name. Many Canadian and U.S. diplomats and their families in Havana suffered from health problems such as dizziness, fatigue and headaches, as well as hearing and vision problems. Suspicions against Russia have already been raised in this context in the past.

According to the report, the first cases in Germany

Later, cases of diplomats and secret service employees who were deployed in China, Germany, Australia, Russia, Austria and the US capital Washington also became known.

According to the research, the first cases of the syndrome could have occurred as early as 2014 – in Frankfurt am Main. At that time, an employee of the US consulate in the city fell unconscious after feeling something that “resembled a strong beam of energy.”

According to “Spiegel”, the reporters researched the incidents “for years”. They interviewed victims and experts, evaluated internal documents and followed the trail of suspected Russian secret service agents. The research has now shown that Russian secret service agents were researching acoustic weapons. It was also possible to identify possible perpetrators: They are therefore presumably in the ranks of Russian secret services.

Russian government calls report “baseless”

In Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the reports as “baseless,” according to a report by the AFP news agency. The issue had been “talked about in the press for many years,” but no one had “ever published any convincing evidence.”

According to AFP, US experts had already published a report in 2022 that electromagnetic energy and ultrasound emitted from a short distance could have caused the symptoms in question. The following year, the intelligence report said there was “no credible evidence” of the use of such weapons in connection with the “Havana Syndrome.”

Unit 29.155 of the Russian secret service GRU, which is said to have triggered the attacks with so-called energy weapons, is responsible for foreign operations. She is accused of several attacks outside Russia – including the attempted poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, UK in 2018.

Apparently 1,500 people suspected of being affected came forward

According to the news magazine “Spiegel”, US authorities officially speak of unusual health incidents in “Havana Syndrome”. President Joe Biden's government is compensating the victims under the “Havana Act” – but attributes the suffering to “pre-existing conditions, conventional diseases and environmental factors.”

So far, around 1,500 potential sufferers have come forward. According to “Spiegel”, US government circles estimate that only 150 cases can actually be traced back to the “Havana syndrome”.

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