Moscow is in cahoots with the Catalan authorities, a cryptocurrency plot was masterminded by a Russian group and 10,000 Russian troops would be flown to Catalonia to aid the newly-declared independent republic. All three elements were included by Barcelona’s Examining Court 1 in the judicial file of Operation Volkhov, which led to the arrest of twenty-one people on Wednesday for allegedly misusing public funds to bankroll Catalonia’s independence bid. The Russian embassy in Spain took the opportunity to crack a joke, especially since the Guardia Civil believe it is proven beyond doubt that the Kremlin tried to destabilise the Spanish state in the autumn of 2017 by spreading fake news in support of Catalonia’s secession efforts. “Reports on Spanish media about the arrival of 10,000 Russian troops in Catalonia are incomplete. That figure is missing two zeros” was the message posted on the embassy’s official Twitter account and in a note on its website.
But the Russian embassy in Madrid went even further with another ironic observation about the means of transport they would use to fly the soldiers to Catalonia. “Our troops will fly in on Mosca and Chato planes, the [early Soviet-era] aircraft assembled in Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War, which were hidden away in the mountains until the coded instructions were received to take action”.
The alleged connection between Russia and Catalonia’s independence push is hardly news and Madrid has hinted at it several times. If fact, Spain’s Audiencia Nacional court is probing whether there is any truth behind the rumours. In the case of Operation Volkhov, the subject came up in a wiretapped telephone conversation between Víctor Terradellas and Xavier Vendrell (1) and now Russia has chosen to openly mock the Spanish examining judge and the Guardia Civil.
(1) At one point Víctor Terradellas and Xavier Vendrell were both prominent figures in CDC and Esquerra, two key pro-independence parties, but have been retired from front-line politics for several years. They are both being probed by a Spanish court.