A former Army special forces officer was arrested Friday on charges that he spied on behalf of Russia for nearly 15 years, allegedly providing Russian military intelligence officers with information about his fellow soldiers and secrets about U.S. military endeavors in central Asia.
Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, of Gainesville, Va., was charged with conspiring to provide United States national defense information to agents of a foreign government.
Debbins served active duty in the Army from 1998 to 2005, and was in the Army Reserves through 2010.
A Russian intelligence officer first approached Debbins during a trip he made there in December 1996, the indictment says. Debbins, who was in the ROTC at the University of Minnesota at the time, told the officer that he was a “son of Russia” and would be willing to collect information to his Russian handler.
Debbins formalized the relationship in October 1997 by signing an agreement to work for Russia. He was provided the code name Ikar Lesnikov, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that Debbins provided the GRU with information about other soldiers in the chemical and Special Forces units in which he served. He reportedly shared the names of other soldiers so that the Russian spies could assess whether to recruit them to spy for Russia.
Debbins also allegedly provided Russian intelligence officers with details about his former Special Forces unit’s activities in Azerbaijan and Georgia, as well as U.S. Army field manuals.
Debbins also provided the GRU officers with the names of two U.S. counterintelligence officers who had sought to recruit him.
According to the indictment, Debbins told the Russian spies that he was motivated out of a love for Russia and disdain for the U.S.
“DEBBINS sought to help Russia, as he considered himself pro-Russian and a loyal son of Russia,” the indictment says. “DEBBINS thought that the United States was too dominant in the world and needed to be cut down to size.”
“Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy,” John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said in a statement announcing the indictment.
Debbins faces life in prison if convicted of the espionage charge.
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