Investigation: Russian special services are involved in the emergence of “Havana syndrome” in American diplomats

Oleksandra Opanasenko

Employees of military unit No. 29155 of the Main Directorate of the General Staff (GRU) of Russia may have been involved in the so-called Havana syndrome among American diplomats and secret service workers. They may have been using a secret weapon that caused these symptoms.

This is stated in the investigation conducted by The Insider, the "60 Minutes" show, the American channel CBS News, and the German magazine Der Spiegel.

In 2016, dozens of US diplomats working in Cuba began to complain of specific symptoms: headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, etc. The symptoms started after they heard a strange sound. Subsequently, this was called the "Havana syndrome". Later, it was found among US diplomats and military personnel in other countries. A multi-year investigation did not allow the American special services to connect the manifestation of these symptoms with the use of any weapon.

According to the journalistsʼ investigation, the symptoms of the "Havana syndrome" manifested themselves in the same periods and in the same places where the GRU agents from military unit No. 29155 came. It is this unit that is associated with the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Great Britain and a businessman Omelyan Gebreva in Bulgaria. The nerve agent "Novachok" was used to poison them.

Journalists studied data on the flights of GRU agents — this made it possible to establish a correspondence between the arrivals of GRU agents and the first manifestations of the "Havana syndrome" in 2014 and the cases that happened after that in Europe and China.

In particular, in the fall of 2014, a group of GRU employees was in Geneva. In November of that year, an employee of the American consulate in Frankfurt experienced sudden nausea, dizziness, and auditory hallucinations. Later, she recognized from the photo the GRU employee Yehor Gordienko, who "walked around the residential complex intended for consulate employees and photographed the area."

In 2016 and 2017, a group of GRU agents found themselves in China, where the Russian side was organizing the Silk Road rally. Reports of cases similar to the "Havana syndrome" coincided with the visits of Russian agents. The symptoms were then reported by an IT specialist from the State Department in Shanghai, as well as by a group of Americans working in Guangzhou.

And in 2021, an employee of the American embassy in Tbilisi felt the impact of powerful sound radiation, after which she developed symptoms of "Havana syndrome". Later, she recognized the GRU agent Albert Averʼyanov, the son of the commander of the military unit Andriy Averyanov, by the photo — before the manifestations of the "Havana syndrome", the diplomat noticed him near her house.

The 60 Minutes report mentions that during the NATO summit in Lithuania last year, a "high-ranking employee" of the US Department of Defense felt the symptoms of "Havana syndrome" and sought medical help.

Journalists also found a document confirming that Ivan Terentiev, deputy commander of GRU unit No. 29155, received a state order to study "potential possibilities of non-lethal acoustic weapons during military (combat) operations in the city." It is not known what kind of weapon it is.

If we are talking about weapons that use sound waves, then we could be talking about infrasonic weapons — they work at a long distance and are supposed to cause panic in the opponent, or about waves of the audible spectrum, which have a stunning effect. It could hardly be ultrasound, which is quickly absorbed or dissipated. But it is possible that the weapon was called acoustic for another reason: microwave radiation by the human ear under certain conditions can be transformed into an acoustic signal ( the Frey effect ). It is this effect, most likely, that took place in the case of the "Havana syndrome".

The investigators point out that although there is no direct evidence in favor of the involvement of GRU in the use of "acoustic weapons", now the American authorities may rethink their attitude to the "Havana syndrome". After all, in 2023, the US intelligence services did not find evidence of the involvement of foreign countries in its appearance.

At the time, American investigators looked closely at approximately 1,500 cases in 96 countries and found no credible evidence of a foreign weapon that could have caused the symptoms described, or a listening device that could have accidentally triggered the "Havana syndrome."

American investigators concluded that most of these cases have various causes, from environmental factors to undiagnosed diseases. However, journalistsʼ sources claim that such conclusions are made in the US because they do not want to admit possible failures in the protection of Americans.