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Investigation unveils extent of Russian spying in Belgium

10:50 19/04/2023

Russia seemingly conducts more espionage in Belgium than in any other country in Europe, according to an investigation by the Belgian newspaper De Tijd in collaboration with other European media.

Nowhere else on the continent does Russia have so many spy antennas on its embassy buildings, according to the investigation – called Espiomats.

On the roofs of the Russian embassy buildings in Uccle there are no less than 17 satellite dishes, in addition to other antennas and numerous pieces of equipment that Russians can use for both communication and espionage.

Nowhere near that number of satellite dishes are needed for its own secure communications, according to Espiomats.

Satellite dishes can be used to intercept satellite phone calls, while other antennas can also intercept aeronautical, maritime, military and police communications.

But Astrid, the telecom operator of the Belgian police and other security services, assured that these communications have been encrypted since 2011, even if hijacking and new eavesdropping techniques can never be ruled out.

Justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) confirmed that state security “has also already established that the amount of equipment on the roofs of the Russian embassy is considerable,” but says it is not easy to verify exactly what equipment the Russians have installed.

Written by Helen Lyons