Ex-Green Beret’s First Act Of Collusion With Russian Spies Involved American Nuns

  • A former Army Green Beret told the FBI last year of repeated contacts he had with Russian intelligence officers from 1996 to 2011, according to court documents released Thursday. 
  • Peter Debbins, who went by the code name Ikar Lesnikov, disclosed his Russian spy links in a statement to the FBI on July 11, 2019. 
  • Debbins said that a Russian intelligence officer tasked him with collecting the names of four American nuns in Russia. 
  • Debbins was arrested last week and charged with conspiring with the Russian spies. 

Former Army Green Beret Peter Debbins’ first act of collusion with Russian intelligence officers occurred in 1996 as a college student, when he provided a Russian spy with the names of four American nuns from a church in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

For the next 15 years after that fateful turn, Debbins would provide information under the code name Ikar Lesnikov to officers with Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU.

Debbins, 45, revealed his secret work for the GRU in a statement to the FBI on July 11, 2019.

Debbins volunteered the information to the FBI in hopes of resolving a review to renew his top secret security clearance. The plan may have backfired as Debbins was arrested last week on charges that he conspired to spy for Russia through 2011.

Federal prosecutors revealed Debbins’ written statement and his resume in a court filing this week.

According to ABC News, Debbins’ attorney argued for his release on bail at a hearing on Thursday, saying that Debbins had voluntarily provided information to investigators in eight interviews over the past 13 months. (RELATED: Ex-Green Beret Accused Of Spying For Russia Maintained Access To US Secrets For Years)

Thomas Traxler, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, said during Thursday’s hearing that charges were delayed in Debbins’ case because investigators had to corroborate the information in the statements he gave the FBI last year. A federal magistrate judge handling the case denied Debbins bail, ABC reported.

Debbins was a student and ROTF officer at the University of Minnesota when he made his first contact with a GRU officer in Chelyabinsk.

Debbins’ mother was born in the Soviet Union, and his wife is from Chelyabinsk, according to the indictment against him.

According to Debbins’ written statement, at a meeting at a Russian military hotel in December 1996, a GRU officer named Vitaliy tasked him with collecting the names of four nuns at a local Catholic church that Debbins attended.

Debbins also told the FBI he signed a statement “that I want to serve Russia,” and was given the code name Ikar Lesnikov.

Belgrade, Serbia - January 17, 2019 : Vladimir Putin, the President Russia attending press conference (Shutterstock/Sasa Dzambic Photography)

Belgrade, Serbia – January 17, 2019 : Vladimir Putin, the President Russia attending press conference (Shutterstock/Sasa Dzambic Photography)

Debbins, who lives in Gainesville, Va., served in the U.S. Army from 1998 through 2005. He was in the U.S. Army Reserves through 2010.

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