The New York Times reported that the documents showed that a senior separatist leader traveled to Russia in 2019 to seek help, and shortly after that a fierce protest group appeared in the region.
The European Union and the United States rejected the separatists’ pleas for support, but the door was apparently open in Moscow, according to the newspaper.
The envoy, Josep Luis Alai, who was a senior adviser to former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, met current Russian officials, former intelligence officers and the grandson of a former KGB spy.
The Catalan official was accompanied on all his travels in Russia, a Russian businessman married to a Catalan woman.
According to the newspaper, the purpose of the visit was to secure Russia’s help in separating Catalonia from the rest of Spain, according to a European intelligence report, which the newspaper said it had seen.
In response to the report, the Catalan leader said the visit was part of regular communication with foreign officials and journalists, describing the “request for Russia’s help” as a fairy tale created by Madrid.
The newspaper said that outreach to the separatists fits with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy of trying to sow chaos in the West by supporting divisive political movements.
The newspaper pointed out that the Catalan official met with officials involved in the war waged by the Kremlin against the West, a war that includes propaganda and disinformation, secret financing of subversive political movements, hacking and information leakage.
The newspaper pointed out that the Spanish authorities had previously revealed that a specialized Russian military intelligence group called Unit 29155, which was linked to coup and assassination attempts in Europe, was present in Catalonia around the time of the referendum.
The newspaper said that it had seen a secret report from the Spanish Civil Guard, which says that Josep Luis was involved in the creation of the protest group, whose movements began immediately after the visit.
It is noteworthy that Madrid pardoned and released nine separatist officials convicted for their role in the separatist attempt in October 2017, in preparation for the revival of dialogue with Catalonia.
And the new Catalan president, Pierre Aragones, announced last June that dialogue with the Spanish government would resume in the third week of September, after nearly four years of the region’s secession attempt, which was considered one of the worst political crises in Spain in recent decades.