Paging Mr. Bond—Western security officials say they have uncovered the existence of an elite Russian military intelligence unit dedicated to destabilizing Europe, the New York Times reports. The officials say Unit 29155 was behind a coup attempt in Montenegro, an effort to cause a political crisis in Moldova, and attempts to assassinate a Bulgarian arms dealer, as well as last year's poisoning of a former Russian double agent in Britain. Officials say the top-secret unit, part of Russia's GRU military intelligence agency, has been operating for at least a decade, but European security agencies only recently realized that incidents thought to have been unrelated operations had been carried out by the unit as part of a wide-ranging mission to undermine the West.
"This is a unit of the GRU that has been active over the years across Europe," one European security official tells the Times. "It’s been a surprise that the Russians... have felt free to go ahead and carry out this extreme malign activity in friendly countries. That’s been a shock." Retired US military attaché Peter Zwack says he was previously unaware of the unit, whose operatives are said to be war veterans skilled in sabotage. "I think we had forgotten how organically ruthless the Russians could be," Zwack says. But officials find two things puzzling about Unit 29155: It appears to have a relatively low budget, and most of its missions—at least the ones security officials know about—have been failures. (Read more Russia stories.)