Former US President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida
A Russian-speaking Ukrainian with connections to Montreal is suspected of having infiltrated the entourage of former President Donald Trump at his Florida residence in Mar-a-Lago. If this scenario seems squarely inspired by a story of Russian espionage, it is because it has “all the necessary ingredients”, according to former agent of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Michel Juneau- Katsuya.
Facts first. A joint journalistic investigation by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), published on Friday, recounts that a 33-year-old woman managed to get repeatedly invited to Mr. Trump's private residence in 2021 as Anna de Rothschild, heiress to the famous European dynasty. of the same name.
During one of her visits, she took part in a round of golf with the ex-president and one of his most fervent supporters, the senator Republican Lindsey Graham.
Other guests testified that she wore high fashion clothes and a Rolex watch, that she spoke several languages and that she said she was involved in large real estate development projects.
Yashchyshyn appears alongside Donald Trump on his golf course, May 2021.
The catch is that this woman's real name is Inna Yashchyshyn. Far from being a wealthy heiress, she is the daughter of an Illinois trucker. And she is now under investigation by the FBI, presumably for her management of a charity registered with the Quebec business registrar.
The ease with which the 30-year-old managed to infiltrate the residence of a former president caused amazement in the United States. Especially since this story came to light only two weeks after an FBI search of Donald Trump's home to recover ultra-confidential documents.
The national security expert Michel Juneau-Katsuya, formerly assigned to counter-espionage of Soviet activities for CSIS, is of the opinion that this narrative framework corresponds in all respects to the practices of Russian intelligence agencies.
They do a lot of work to prepare what we call in our jargon a legend, that is to say a whole story to try to legitimize who this person is, he said in an interview on the show < em>All one morning.
Michel Juneau-Katsuya is a former Canadian Security Intelligence Service agent .
The former CSIS agent recalled the case of Anna Chapman, real name Anna Vasilyevna Kushchenko, arrested in 2010 by US authorities during the dismantling of a spy network for the benefit of the Russian Federation.
This woman had done exactly the same thing by trying to approach circles of American power to obtain specific information. We once again have a kind of modus operandi which is very similar to what we have already known, he underlined.
But Juneau-Katsuya believes Inna Yashchyshyn's case is of particular interest given Donald Trump's history with Russia.
Certainly with Trump, we have something interesting because even before he became president, he had attracted attention with his activities and his relations with the Russian state and particularly with Mr. Putin, he explained. Relatives of the former president had increased contacts with Russian intelligence agencies in the year preceding his election, at the end of 2016.
< p>“It is certain that we see here a rapprochement again, it seems to stick to his skin and it really seems to have the imprints of the external Russian intelligence services.
— Michel Juneau-Katsuya, National Security Expert
Michel Juneau-Katsuya believes that the breaches around the former president's security pose a real threat to the United States and can be partly attributed to the zeal of his associates – and even some members of the security services.
There are people in the US Secret Service who are maybe a little too partisan and maybe a little too attached to Mr. Trump. There is definitely also the constant interference from his inner circle, his aides, who will interfere with the work of the Secret Service.
According to the security analyst, there are all the necessary ingredients here to really breach American security.
The case should by the way absolutely get CSIS's attention, given Ms. Inna Yashchyshyn's ties to Quebec's metropolis, says the expert.
The Ukrainian-born filed a sworn statement at the Montreal courthouse in February 2022, in which she claims to have been under the influence of a Russian family settled in the metropolis, namely Valeriy Tarasenko and his wife, Anna.
The one who has been a permanent resident in the United States for ten years also appears as an administrator of a charity linked to the Tarasenkos registered with the registrar businesses in Quebec, the United Hearts of Mercy.
The Sûreté du Québec confirmed to the OCCRP that it had opened an investigation into Inna Yashchyshyn in February, without however specifying the reasons.
What is perhaps not well enough known to Quebecers is how Montreal is a hub for international espionage, assures Mr. Juneau- Katsuya.
Recounting his own experience at the counterintelligence office for Soviet activities in Montreal, he judges that three-quarters of the diplomats at the Russian consulate are spies [who] are there under a misrepresentation. We know it very well and we watch what they do.