An arrest on Friday shocked the entire nation. A 45-year-old ex-US Army active duty officer named Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins of Gainesville, VA, was arrested by the police authorities. He is accused of spying for over 15 years and passing on vital classified information to the Russian government.
Next week, Peter is scheduled to be presented at the Alexandria federal court, where he might be awarded life imprisonment.
It was at the age of 19 that Debbins had first visited Russia. For the next few years, he had visited this country repeatedly, as per indictment. He went to Russia in 1996 for the first time as a visiting college student in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. The indictment also alleges that he had met several Russian intelligence agents twice during this visit.
Debbins joined the United States Army the following year and served the Special Forces until 2005. The prosecutors further stated that he had regular meetings with Russian intelligence. Ikar Lesnikov was the code name that he is suspected of using. He allegedly signed an allegiance statement. Furthermore, he is also said to be aware of the agents working for GRU, a special Russian spy agency.
Debbins is known to have passed on crucial information to the Russian agents about the Special Forces. He is also said to have provided information on counterintelligence operatives’ names. It is alleged that a team member of the Special Forces could be cooperative. It is suspected that the Russian operatives had sought Debbins to provide them with Army field manuals, but he found it a bit risky to perform this task.
Prosecutors claim that the Russian operatives had given Debbins $1,000, the sum of which he had initially declined. He was also offered a Russian military uniform along with a cognac bottle.
However, he was stripped of his command, and his security clearance got suspended in 2004 due to a violation. This occurred while he served in Azerbaijan. The government stated that his command got restored in 2010.
Lt. Col. Emanuel Ortiz, an army spokesman, confirmed Debbins’ service years on Friday night. Before registering with the Special Forces, Debbins had served as a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) officer. He was never deployed for combat.
Ortiz stated that if any soldier provides foreign adversaries with classified information, then they betray the country and the oaths they swore. He further stated that if the facts of the case are true, then Debbins has betrayed his country and fellow soldiers.
By 2010, Debbins had resigned from active duty and worked in Minnesota for a well-known Ukrainian steel manufacturer. However, his Russian intelligence partners had urged him to join the US government that year.
He moved to Washington after leaving his army duties and worked as a Russian analyst at Fort Meade. He had also worked with a defense contractor, CACI for about 3 years, and CoSolutions as a contractor. Based in the UK, he had worked at the US European Command.
Debbin’s mother was born in the former Soviet Union. During the 2nd World War, the Germans had taken her as a captive. She and her family were taken to internment camps, where they were forced to do slave labor.
Debbins also had 17 siblings, 10 of them being adopted. While in college, he went to Russia every summer to study the Russian language. Simultaneously, he also prepared to join the United States military.
In his profile, he stated that he never got posted to Afghanistan or Iraq because he spoke fluent Russian. Rather, he served in the Balkans, in Germany, and in the Caucasus.
One of his family members stated over the phone that the allegations made were not true. They further stated that he was always dedicated to the US government. He was just proud of his Russian lineage. Moreover, the relative, who preferred to stay anonymous, claimed that the agents had misinterpreted his communications with his Russia-based elderly grandparents as nefarious due to privacy concerns.
She further iterated that Debbins had cooperated with the federal agents since last year. He went voluntarily on Friday, assuming that it would be another meeting. She felt that the government agency was abusing its power against them just because they were Russian. According to her, the actual reason is that the US government does not share friendly relations with the Russian government.