Journalistic Investigation Reveals Alleged Russian Attacks on US Diplomats in Tbilisi

On March 31, a year-long joint investigation by 60 Minutes, The Insider, and Der Spiegel identified two cases in which US diplomats were targeted by Russian spies using acoustic weapons in Tbilisi, Georgia. 60 Minutes focuses on one of the cases in particular, with the prime suspect believed to be an Albert Averyanov, a member of the Russian intelligence unit 29155, which allegedly may have been involved in the attacks.

In the interview with 60 Minutes, the wife of the Justice Department official at the US Embassy in Tbilisi reported that on October 7, 2021, she believes that she was attacked while she was doing laundry in her home. According to her statement, she heard a sharp noise coming into the laundry room, specifying: “It just pierced my ears, came in my left side, felt like it came through the window, into my left ear.” 

After the attack, the 40-year-old woman experienced severe headaches and projectile vomiting, but the symptoms didn’t stop there. Brain fog, loss of coordination and vestibular damage, holes in her inner ear canals were the symptoms that continued to plague her. She had to undergo two surgeries on her ear and metal plates were placed in her skull.

Albert Averyanov was identified by the victim herself. According to her, after the attack, she looked at the security camera and saw an unknown vehicle parked in front of her house. She approached the vehicle and saw an unknown man standing in front of it. Later, 60 Minutes investigative partner Christo Grozev, a head of the investigations for The Insider, acquired the photo and additional evidence of Averyanov’s involvement in the attacks. When shown the photo, the woman confirmed the resemblance to the man she saw after the attack.

As for the additional evidence, Grozev was the one who discovered the secret Russian intelligence unit 29155. The unit’s involvement can be proven by an accounting document showing that a 29155 officer received a bonus for work on “potential capabilities of non-lethal acoustic weapons…”. Albert Averyanov’s name appears on travel manifests and phone records alongside known members of 29155. He’s also the son of the unit’s commander.

During the attack on the 40-year-old woman, Averyanov’s phone was turned off in Tbilisi, and sources say there’s evidence that someone in Tbilisi logged into Averyanov’s personal email during that time. Grozev believes that it was most likely Averyanov himself – and that he was in the city.

Cases of US officials being targeted by a microwave beam or acoustic ultrasound have been documented for more than a decade. White House staff, CIA officers, FBI agents, military officers, diplomats and their families are among those who believe they have been affected by the attacks, all of whom have some sort of connection to Russia. Their cases have been dubbed the “Havana syndrome,” since the first recognized case occurred in Cuba in 2016. US authorities have been reluctant to pin the blame on Russia. A US intelligence assessment published in 2023 concluded that it was “very unlikely” that a foreign adversary was responsible for the cases, but acknowledged that some intelligence agencies had only “low” or “moderate” confidence in this conclusion. Vladimir Putin’s press speaker, Dmitry Peskov has denied Russia’s involvement in the attacks.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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