Involving intelligence agencies from three countries and suggestions of spying, counter-spying and purposeful misinformation, the news reads like a Tom Clancy novel. Major Western news outlets, including The Telegraph and The Daily Mail, report that the Russian government may have ordered the execution of ex-KGB general Oleg Erovinkin, who was found dead in the back of his car on the 26th of December, 2016. Erovinkin was employed by Putin crony Igor Sechin, the head of the Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned oil company.
A well-connected insider, Erovinkin seems an unlikely candidate for state execution. Except that some analysts think he may have been the source of ex-M16 spy Christopher Steele’s damaging dossier on Donald Trump. Bulgarian expert Christo Grozev, who specializes in security threats related to Russia, reported on his blog that Erovinkin was likely Steele’s source, or at the very least, “a person of interest.” Sechin’s name is mentioned often in the leaked dossier, presumably the informant would have been close to him as Erovinkin most certainly was.
An analysis of the news and the sequence of events in this convoluted tale of espionage suggests that American intelligence agencies used the explosive dossier as a canary trap to test the Trump administration’s integrity in keeping national secrets. A canary trap, or barium meal test as it is officially known, identifies the source of a leak by giving different versions of a classified document to different suspects and then tracking which version gets leaked.
There is still questions about who commissioned the so-far unsubstantiated dossier but its existence has been known in security circles since the summer of 2016. Donald Trump was likely briefed on the contents of the dossier in early December 2016. The fact that Putin initiated a shake-down of his inner circle to try to identify a mole or moles soon after that lends validity to the allegation of Trumps close ties to Putin.