A journalistic investigation has linked the "unexplained anomalous health incidents" known as Havana Syndrome, experienced by American diplomats, officials, and intelligence officers worldwide for more than 10 years, to Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). In 2021, one of these incidents was also recorded in Tbilisi.

The Russia-focused publication The Insider, in collaboration with 60 Minutes and Der Spiegel, spent five years on investigative journalism that was published today. Journalists were able to establish a connection between the cases of Havana syndrome detected in different regions of the world and the travels of officers from GRU unit 29155.

What "Havana Syndrome" is

Havana syndrome acquired its name following one of the most significant incidents in 2016, which occurred in Havana, the capital of Cuba. Numerous American and Canadian employees at the local consulate encountered a peculiar phenomenon. They suddenly fell ill, experiencing severe pressure and at times pain in the ears, along with nausea and panic attacks. They also reported sensations of strange sounds resembling those made by locusts. Blurred consciousness, difficulties in concentration, loss of balance, hyperacusis (heightened hearing sensitivity), and sleep disturbances are among the concerns that consulate staff have grappled with for months or even years after the incident.

Over time, it became evident that similar incidents were occurring among American diplomats, officials, and intelligence officers worldwide, often within consulate premises. Over recent years, more than a thousand complaints have been lodged by American government officials. Since 2014, cases of Havana Syndrome have been reported from Europe to Southeast Asia and Latin America. Medical examinations in many instances have revealed objective evidence of brain trauma, thereby ruling out psychosomatic causes. The exact cause of this effect is not yet established, but the main hypothesis under consideration is pulsed microwave radiation.

Until recently, US intelligence services claimed to have no information about other countries' involvement in these events. However, investigative journalists have determined that the timing and location of the attacks were linked to the travels of GRU unit 29155 officers. Two victims have seen 29155 employees before or shortly after the attacks and recognized them from photographs.

Investigative journalists also discovered that a military medical academy affiliated with the GRU was studying the clinical effects of the Havana Syndrome, and that one of the key members of Group 29155 was tasked by the Russian government to develop acoustic weapons.

Havana Syndrome in Tbilisi

One of the main focal points of the journalistic investigation is the case that occurred in Tbilisi in 2021, involving the victim, who is the wife of a US Embassy employee, and the attacker, who is the son of the commander of GRU unit 29155, Albert Averyanov.

According to the journalistic investigation, Joey (name changed) arrived in Georgia from the United States of America in February 2020 with her husband and daughter. Her husband was an attaché of the Justice Department at the United States Embassy in Tbilisi. They settled in Digomi, near the embassy. Joey is a nurse with a PhD in anesthesiology. She worked in a private American clinic in Tbilisi.

On October 7, 2021, Joey was waiting for her son to come home from school and was doing laundry on the second floor of the house. As she turned to the window while taking the clothes out of the washing machine, she suddenly felt something - something like a strong sound wave that passed through her head from the left side of the window, filling her with an all-encompassing noise and causing a terrible headache. Joey went into the bathroom, where at first her voice seemed to disappear and she began to vomit. After that, she called her husband, who arrived home soon after, accompanied by the embassy's security guards.

While waiting for her husband, Joey looked outside, noticed a strange car that she had never seen before on that street, and took a photo. She saw a tall, fair-haired, thin man near the car. A girl was standing next to him. Both of them were very well dressed, as if they were going to a wedding or a theater. When the man saw Joey taking a photo, he quickly got into the car.

From that day until now, Joey has been experiencing severe migraines every day, the likes of which she had never experienced before. Her consciousness is blurred, she finds it difficult to navigate stairs, her coordination is disturbed, and she has started experiencing problems related to the vestibular system. Joey often experiences tinnitus and has developed hearing problems. She has had such severe dizziness that sometimes she has had trouble even turning over in bed. Her hearing has become hypersensitive, and even the sound of the air conditioner sounds to her like the noise of an airplane engine.

At Johns Hopkins University, Joey was diagnosed with what was later confirmed at the University of Los Angeles: bilateral semicircular canal dehiscence, a very rare disease. It could be congenital, but then the disease would have been detected long ago, or it could be the result of trauma, but Joey had no injuries. Joey has undergone two surgeries, which have eased the symptoms but not completely, and she will need a third in the future.

American investigators could not determine what caused the incident in Tbilisi; however, as The Insider found out, officers of GRU unit 29155 were in Georgia at that time.

On September 30, 2021, the head of unit 29155, General Andrei Averianov, left Russia on a working visit. Meanwhile, his son, 21-year-old Albert Averyanov, who was employed by his father in his department a few years ago, also flew from Moscow. That day, General Averianov disconnected his phone, which made it difficult to determine his further route. The Insider has only learned that the general appeared in Moscow on October 10 - as did his son.

According to Albert Averianov's phone records, on September 30, he flew to Tashkent, where he made a call from the airport the next morning using an Uzbek mobile phone number. Forty minutes later, on October 1, at 8:40 a.m., the flight from Tashkent to Tbilisi took off from the airport.

Nine days after the last call from Tashkent - and just two days after the incident that happened to Joey - on October 9, Albert Averyanov turned his phone on again in Tashkent (as evidenced by the message "Welcome to Uzbekistan") and returned to Moscow the next day.

When Joey was shown a photo of Albert Averianov, she immediately recognized him: “When I saw this photo, I had a spontaneous reaction, I felt unwell. I can't be 100 percent sure it's the same person, but it certainly looks very similar. To this day, when I look at it, I have the same intuitive reaction,” says Joey.

According to the 60 Minutes source, there is evidence that Albert Averianov's email was accessed by someone in Tbilisi. Christo Grozev, the head of The Insider's investigative department, is certain that it was Averianov himself.

Albert Averianov did not comment on his involvement in the incident with The Insider.

"We believe that members of Unit 29155 were there to facilitate, supervise, or perhaps personally carry out attacks on American diplomats, American government officials using acoustic weapons," said Christo Grozev.

The journalistic investigation revealed that in 2021, before the incident in Tbilisi, General Andrey Averianov and his team made several more working visits, each of which coincided with episodes of the Havana syndrome.

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