¶1. (SBU) Summary: A recently appointed Russian cultural attaché to Mexico City was found dead following a police raid on a warehouse.  While an investigation is still underway, sources appear split on whether the death was narco-related, involved espionage, or something else entirely.  End summary.

The Raid
¶2. (SBU) Last week on September 16th at approximately 3:30am, officers with Assistant Attorney General’s Office for Special Investigations on Organized Crime (SIEDO)raided a warehouse in the Coyoacán borough of Mexico City.  Police had received a tip that the Los Similares cartel was using an abandoned electronics warehouse as a drop house for drug trafficking.  However, upon arriving at the warehouse, authorities discovered it void of both drugs and cartel members.  Upon closer inspection they discovered a dead body that was later identified as Ivan Bogdanov, a cultural attaché for the Russian government assigned to Mexico City.  Bogdanov’s skull was caved in by what appeared to be an ice axe.

(Comment: While it does snow in the mountains surrounding Mexico City, an actual snowfall in downtown MC hasn’t occured since January 12, 1967.  This leads one to believe that the use of an ice axe in the murder was most likely not a weapon of convenience.  End comment.)

Ivan Bogdanov

¶3. (U) Ivan Bogdanov was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia on June 8th, 1989.  His father, originally from Mexico, married his Russian mother in 1977.  Ivan attended the Saint Petersburg State University where he received a degree in Art History.  Upon graduating, he worked as an administrative assistant for the Russian embassy.  He eventually went on to become the cultural attaché for Mexico City.  The usual goal of a cultural attaché is to work with foreign governments to promote the cultural aspects of their homeland.  Occasionally, they receive diplomatic status.  Ivan Bogdanov did not.

¶4. (U) Bogdanov was based in Mexico City for two years prior to his murder.  Bogdanov had been working with the GOM to catalogue written works by Leon Trostsky, Marxist revolutionary and founder of the Red Army.  The documents were meant to be put on display in the Leon Trotsky Museum, located in Coyoacán.  In his final years, Trotsky received political asylum in Mexico and lived in Mexico City from 1939 to 1940.  He was assassinated by the NKVD (Joseph Stalin’s police organization) in Mexico City on August 20th, 1940.

Ties to Espionage

¶5. (C) Some sources within the GOM have suggested that Ivan Bogdanov may have been gathering sensitive intelligence for the Russian government.  The Russian government has denied all claims and the GOM has refused to identify what the sensitive intelligence referred to.  In the past cultural attachés were often associated with intelligence communities but confirmed instances of such have been extremely rare since the 1940s.  More often, governments prefer to use spies with the smallest possible ties to their own country.

¶6. (C) That said, according to logbooks obtained from MI5 in the UK, during college, Ivan Bogdanov once dated the cousin of former FSO officer, Andrei Lugovoy.  Lugovoy is believed to be responsible for the 2006 radiation poisoning of author Alexander Litvinenko.  Prior to his death, Litvinenko wrote two books accusing the Russian secret service of staging terroristic acts to bring Vladimir Putin to power.  UK authorities have been unable to prosecute Andrei Lugovoy – Initially, the Russian government refused extradition and later, Lugovoy was elected to the Duma (Russian parliment) through which he receives immunity from prosecution.

Ties to Narco-Violence

¶7. (SBU) Until recently, Mexico City was considered much safer than other similarly sized cities, particularly Ciudad Juarez and Monterrey.  There was little cartel presence and most crimes were petty.  However, in recent years MC has seen an increase in cartel-related violence.  While not yet at the levels of those cities previously mentioned, both homicides and assaults have jumped nearly seventy percent this year.  One reason for the violence is that MC has long been used as a haven for drug lords to live in relative cosmoplitan anonymity.  For a time, the city was even treated as an unspoken neutral territory.  However, as more cartel leaders and high-ranking cartel members moved to the area, clashes between rival groups and assassination attempts increased dramatically.

¶8. (SBU) During his time in Mexico City, Ivan Bogdanov is believed to have been involved in a relationship with Maria Albarez, a local journalist who has written several articles critical of the cartels – specifically Los Similares and La Muerte.  While cartels are known to target journalists who write about them, news agencies in Mexico City have suffered significantly fewer attacks when compared to those in cities like Ciudad Juarez and Monterrey.  The only reported incident against Maria Albarez was a police report of her car being set on fire while parked in a garage.  It’s unclear if that was related in any way to the articles she wrote.

¶9. (SBU) Since Bogdanov’s murder, police have been unable to locate Maria Albarez.  Her employer at Los Tiempos (a newspaper owned by MexTel) stated she hasn’t shown up to work for three weeks.

¶10. (SBU) While it might appear that Ivan Bogdanov’s murder might have had something to do with his relationship with Albarez, some of the facts don’t line up.  According to police officials, Ivan’s brother claimed that Ivan and Maria broke off their relationship more than four months ago.  In addition, based on phone and email records, they haven’t been in contact since.  It’s still possible that Ivan’s death may be drug-related but police have been unable to deny or confirm as of this post.

Missing Documents
¶11. (SBU) On December 5th, a source in the Russian embassy told investigators that before his death Bogdanov claimed to have discovered previously missing writings by Leon Trotsky.  While the source had no details on the supposed writings, he stated that Bogdanov claimed “they would have a tremendous effect on the current Russian government”.  GOM officials said they have been unable to locate any such documents and went so far as to publicly doubt their existence.

¶12. (SBU) Another element of note is the manner in which Ivan Bogdanov was murdered.  As stated above, he suffered numerous blows to the skull from what appeared to be an ice axe.  This is identical to the manner in which Leon Trotsky was assassinated.


¶13.  The motivation and suspect behind the murder of Russian cultural attaché Ivan Bogdanov remains unresolved.  It’s unclear if the crime involved Bogdanov’s possible ties to narco-violence, espionage, his work in the Russian embassy, or something else entirely.  Moreover, given the current state of rising crime in Mexico City and the capabilities of its police force, it’s doubtful the crime will be solved anytime in the near future, if at all.  End comment.

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