KOSICE, Slovakia — He lived with his sick mother and never had a regular job. He had no obvious source of income and, according to his uncle, even signed up for welfare benefits as a caregiver deserving of state support.
But Bohus Garbar, down on his luck and in his early 50s, still managed to donate thousands of euros to Kremlin-friendly, far-right political parties in Slovakia. He also worked for free as a contributor to an anti-establishment website notorious for recycling Russian propaganda.
Family and friends are mystified.
“He definitely wasn’t in a state where he could support any political party,” said Mr. Garbar’s uncle, Bohuslav Garbar, a retired computer programmer in the family’s hometown of Kosice, 50 miles from Slovakia’s eastern border with Ukraine.
A Slovak security service surveillance video made public in early March, provides at least the start of an explanation: it shows his nephew receiving instructions and two 500-euro bills, a small part of what officials say were tens of thousands of euros in payments, from a Russian military intelligence officer masquerading as a diplomat at Moscow’s embassy in Bratislava, the Slovak capital.
“I told Moscow that you are such a good boy,” the Russian spy, Sergei Solomasov, can be heard telling his Slovak recruit before explaining that Moscow would like Mr. Garbar to act as a “hunter” on the prowl for people of influence willing to cooperate with Russia.
For years, European intelligence agencies have sounded the alarm over the clandestine activities of Russian spies, while regarding with suspicion those who cheerlead for Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin. Moscow routinely dismissed this as paranoid “Russophobia,” its catchall response to nearly all foreign criticism.
The invasion of Ukraine, accompanied by a barrage of transparent lies, however, has vindicated the darkest Western suspicions and accelerated efforts to uproot hidden networks of spies and their recruits.
He Was a Penniless Donor to the Far Right. He Was Also a Russian Spy.
An investigation in Slovakia has exposed how Russian clandestine operations are trying to sow discord in Europe and create sympathy for Moscow over Ukraine. KOSICE, Slovakia - He lived with his sick mother and never had a regular job.