In the process of this investigation, Bellingcat and its partners have obtained conclusive evidence that the suspect – whose real identity is still being sought by our team – traveled to Berlin under a cover identity with the active support of the russian state that created a comprehensive, back-dated paper-trail for this fictitious persona in order to help him obtain the necessary travel and insurance documents, and – crucially – a Schengen visa.
These findings preclude the hypothesis that this was an organized crime operation, or even a semi-official operation that received only limited support from individual corrupt officials.
The operation was highly likely state-sponsored on the fact that he was issued a valid, fully registered international travel passport in the name of a non-existing actual person, and was able to cross the russian border, suggesting his fake identity was also entered into the central passport database. Further, following the arrest his data was removed from the passport database, which – as well as the issuance of the passport – could not have happened without state involvement.
Additional investigation has found that the involvement of the russian state in creating a documentary footprint for the non-existent identity of “Vadim Andreevich Sokolov” is more wide-spread and comprehensive than previously thought. Based on this additional evidence, the concept that this operation may have been set up without the full endorsement of the state apparatus is implausible.