The Russian embassy in Budapest could have technical devices that allow them to eavesdrop on conversations via radio waves in a 30km large radius. Similar devices have been located in other countries as well.
Why do Russian embassies and diplomatic buildings have radio antennas on top of their roofs? According to the investigative journalist portal VSquare they are in fact specialised equipment for signals intelligence (SIGINT). In an international investigation, VSquare and other portals successfully identified 182 antennas on 39 buildings in Europe, not just in Hungary, but in Poland, Sweden, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Portugal.
Alongside the antennas white booths or wooden sheds are also located in the buildings, which are housing other sophisticated surveillance devices. According to VSQuare, the one located on top of the Russian embassy building in Budapest is made of wood. Russians placed surveillance antennas on 3 different buildings in Budapest. They were spotted at the Russian embassy, the Rustrade trade representation site and the Russian Cultural Centre. According to former Hungarian security officers who were asked by VSquare, all three locations are well-known to Hungarian counterintelligence as nests of Russian espionage. “When there’s a protest nearby, Russians are capable of monitoring phone traffic and collecting the data and identifiers like IMEI numbers of nearby mobile phone devices,” a former counterintelligence officer told the site.
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Counterintelligence is prepared to act against Russian spying activities
Former counterintelligence officers said that the fact that Russians are placing surveillance devices on their rooftops is nothing new to local counterintelligence forces. However, they mention that Russians have been able to surveil radio wave activity within a radius of about 30 km from the Russian embassy located on Bajza Street in District VI. The embassy is located just a couple of streets from the governing Fidesz party’s main headquarters. This means that with their technology, they have the ability to eavesdrop on GSM mobile phone conversations in all of Budapest.
“You can’t really do anything (about it), it’s Russian territory. At most, turn off or leave the phone at home when you see that their rooftop looks like Baikonur” – a Hungarian counterintelligence officer told investigative journalist Szabolcs Panyi back in 2017 after local protests against Russian influence.
Interestingly, the article of VSquare came to light just days after it has been announced that new Israeli spyware was identified in use in Hungary.