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'Havana Syndrome' linked to Russian intelligence — report

April 1, 2024

A joint media report has said Russia's GRU intelligence agency may have used sonic weaponry to trigger "Havana Syndrome," which was first reported by US diplomats in 2016. Symptoms include headaches and bloody noses.

US embassy in Havana, Cuba
"Havana Syndrome" was first reported in 2016 at the US embassy in Cuba's capitalImage: Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images

The "Havana Syndrome" experienced by US diplomats may have been related to a Russian intelligence unit, according to a media investigation released on Monday.

The syndrome was first reported in 2016 when US diplomats in Havana reported falling ill and hearing piercing sounds at night.

Other symptoms have included bloody noses, headaches, memory lapses, dizziness and vision problems.

What did the report on the 'Havana Syndrome' say?

Diplomats may have been targeted by sonic weaponry, according to a joint report by the German news magazine Der Spiegel, the Latvia-based independent Russian news portal The Insider and the US broadcaster CBS.

They reported that an investigation spanning a year had "uncovered evidence suggesting that unexplained anomalous health incidents, also known as Havana Syndrome, may have their origin in the use of directed energy weapons wielded by members of Russian GRU Unit 29155."

The GRU is Russia's military intelligence agency. Its 29155 unit has been accused of being behind the alleged poisoning of Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom in 2018. Skripal had previously been arrested in Russia after being convicted of serving as a double agent for British intelligence.

The reports said the first "Havana Syndrome" incident may have happened earlier than 2016.

"There were likely attacks two years earlier in Frankfurt, Germany, when a US government employee stationed at the consulate there was knocked unconscious by something akin to a strong energy beam," it said.

In 2021, US Congress passed the Havana Act, which authorized government agencies to pay staff and their families affected by the "Havana Syndrome."

However, US intelligence agencies concluded in 2023 that it was "very unlikely" the syndrome was being caused by international sabotage, adding that "there is no credible evidence that a foreign adversary has a weapon or collection device that is causing [anomalous health incidents]."

Russia denies 'Havana Syndrome' allegations

The Kremlin dismissed the allegations made in the trio of media outlets' reports as "groundless."

"This topic has been talked up in the press for many years already. And from the very beginning most often it's linked to the Russian side," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

"But nobody has ever published any convincing evidence, so all this is nothing more than a groundless and unfounded accusation," he said.

sdi/sms (AFP, Reuters)