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Russian “Assassination Unit” Linked to Havana Syndrome

New reports claim to have found a potential origin for the mysterious "Havana Syndrome" that's said to have affected American and Canadian agents — but questions remain about whether the US government agrees.

In a five-year investigation conducted with the help of Germany's Der Spiegel and the independent Russian exile outfit The Insider, CBS' 60 Minutes reports that the strange neurological symptoms associated with Havana Syndrome seem to be linked to a secretive Russian "assassination unit."

Named for the first reported instances in 2016 occurring near the US embassy in Havana, Cuba, these "anomalous health incidents," as the American military calls them, have been said to affect personnel in China, Germany, Austria, and Vietnam, as Axios helpfully rounded up.

As reports indicate, spies and diplomats from the US and Canada have reported a constellation of bizarre symptoms, ranging from ear-ringing and hearing loss to vertigo and cognitive dysfunction, with little in common about the sufferers save for their top-secret government jobs.

Since then, there have been all kinds of potential explanations for the symptoms, with the prevailing theory being that it was some sort of directed microwave or acoustic attack. Those theories have been complicated by the government's own repeated denials that the syndrome was caused by foreign attacks.

This new reporting, which comes just two weeks after a pair of studies by government scientists that found Havana Syndrome had no long-lasting effects in the brains of sufferers, suggests that attacks may have occurred even earlier than previously reported — though details about the who and why are still murky.

Indeed, as the trifecta of outlets report, a similar set of symptoms happened to at least four Americans in Frankfurt in 2014 and also to three agents who'd been stationed in Ukraine — but the "hits," as the reports call them, only occurred after they'd left that country.

As The Insider detailed in its own report about the investigation, an American named Mark Lenzi claimed that he and his family had all suffered similar attacks, which that outlet describes as "something akin to a strong energy beam." That man and his whole family, who'd previously been in Guangzhou, China, all failed brain injury tests and were compensated "more than a million dollars because of our diagnosed traumatic brain injuries," he told the outlet.

What's more, the outlet claims that as recently as July 2023, a Department of Defence official was said to be hit with a similar energy attack during a NATO summit in Lithuania that was also attended by President Joe Biden.

Although The Insider is said to have identified officials associated with "Unit 29155," the alleged assassination unit that's said to be part of Russia's GRU state intelligence agency, the outlet explains these links primarily with call logs, car rentals, arrests, and hearsay. While there certainly are patterns demonstrated by the exile outlet, the evidence it provides is tenuous enough to provide ample plausible deniability — which is exactly what the Kremlin did when asserting that it has nothing to do with Havana syndrome.

"This is not a new topic at all; for many years the topic of the so-called 'Havana syndrome' has been exaggerated in the press," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told the press in the wake of the new reporting, "and from the very beginning it was linked to accusations against the Russian side."

Although an ex-Pentagon official did tell The Insider that he believed Russia was behind these attacks, the US government itself has not responded to the latest reports. We've reached out to the DOD, but thus far the official silence only serves to further complicate the already-complex debacle of Havana syndrome.

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