"Havana syndrome": Journalist report links mysterious illness to Russian intelligence unit, Moscow denies

A joint investigation by the independent portal Insider, the German weekly Spiegel and the CBS program 60 Minutes suggests that the patients may have been targeted by Russian sonic weapons.

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The syndrome was first reported by diplomats at the US Embassy in Cuba in 2016, Photo: Getty Images
The syndrome was first reported by diplomats at the US Embassy in Cuba in 2016, Photo: Getty Images
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

A mysterious illness that has struck American diplomats in recent years may be linked to a Russian intelligence unit.

American personnel around the world with the so-called "Havana Syndrome" then reported unexplained symptoms such as dizziness.

Collaborative research of an independent portal Insider, a German weekly SPIEGEL and CBS programs 60 minutes, suggests that the sufferers may have been targeted by Russian sonic weapons.

Moscow has rejected these accusations.

US officials previously said it was unlikely that a foreign power was behind it.

But in their assessment of "anomalous health incidents," adopted last year, did not offer any alternative explanation, which angered those affected.

They also acknowledged that there were varying levels of confidence in the findings among the various intelligence agencies that participated.

The phenomenon is named after Havana, the capital of Cuba, where the first case was discovered in 2016, although a new report suggests it may have occurred in Germany two years earlier.

Affected by this condition, which included White House staff, and intelligence officers of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), complained of dizziness, headaches, difficulty concentrating and an intense and painful ringing in the ears.

More than 1.000 reports of the mysterious illness have been compiled, and dozens of cases are still officially considered unsolved.

US lawmakers have passed legislation aimed at providing support to victims - and people with confirmed brain injuries from the disease are entitled to financial compensation.

It has long been suspected that directed energy or microwaves fired from hidden devices were the cause.

That possibility is recognized in to an earlier US intelligence report.

A new media investigation alleges that operatives of Russia's military intelligence unit (GRU), known as 29155, may have targeted the brains of US diplomats with "directed energy" weapons.

It said there was evidence of the deployment of members of the unit to cities around the world at the same time that US personnel reported the incidents.

As part of the investigation, Insider, a Russia-focused portal, also reported that officers in Unit 29155 were rewarded for their work in developing "non-lethal acoustic weapons."

A US military investigator who has investigated cases of the syndrome told 60 Minutes that the common link among victims of the syndrome is a "Russian link".

"There was some perception that they were working against Russia, focusing on Russia and doing it extremely well," explained Grad Edgreen.

He also said that the official American burden of proof, to show Russian involvement, was set too high because his country did not want to "face some very difficult truths."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied there was evidence of Russian involvement, calling the "accusations baseless."

A victim of the syndrome, an FBI agent, shared on 60 Minutes her own experience when she was struck by a powerful force in her home in Florida in 2021.

“BAM! In my right ear, I felt like a dentist on steroids was drilling," she said in the program.

"That feeling when it gets too close to your eardrum? So, 10 times stronger."

The woman, identified as Carrie, said she eventually passed out and later had problems with her memory and concentration.

Responding to the report, US officials told CBS News (the BBC's US partner) that they would "continue to carefully investigate the anomalous health incidents", but reiterated that it was "unlikely that a foreign enemy was responsible".

But they also said they "do not question the actual experiences and symptoms reported by colleagues and their family members", adding that working on such incidents is their priority.

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