A joint investigation by EL PERIÓDICO and the media OCCRP, Bellingcat, Irpimedia (Italy), Istories (Russia) and Il Fatto Quotidiano revealed the meeting between the former president of the Generalitat Carles Puigdemont and the former Russian diplomat Nikolay Sadovnikov. The meeting took place on October 26, 2017, hours before the unilateral declaration of independence (DUI). In it, the Russian emissaries promised economic aid to a hypothetical independent Catalonia and “10,000 soldiers”. In the course of the journalistic investigations, the Russian medium Istories interviewed Sadovnikov.
Did you travel to Barcelona on October 26, 2017?
I went to visit a friend [al parecer, el empresario Jordi Sardà Bonvehí]. I have nothing to do with politics, or with the economy, or with events in Catalonia.
Did you meet with the then Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont?
I don’t know very well who I met with because I don’t speak Spanish, but this friend, with whom I went everywhere, took me to places. Believe me, I don’t really know who I was meeting, nor do I know the last names of those people. Besides, Catalonia has never interested me. Yes, events happened on those days.
At that time they said that Catalonia had to be recognized and things like that. Among others, my friend said. But I always based myself on the following: the integrity of Spain, as well as the integrity of Russia, is an irrefutable fact. For this reason, any division and any separatism will obviously be roundly condemned by Russia. It is a private matter of the Spaniards; support the Catalans… God save me! Above all, considering what happened in Chechnya.
“The Russians will never be the first to recognize the independence of Catalonia”
What happened in those meetings?
When I got there, this friend, who surely had some special relations with Russia, said that someone of ours, perhaps someone from the Russian leadership, was presumably going to recognize (the independence of Catalonia). (…). I told him that this would never happen. It is impossible. The Russians will never be the first to recognize the independence of Catalonia. (…) That will never happen because it is against the nature of our State.
The emissaries offered military support in the form of soldiers.
Someone with whom he (the friend) was in negotiations was cheating on them. Military aid is totally crazy. I don’t know who he was in contact with. You know that when such events occur, these types of impostors appear and try to take advantage of you. (…) Someone told them something. But I am 100% sure that it had nothing to do with the Russian leadership. They were petty criminals. Taking into account, above all, that this person worked at the time in the Ukraine (Sardà).
In exchange, they wanted a law favorable to cryptocurrencies. Do you know anything about this?
Cryptocurrencies? In the year 2017? No. I am away from these issues. This information did not reach my ears.
Didn’t these promises come from you?
Of course not! Am I crazy?
Could you say what else was being talked about?
I did not know. I arrive at the airport and they take me to an unknown place. How can I know who is there, bearing in mind that I am far from interested in Spain, in Spanish affairs, in Catalonia? (…) So, how can I know who I am meeting with?
And your acquaintance did not explain to you who he was going to meet?
He didn’t do it for me. He was going to meet with those people and, by the way, he took me because he thought it might be interesting for me.
But didn’t he tell her who he was going to meet?
Of course not.
“Acting on behalf of the Russian government? Do I look crazy?”
Weren’t you acting on behalf of the Russian Government?
What does it say? Act on behalf of the Russian Government? Do I look crazy?
Why were your companies registered with the Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters?
No idea. I do not have any company because I do not dedicate myself to business. I am sure you are wrong because I have never had anything to do with the Russian government or with the business world. Not with the intelligence services.
“I had covid. And frankly speaking I don’t remember anything”
Let’s go back to the year 2017. If you look at Puigdemont’s photo now, can you tell if you saw him that day during that meeting or not?
5 years have passed. I had pretty bad covid. And frankly speaking, I don’t remember anything that took place before the year 2020. I just don’t want to; I have nothing left of those memories.
At that meeting, your friend was speaking in Spanish and you were just sitting next to him and didn’t understand what was going on?
I was waiting for my friend to finish and take me to the coast. This was my only goal. When we got out of there he (his friend of him Sardà) called someone. I don’t know who he spoke with, but he spoke in Russian. He said someone was going to say something on TV. Just at that time all those events were happening. I told him that this was never going to happen and that someone was cheating on him, that he shouldn’t get involved in this, that it was stupid to get involved.
“If you know who I am, you know what I was doing”
Could you tell me what your main occupation was? What was he doing?
If you supposedly know who I am, then you know what I was doing.
I wanted you to tell me.
I never represented the interests of the Russian government and I never went into business.
Have you never had companies?
There was a case. I found it by chance on the internet. It was in the year 2000. They used my passport information to set up one or two straw companies. But without any significance and I requested its closure.
The Russian emissaries offered Puigdemont the sending of the soldiers and millions of euros.
Do you really think that our Russian government is that stupid? At that time when we sold gas to Europe, when we had very good relations, when trips were carried out at the highest level, when everything was calm, and suddenly our Government goes and offers an insignificant Catalonia its army and 500,000,000,000 euros? ? Do you really think that some fool is going to believe this stupidity? This isn’t even absurd, it’s crazy.
Was one of those Russian citizens you?
Was I one of these Russians? They are crazy?