Nord Stream investigation: another strange travel firm comes to light
A second mysterious travel firm has emerged in the Nord Stream sabotage affair.
One strand of the investigation concerns six people aboard a 15-metre yacht, the Andromeda, who spent two weeks behaving suspiciously in the Baltic Sea shortly before the underwater gas pipelines were blown up last September.
The yacht had been hired by a Polish company from a marina in Rostock, Germany. The company, Feeria Lwowa, is registered — along with 128 others — at a forwarding address in Warsaw. Although it’s ostensibly a travel firm it currently has no website and appears to make little or no effort to attract customers.
Public records show that since September 2021 Feeria Lwowa has been chaired by Nataliia Ashykhmina, described as a Ukrainian citizen resident in Ukraine.
The records also show that since October 2021 she has been chair (and sole owner) of another strange company: BB Aero, registered in Poland and contactable via a “virtual office” address in Krakow.
Unlike Feeria Lwowa, BB Aero has a website promising “authentic adventures”. Visitors to the site are greeted by a photo of some hot air balloons in flight. BB Aero’s mission, it says, is “to help create the most civilised tourist market”, and the company’s ultimate goal is “to make quality recreation accessible to all categories of the population”.
Services on offer are beach vacations, spa resorts, VIP shopping, VIP tours and bus tours, the website says, though it gives no details.
According to the website, the company also “provides assistance to orphanages, working closely with various charities, paying particular attention to orphans and veterans”.
It adds that the company’s ethics are based on “mandatory honesty and responsibility with respect to all participants in the business and customers”, and it practises “absolute transparency”.
These claims of honesty and transparency are especially interesting in the light of comments from three apparently satisfied customers posted on the website.
First, there’s a photo of this man who is quoted as saying:
“I am a head of a large industrial enterprise, accustomed to long-term planning. With the company BB AERO, I can count on it in the field of leisure tourism organization for my subordinates.”
A reverse image search shows it’s actually a photo of Giles Hardingham, a professor of molecular neurobiology at Edinburgh University.
The woman in the second photo is quoted as saying:
“In the tourism business I work for more than 10 years. Find a reliable partner in this field sometimes is not so easy. With the company BB AERO I have found a reliable partner for many years. I am grateful to them for that.”
A reverse image search shows the woman in the photo is actually Leanne Bayes, who describes herself on Twitter as a busy mum, broadcast journalist, cake maker and cleaner-upper.
The man in the third photo is quoted as saying:
“I like everything in this company. From the people that you meet at the office, to the lawyers, that accompany the transaction. You rock! I love to work with you!”
His photo is available on the internet as a royalty-free image with the caption: “Ambitious male executive sitting in his office”.
Feeria Lwowa, the company that hired the Andromeda, used to have a website too, but it disappeared shortly after the Nord Stream sabotage. An archived version shows that it also featured hot air balloons and similar text to BB Aero. It also boasted about the same fake customers, and gave them Polish names ...
There’s no suggestion that BB Aero had a role in the attack on Nord Stream but its connection to Feeria Lwowa through Natalia Ashykhmina adds another layer of murkiness to the affair.
Athough German investigators are treating the Andromeda crew as suspects it’s doubtful whether they could have carried out the Nord Stream attack without assistance from others. An alternative possibility is that the Andromeda’s activities were intended as a smokescreen to divert attention from the real culprits.
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