Reede, 09 Juuni 2017 18:00
Laas Leivat - Estonian Life No. 23 2017
A young participant at the recent conference on politics and international relations sponsored by Vilnius University had been placed under surveillance by the Lithuanian State Security (SDD) department, even though he had attracted no attention amongst the students and diplomats present.
The SDD has in the past cautioned the public about Russian intelligence personnel using their status as diplomats and thus enjoying protection from Lithuanian prosecution while attending and 'working' conferences and other symposia devoted to international relations, politics, national defence, the economy and energy.
The operatives of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the National Security Service (FSB) and military intelligence (GRU) attending typically initiate the contacts with innocent small talk. During this time, the operatives try to elicit the maximum information about the individual chosen including the target's primary motivators, his/her weaknesses and possible reasons for co-operation. Some Russian operatives speak fluent Lithuanian, a language difficult to learn for someone not resident in the country.
(These efforts to infiltrate gathering of students reminds one of the experiences of some from the West who had attended language/culture camps organized by Veksa (The committee for development of cultural relations with Estonians abroad – a known KGB front operation) in the 1970s-1980s. Social evenings devoted to relaxation, song and campfires were inundated with young, erstwhile men looking for friendship with young women from abroad. In spite of interesting conversation accompanied by gentlemanly behaviour, the assessment of participants from the West was that the KGB did not achieve its anticipated goals.)
Up until recently cautionary advice was not taken seriously by the public. However the SSD has noted that the sharp increase in Russian false news broadcasts and the more extended reach of cyber attacks against Lithuanian news channels, government establishments and electricity grids augers an intensified aggression still to come.
Foreign espionage activity has increased the involvement of Lithuanian counter-intelligence personnel. A captain in the Lithuanian air force with Russian citizenship has recently been arrested. Last year a Lithuanian military paramedic was detained. And in 2015 an FSB officer was caught for gathering information about Lithuania's president. He had been able to install listening devices into rooms used by the president. In the same year another Lithuanian had been convicted of espionage. In 2014, two Russian SVR operatives were expelled who had been working under diplomatic cover. These were only a few examples of Russian clandestine activity in Lithuania.
The Lithuanian SSD's efforts have been bolstered by budget increases, boosting the effectiveness of operations dealing with Russian and Belorussian attempts at penetrating Lithuanian targets.
The Lithuanians have also adopted a bold initiative in countering Russian intelligence operations. In a public report describing Lithuanian national security activity and the challenges it faces, Lithuanian authorities published the photo of the young man mentioned at the beginning of this column and labeled him a Russian intelligence operative working under diplomatic cover. The report makes a direct proposal for the young man to cease his illegal activity and think of returning to his homeland. The warning did not faze the Russian spy and he continued his activity at the same pace.
He was seen at each regular forum for the Lithuanian political opposition. Vilnius University's political and foreign relations institute gave him publicity releasing a photo-montage of his participation at various conferences and seminars.
Laas Leivat (To be continued.)