Friday, 29 May 2020 19:00
Estonian Life No. 21 2020 - Laas Leivat
In 2109, Major Deniss Metsavas, artillery officer in the Estonian Defence Forces, had confessed to charges of treason, pleaded guilty in court and was sentenced to 15 and a half years of imprisonment.
An Estonian citizen, ethnically Russian, Metsavas had joined the military in 1997. He was a graduate of the military academy, assigned initially to the Presidential Guard, became an artillery specialist, received further training in Finland and had been deployed to Afghanistan, with NATO forces in Helmand province.
At the time of his arrest, Metsavas was serving as a staff officer at Military headquarters in Tallinn in the artillery inspectorate, attached to the department preparing an overall defence strategy. This position, added to other aspects of his personal history probably made him attractive as a target for recruitment.
With his Russian ethnic heritage, he represented the loyalty of the Russian-speaking minority in Estonia. He had become the ‘poster boy’ of the Estonian military. He was their spokesman in the army, one of their own who could, as an example, discredit the Kremlin’s claims about Crimea. He was invited on Russian language television shows and radio programs. He spoke at a high school and then escorted the students to a military exercise. Metsavas was known to speak about patriotism and about the obvious intent of Russian propaganda. In essence he was seen as something for which Estonia itself wanted to be recognized – inclusiveness, tolerance, openness.
Metsavas had grown up in Lasnamäe, a massive jungle of apartment houses, for mainly the Russian speaking residents of Tallinn. It was built for the influx of Russian workers, from other parts of the Soviet Union, ostensibly to fill the demand for labour as Estonia was industrialized. Estonians, suffering a post-war housing shortage, were denied the new accommodations. It’s said that the deliberate movement of non-Estonians to the occupied country by Moscow was a form of ‘cultural genocide’, a policy forbidden by the Geneva Convention.
His father, Pjotr Volin, a manual labourer, had served in the pre-1991 Soviet border guard, a department of the KGB. His mother, an obstetrics nurse, had emigrated to Estonia after marrying Volin.
Volin had attended Russian language primary school and was immersed in the Lasnamäe Russian community. But he started to learn Estonian at six or seven years of age and was completely fluent in the language as an adult.
Volin’s youthful ambition was to become a soldier in the style of Hollywood action heroes. As a high school graduate he enlisted and with sufficient grades he qualified for the military academy, thus gaining an officer’s commission.
In Metsavas’ case the GRU (military intelligence) recruitment of a spy from Estonia faithfully followed trade craft methods as taught in their textbooks: Uncover the backgrounds of regular visitors to Russia; target those that would be of benefit to Russia; through surveillance become familiar with his contacts and activities while in Russia; arrange a “honey trap” to involve the target in an illegal or embarrassing situation; use the evidence to secure the target’s co-operation.
The GRU set the trap during one of Metsavas’ visits to his relatives in Smolensk. He visited a local nightclub, thinly disguised as sauna/bordello. He ended up in a room with a flirty woman who befriended him.
The next morning as he left his aunt’s house to go shopping, Two plain clothed men approached him, identified themselves as police and showed them a signed statement in which the woman claimed she had been raped. If convicted, they said, Metsavas could face 15 years imprisonment.
The conversation continued in a police station, where he was shown a video of himself and the woman in bed - a perfectly executed honey trap.
(To be continued)Laas Leivat