Russian intelligence after invading Ukraine

European observers are convinced that Russia has been emboldened by its successful annexation of Crimea in 2014 and military incursion in Ukraine. Their heightened covert activity in Europe is a clear sign that Moscow sees its intelligence operations in Europe as politically advantageous.


Russia initiated a campaign of anti-Western subversion and propaganda at the same time, all intended to distract, disrupt and demoralize. The brazen but unprofessional attempt to poison ex-Russian GRU operative Sergei Skripal in England was a clear example of the new levels of aggression that Russia’s intelligence services have been instructed to deploy.


Eerik Kross, former director of intelligence in Estonia has observed: “The numbers of Russian intelligence personnel in Western Europe are back to Cold War levels. … A basic rule of thumb, which counts for Russia nowadays, is to take the number of diplomats working in Russian embassies and consulates (abroad) and about half of them are spies. … Then consider another number – its network of covert agents working under non-diplomatic cover, such as businessmen, journalists, or lobbyists – and it’s about the same again.”

Active operations have taken priority over gathering information for Moscow. Influence operations - recruitment of agents in target institutions – are usually harder to detect and to prove.

(Rad more: Estonian Life No. 43 2019)



Laas Leivat, Toronto