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3 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM

Holes in Eastern European spy network: Latvia as well?

Ilze Veinberga

A couple of days ago, Moscow recalled its first secretary from the Russian embassy in Bulgaria, after the Bulgarian prosecution accused the diplomat of spying for Russia, Bulgarian officials reported. Such a move by Bulgaria comes as a surprise, because last year it refused to expel Russian diplomats over the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergey Skripal in the UK.

The Bulgarian prosecution acquired irrefutable evidence to charge the Russian citizen with spying. On the eve of yet another spy scandal involving the Kremlin, a meeting was held during which the Bulgarian side demanded the Russian ambassador that the diplomat in question be recalled. According to the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), the Russian spy has already left Bulgaria, but his name has not yet been revealed. Despite the evidence, the prosecution was unable to arrest the diplomat because of his diplomatic immunity – as usual; therefore, the case was handed over to the Bulgarian MoFA.
The Bulgarian MoFA suspects that the said diplomat has previously worked in other Russian embassies located in EU states, including Latvia, Poland and Lithuania.
Since September 2018, the first secretary “collected intelligence by holding regular covert meetings,” the prosecution revealed. The diplomat met with Bulgarian citizens, including high-ranking officials with access to classified information concerning Bulgaria, the EU and NATO.
Upon contacting Bulgarian law enforcement authorities, the media was told that it is possible the Russian diplomat is working for intelligence services and that since 2017 he quite often visited Brussels to meet with members of the European Parliament. Anonymous sources in Brussels revealed that the Russian spy had established particularly friendly relations with Latvian MEPs Andrejs Mamikins, Tatjana Zdanoka and Miroslavs Mitrofanovs, as well as with Estonian MEP Yana Toom.
Interestingly, the spy was also sighted in the Russian Embassy in Latvia during a time when the embassy was frequented by former mayor of Riga Nils Usakovs. It should be reminded that Nils Usakovs, now a Latvian MEP, was once involved in a spy scandal in Latvia: a leaked e-mail conversation between the Russian embassy and the mayor of Riga revealed that Usakovs reported his progress to Aleksandr Khapilov – a spy working at the Russian Embassy in Riga who was expelled from Latvia in spring 2009. Usakovs had sent him quite obvious letters asking for funding from the Russian embassy, possibly, for the “services” rendered.
The name of another Latvian MEP, Andris Ameriks, appears in the corruption case against President of the Bank of Latvia Ilmars Rimsevics, who in 2018 was caught “cooperating” with former high-ranking Russian military persons and secret service officers, for instance, Aleksey Goryunov, Dmitry Pilishchikov, Pyotr Fyodorov and Sergey Anisin.
Because the Bulgarian prosecution was able to uncover that the aim of the meetings held by the Russian spy was to acquire information containing state secrets, also by offering compensation, there is reason to believe that Latvian and Estonian MEPs who have had access to classified information have sold Latvian, Estonian and even EU secrets to Russian intelligence services.
There is strong suspicion that the recalled Russian spy not only engaged in espionage in the interests of Russia, but also attempted to identify and establish a group of pro-Kremlin persons that could potentially engage in destabilizing Bulgaria internally, similar to what has been happening in Latvia since 1991. This was particularly evident in Latvia in 2017 and 2018, when the Russian-speaking population was incited to protest against the education reform and attend events supporting Nils Usakovs and Andris Ameriks, which took place at a time when the Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau started accusing these politicians of corruption.
Once again, the Russian spy scandal in Bulgaria makes one wonder, if the aforementioned Latvian and Estonian MEPs have received both moral and financial support for “unofficial” MEP trips to Syria to meet its dictator Assad, as well as to the Russian-occupied Crimea. It could very well be that these persons have received money from Russian intelligence officials to stage protests and organise electoral campaigns to ensure the maximum amount of representation for pro-Kremlin elements within the parliaments and governments of Eastern European nations.
Interestingly, recently Polish law enforcement detained an employee of the Polish Military Property Agency for spying for Russia. Upon searching the apartment and workplace of the suspect, Polish authorities seized weapons and ammunition, as well as several data carriers and forged identification documents. President of the Bank of Latvia Rimsevics too had a Latvian non-citizen passport, and the Latvian Constitution Protection Bureau (SAB) was unaware of this! Is it possible his Russian friends assisted him in acquiring this piece of document?
This case proves that Russian intelligence services are willing to use weapons and fake documents in EU member states to achieve their goals, whatever they are. I will not be surprised if one day I read the newspaper to find out that one of the Latvian MEPs has had a tank seized during a search.

The writer is a Professor of Communication Sciences



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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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