Former Estonian Security Official Arrested on Suspicion of Spying for Russia ({{commentsTotal}})

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The insignia of the Internal Security Service
The insignia of the Internal Security Service Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

The Estonian Internal Security Service (KaPo) has detained one of its own former officials, Vladimir Veitman, whom the agency suspects of having gathered classified information for years on behalf of a Russian intelligence service.

Detained on Wednesday, the former KGB official joined the Estonian intelligence service in 1991. He worked there as a specialist with clearance to classified information until he retired in 2011. Officials said he secretly worked for a Russian intelligence service up until his retirement, but would not yet reveal how long he had been an agent. Nor would the Internal Security Service reveal which organization and who specifically had recruited Veitman.

According to officials, Veitman has admitted to the suspicions in questioning. Authorities have also recovered significant sums of cash related to the suspicions from various stashes.

The nature of Veitman's work was "technical" and he did not hold any leadership positions. He was born in Tallinn in 1950 and attained a higher education degree at a technical college.

Although he was previously a KGB operative, he was not recruited immediately when Estonia gained independence, but later. There is currently no information indicating that he has shared the state secrets of Estonia's partner countries.

Russian 'aggression'

At a press conference on Friday, Internal Security Service Director Arnold Sinisalu said Russia continues to 'aggressively' attempt to recruit agents in Estonia. He referenced Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's recent remark in the media that Russia is not happy that the Baltics are NATO members.

In light of it being the third spying case in Estonia since 2009, Sinisalu recalled the words of his predecessor, Raivo Aeg, who had said that more agents would be revealed.

"Today is proof of that [...] It is the second incident in just a short period of time. In my opinion this shows not weakness, but success [...] Russia's special services' interest toward Estonia is noticeable, aggressive and intense. They do not like the fact that we belong to the European Union,“ Sinisalu said.

Chief Public Prosecutor Norman Aas added: "Russia continues to seek traitors from Estonia. Unfortunately there have been several such cases in recent times in which the suspicion of treason has emerged. It shows that, unfortunately, due to its geopolitical location, Estonia is under aggressive pressure from the Russian Federation.“

Nevertheless, Sinisalu said that not all former KGB officials should be labeled for their history, and that judgements are made on a case by case basis. A number of former KGB officials were recruited by Estonian authorities in the beginning of the 1990s because the Estonian government lacked capacity, such as to operate certain equipment adopted from the Soviet authorities. "That was the context of the time. Please try to understand,“ Sinisalu said.

In times past

There have been two previous treason convictions in Estonia, both related to spying on behalf of Russia. Former Defense Ministry official Herman Simm was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison in 2009 and former security official Aleksei Dressen was sentenced in 2012 to 16 years.

Then head of the Internal Security Service, Raivo Aeg, last year expressed concern over growing numbers of agent recruitment attempts by Russia's intelligence services.

"Russian secret services have seemingly refused to admit that Estonia and other former occupied countries have now become irreversibly foreign for them, not part of Russia or conceptually part of the Soviet Union," he said in an Eesti Ekspress article last autumn.

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