Security yearbook summary: Russian interference increasing ({{commentsTotal}})

The KaPo (Internal Security Service) annual review is perhaps the most important security publication of the year in Estonia. Although, as is accustomed to security agencies, it offers few details, it does outline trends and offers an overview of the year's most important security-related events.

Russia, as nearly always, is at the center of the review. And this year more than ever, after the events in Ukraine and the kidnapping of KaPo official Eston Kohver. International terrorism, corruption and timeless crimes are also focused on.

A visible Russia

KaPo Director General Arnold Sinisalu said in his opening letter that Russia's actions are no longer underestimated by the West, saying the events in Ukraine have proved to the world what Russia is capable of doing. “But it is equally important not to go to the other extreme. Our decisions must not be guided by fear,” he added.

The review says that Russia advocates integration to the East as opposed to the West and the EU, and in places such as Belarus and Armenia it has succeeded. In other places it is using a wide-range of methods to gain control over the political elite, diplomats, journalists and special service staff.

Sputnik, the Russian state-financed multimedia channel, has began looking for journalists in Estonia as part of the media drive to push Russia's version of events, the yearbook said.

One method for winning over people is history, which continues to be an important propaganda weapon for Russia, the review says, adding that Russian special services have always been involved in his area. The aim of history in Russia's propaganda is to create a narrative favorable to Russia and to legitimize its geopolitical policies.

In 2014, Estonian officials stopped two Russian state journalists from entering Estonia to cover a commemorative event of a World War II battle. The journalists presented fake Ukrainian TV press passes and were turned back at the border.

People associated to the Russian Night Watch group became more active in 2014, even claiming to represent Estonia as international observes in eastern Ukraine, and organizing anti-Maidan protests in Estonia.

Perhaps the greatest revelation from the review book came about Russian intelligence officers in Estonia, with KaPo saying Estonia did send at least one Russian intelligence officer out of Estonia in 2014 for operating under diplomatic cover.

Russian secret services also attempt to damage the reputation of Estonian security authorities, such as with the 2014 confession of Uno Puusepp, a former KaPo employee who escaped to Russia.

State secrets, cyber security and corruption

In 2014 attempts to put pressure on people with access to state secrets increased, KaPo said.

In the field of cyber security, attempts by foreign states to penetrate the computer network of Estonian government departments continued, with most attacks coming by e-mail. The organization said the existing security policy of numerous institutions is unacceptably weak.

With regards to corruption, KaPo points to a number of international studies which say that corruption in Estonia decreased in 2014. Nevertheless, the review highlights 11 court cases of high-level corruption in Estonia last year, including the conviction of a number of Information Board officials for embezzlement and politicians Villu Reiljan and Ester Tuiksoo for taking bribes.

Political extremism

The review says extreme left- and right-wing parties in Europe are gaining popularity. They are contrasting each other, but both are also demonstrating sympathy for the Kremlin. “Left-wing populists groundlessly consider Russia as the successor to the Soviet Union, a bearer of leftist values, while right-wingers see support for their Christian-conservative values in Russia.”

In Estonia in 2014, the yearbook said, extreme left- and right-wing forces became less active and there is no threat to national security from extremist forces.

International terrorism

The section about international terrorism had few new details as the media had already reported on the two individuals from Estonia who have traveled to fight in Syria. Abdurrahman Sazanakov for the Islamic State and Robert Lindmets against the Islamic extremists. The review said there has been no single motive behind going abroad to fight.

The number of visits to Estonia by Islamic organizations increased in 2014, among them the Muslim Brotherhood organization, which attempted to make contacts in Estonia last year. “The Terrorist threat is still considered low in Estonia, but the intensification of manifestations of radicalism and their growing frequency among some members of the Estonian Muslim community are a concern,” the report said.

International cooperation

KaPo participated in the operation to free Estonian OSCE observer Tõnis Asson, who was held captive in eastern Ukraine for over a month in 2014. KaPo said the group of OSCE observers, which included Asson, were abducted by troops under the control of Nikolay Kozitsyn.

As the crisis evolved, KaPo said it came clear to them that Kozitsyn in turn was under the control of Moscow, including on the matter of the hostages. Aleksandr Borodai, head of the so-called Donetsk Republic, was expected to gain credit for the release of the hostages and thus receive positive media attention.

Timeless crimes

KaPo said it will continue to investigate crimes against humanity and 2014 was a breakthrough year in identifying the remains of two Estonians killed in 1950.

KaPo said the two people, 17-year-old Eduard Kandver and 25-year-old Helmi Pikk, were killed by the Võru County Department operations group of the ESSR Ministry of State Security of the Societ Union in southern Estonia. Both bodies displayed gunshot wounds to the head and chest. The two were part of a group fighting against the Soviet regime after World War II.

The full review can be read in English here.

Editor: J.M. Laats

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