Annual report: Russia trying to take advantage of coronavirus pandemic

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Foreign Intelligence Service press conference. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

While the corona pandemic has not altered Estonia's threat picture, it has offered authoritarian states new opportunities for influence, writes the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service in a report published today (February 17). The Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service believes Russia remains a potential threat to Estonia.

"The coronavirus pandemic has not curtailed the activities and ambitions of the Putin regime," said Mikk Marran, director general of the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service, at the presentation of the report on Wednesday. "Rather, we are seeing an attempt to take advantage of the pandemic."

Marran described how Russia launched a smear campaign against Western corona vaccines. "Russian special services spread lies about Western vaccines, undermining the Western countries' efforts to curb the spread of the virus," said Marran.

The Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service shows Russia continues to pose a potential military threat to Estonia. "We do not see a direct threat to Estonia in 2021; however, we cannot completely rule out a miscalculation on the part of Russia regarding NATO's collective defence," said Marran.

Despite the spread of the virus, Russian armed forces are continuing with exercises at a normal pace. "During this year's large-scale military exercise Zapad, Russia will practice war with NATO,' Marran said. "Russia will gather tens of thousands of troops near the Estonian border and the number of flights by Russian military aircraft will increase."

The Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service also writes in the report about China's foreign policy, which the service considers to be increasingly confrontational.

"China is calling for increased cooperation between countries; however, this is accompanied by pressure to cooperate on Beijing's terms," Marran said. In order to influence Western countries, China has adopted the use of, among other things, the West's own information channels.

The Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service's report also covers Russia's domestic policy, its economy, foreign policy in the neighbouring region and Africa, and the activities of special services.

The report can be downloaded from the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service's website.

The Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service has published its reports since 2016, in order to provide the public with a reliable and comprehensive assessment of Estonia's foreign threats. Similar reports are published by intelligence agencies in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Lithuania, among others.

The Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service is a security service operating within the area of government of the Ministry of Defence, which collects, analyses and reports information on Estonia's external security threats.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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