ISS chief: Ukraine war not led to worsened domestic situation in Estonia

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has not led to a deteriorated domestic situation in Estonia, head of the Internal Security Service (ISS) Arnold Sinisalu says.

Russian intelligence and propaganda activities are still continuing as usual, however, Sinisalu, appearing on Tuesday's edition of ETV politics talk show "Esimene stuudio".

Sinisalu said: "They are quite active; another consideration is how successful they are in this."

These attempts cut across the language divide, he added, noting that not only was misinformation in Estonia being propagated in the Russian language, but also in English.

He said: "They are trying to influence different areas, such as the economic sector, culture, politics, those Russian citizens who live in Estonia. A lot of influence comes to Estonia via the English-speaking world."

While Russian intelligence activities were hampered during the Covid pandemic and its restrictions, this, along with the current travel restrictions relating to crossing the border from Russia put in place following the invasion of Ukraine, has not and will not shut down Russia's secret service activities for any length of time, Sinisalu added

"Intelligence never waits for things to work out, but tries to be flexible and continue to perform its tasks. [During the Covid pandemic] there were such momentary breaks and periods of rethinking. By 2021, a lot of things had already changed and new ways of communication had been found," Sinisalu went on.

Russian propaganda can influence the extreme right in the U.S. and Europe via networks, for instance, Sinisalu said, citing the example of Russia being seen somehow as an ally and guarantor of Conservative Christian values, though Russia's behavior in the invasion of that has shown up reality in that country for what it is.

Nonetheless, this "indirect" propaganda coming in via the West is less obvious and more nuanced than the home-spun eastern/Russian-language approach.

Those who have been susceptible to conspiracy theories about, for instance, Covid vaccines or about 5G are often more vulnerable to believing that Moscow does not have culpability in the current conflict, he added.

The ISS, also known by its Estonian acronym, Kapo, published its annual yearbook for 2021-2022 on Tuesday, which is available in Estonian here.

The English-language version is expected in due course.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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