Estonian security service: FSB systematically trying to recruit refugees

The bridge in Narva connecting Estonia and Russia.
The bridge in Narva connecting Estonia and Russia. Source: ERR

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has been systematically attempting to recruit war refugees arriving in Estonia from Russia, while they are still on Russian territory. According to the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS or KAPO), the FSB has both offered financial incentives and threatened violence to encourage cooperation.

According to the Estonian Internal Security Service's (ISS or KAPO) annual review, from the start of Russia's full-scale military invasion of Ukraine last February until the end of 2022, some 45,000 refugees from Ukraine sought protection in Estonia.

"From conversations with war refugees, the FSB's activities against Ukrainians on Russian territory and in the occupied territories were made clear. From filtration camps to interrogations at border checkpoints, Ukrainians are being put under increased scrutiny and being targeted as hostile and dangerous to Russia. They are questioned, their property is searched, their devices are examined, and sometimes threats and violence are also used."

The ISS reports, that among those who have contacted the agency are both war refugees and Estonians. This has helped to reveal the extent of Russian intelligence activities in Estonia since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began.

"The FSB has, for example, started to systematically question people who visit Russia regularly for work. At border crossings, they are asked about their attitudes towards Russia and its 'special military operation' against Ukraine, as well as about the alleged persecution of Russians in Estonia. FSB agents film the conversations using either visible or hidden cameras, including those attached to border guards' uniforms."

The ISS believes these kinds of activities are only likely to intensify in the future, as, during wartime, the Russian political and military leadership's need for information is greater than usual. Therefore, higher demands are placed on its intelligence services.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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