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ISS suspects University of Tartu professor of action against Estonia

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Viacheslav Morozov.
Viacheslav Morozov. Source: University of Tartu

Kristiina Tõnisson, head of the University of Tartu Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies, wrote in a letter to alumni that the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) has launched an investigation regarding Viacheslav Morozov, professor of international political theory, based on suspicions of actions against the state.

"I am writing primarily to those who have been in contact with Viacheslav Morozov, professor of international political theory, at the University of Tartu. This is to inform you that the Estonian Internal Security Service has notified the university that they have started an investigation against him and that he is suspected of action against the Republic of Estonia. The employment relationship with him has been terminated," Tõnisson wrote.

"Understandably, this comes as a shock to all of us. Our trust has been seriously abused. We confirm you that we have had no grounds to question Viacheslav Morozov's earlier work, but in the light of new knowledge, it is important to critically review it," the head of the institute added.

Morozov detained for two months

The ISS said via a press release that it detained Russian citizen Viacheslav Morozov on January 3, following suspicions of intelligence activity aimed against the Republic of Estonia and facilitating it.

"The aggressor's intelligence interest in Estonia remains considerable," ISS Director Margo Palloson said. "This recent case follows a few dozen others and illustrates Russian intelligence agencies' desire to infiltrate different walks of life in Estonia, including academia."

"Because the Prosecutor's Office believes the man could evade criminal proceedings or continue to commit offenses at large, we moved for his arrest. The Harju County Court placed Morozov in custody for two months," Public Prosecutor Triinu Olev said.

University of Tartu websites have blocked access to information pertaining to Morozov. The ETIS database reveals that he had ties to the St Petersburg University until 2010 and has been associated with the University of Tartu since then.

Morozov worked as a professor of EU-Russia studies 2016-2023 and as a professor of international political theory from January 1, 2023 until January 2024.

ISS director: Morozov regularly visited Russia

Director General of the ISS Margo Pallosson told ERR that Morozov shared information with Russian special services. Meetings with handlers took place in Russia where Morozov traveled with "a measure of regularity," Palloson said.

He added that people should carefully consider whether to travel to Russia at this time as it runs the risk of coming under pressure from Russian special services.

What kind of information Morozov had access to and what he forwarded to Russian special services will be determined in the course of proceedings, the ISS chief said. Neither the ISS nor the prosecution were willing to say whether the information Morozov shared included personal details of Estonian citizens. The Public Prosecutor's Office said Morozov's intelligence activity took place over several years.

Morozov is the only suspect in the criminal case.

Rector: I fully condemn his actions

University of Tartu Rector Toomas Asser said that he fully and unequivocally condemns any activity that could jeopardize Estonia's security.

"It is furthermore worrying that a person now suspected of undermining national security has worked for years at a university – an academic community the moral responsibility of which is to represent peace, academic and democratic values," he remarked.

The rector added that it is impossible to measure the extent of potential damage done by Morozov, while it is clear Estonia, the university, people's professional spirit and mutual relations have been affected.

"I expect us not to underestimate the ability and intent of hostile nations to orchestrate anti-democratic action. We need to retain situational awareness and critical thought as well as pursue full cooperation with our security institutions," Asser noted.


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Editor: Urmet Kook, Marcus Turovski

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