ISS Yearbook: Colluding with Russian security agencies never best option ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

ISS operative's uniform.
ISS operative's uniform. Source: Kaitsepolitsei

Several people were imprisoned in Estonia over the past few months for colluding with the security forces of the Russian Federation, to Estonia's detriment, the Internal Security Service (ISS) yearbook reports.

The individuals, all men apprehended by the ISS, had been tempted into working on behalf of Russian authorities including the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the GRU, and had been led to believe by their handlers and others that their activities did not incur significant risk, the yearbook reports.

Aleksei Vasilev was imprisoned for four years by Harju County Court in March 2018 after being engaged in non-violent activities detrimental to Estonian sovereignty, as well as cyber-crime activities.

The ISS report cites daily Postimees in noting the potential costs of believing promises used in enticing potential agents. Whereas he had, he told Postimees, been promised financial support, a support which would be extended to his family, this was not in fact forthcoming, once he had been arrested.

"James Bond is a romanticised movie; real life is much tougher. Prison is my everyday life. There is no happy ending here,'' Vasilev told Postimees, according to the ISS yearbook.

Similarly, Dmitri Kozlov was sentenced in the same month, this time by Tartu County Court, and to three and a half years in prison, after being arrested the previous November. He had been recruited by the FSB and was a dual Estonian-Russian citizen, the yearbook says, and his activities included obtaining intelligence on border guarding facilities, their employees, vehicles, technology and work routines.

The Following month, Ilja Tihhanovski was sentenced to four years, again at Tartu County Court. He had been working for another Russian agency, the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, popularly referred to as the GRU, but properly speaking now simply the GU. Tihhanovski had been involved for close to a decade in similar activities to the above, using aliases such as "Noi", until his arrest in December 2017.

An Estonian citizen, Jevgeni Slavin, was detained in July 2018 and sentenced in September by Harju County Court, to 20 months' imprisonment for conspiracy against the Republic of Estonia, under Section 2351 of the Penal Code (the same section that Tihhanovski had infringed).

Slavin had also been working with the GRU, the ISS yearbook reports, since 2016, with the intention of undermining Estonia's internal and external security. This included giving a GRU officer his written consent to cooperate and also using an alias, "Tendrit".

Slavin passed on both via communications channels and at face-to-face meetings, on Russian terriroty, though his sentence was lighter than the previous three men noted, mainly because he had not been involved in the activities for as long.

The yearbook notes that remaining in the clutches of the Russian security service and exacerbating an already dire situation (even simply agreeing to covertly work against Estonia is an offence, the ISS says) is not the only option open to those who get hooked on the smells-and-bells of those outfits' promises, and implies that coming forward to the Estonian authorities preemptively is always a far better course of action.

NB the ISS' title in Estonian is Kaitsepolitsei, abbreviated to KAPO.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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