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7th Dec 2019

Estonia: Russian spy did not know EU or Nato secrets

  • Tallinn: Russia would like to see Estonia in its sphere of influence (Photo: Steve Jurvetson)

An alleged Russian spy exposed in Estonia did not compromise EU or Nato secrets, Estonia's intelligence chief has told EUobserver.

The Baltic country last week detained Vladimir Veitman, a 63-year-old Estonian intelligence officer, on suspicion of spying for Russia, saying he has confessed to the crime and handed over illicit money.

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The case is the third one in recent times.

In 2012, Estonia jailed another one of its intelligence officers, Aleksei Dressen, for 16 years for spying for its former Soviet master.

In 2009, it jailed an Estonian defence ministry official, Herman Simm, for 12 and a half years on similar charges.

Simm gave Russia almost 400 EU and Nato-related documents on communication systems, counter-intelligence and defence policy, some of which were classified "confidential" or "secret."

But Arnold Sinisalu, the director general of Estonia's internal security service, the Kapo, told this website on Sunday (11 August) that Veitman is different.

"Veitman had no clearance for Nato or EU classified information … According to our present knowledge, no EU or Nato information was compromised," he said.

"He was only focused on Estonian classified information," he added.

"Veitman was a technical specialist who carried out technical operations … He did not collect information for these operations himself. He was not involved in the planning of operations, nor the analysis or assessment of information. He wasn't informed of any sources or their information," Sinisalu noted.

He said Estonia, a former Soviet republic, is a priority target for Russia.

"Information is a tool of influence. Russian intelligence services and their superiors would probably like to see Estonia in their sphere of influence. High ranked Russian officials have publicly said that they don't like Estonia being a member of Nato and the EU," the intelligence chief told this website.

Some countries prefer to exchange spies with Russia behind closed doors.

But Sinisalu noted that Estonia is bound by law to make matters public even if it harms bilateral relations.

"The Estonian constitution and rule of law don't leave us any other choice - criminals must be brought to justice and this has to be public," he said.

"I think this is the right way. History has taught us how dangerous quiet deals with Russia can be in the long run. Trading any constitutional values for a better reaction from Russia would be a very short-sighted way to go," he added.

Veitman used to work for the KGB, Russia's Cold-War-era intelligence service, in Estonia before it gained independence.

Estonia in the 1990s recruited some former KGB staff because of lack of qualified personnel, such as people who knew how to operate Soviet-era equipment, which was left behind in the newly-free country.

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