Staunton, June 8 – Officers of Russia’s FSB spy agency “openly and boldly” followed Russian opposition figures attending an international conference in Vilnius last week thus making them feel that there were in “a suburb of Moscow,” Lithuanian media report, the latest indication that Moscow is increasing its intelligence and influence operations in that Baltic republic.
One Russian opposition leader, Vladimir Ryzhkov, said that “As we were walking down the street, they trailed along. When we were at the conference in the University, one of the security agents stood at the entrance, we believe that some of them were in the hall as well. We sat in a café, had lunch or breakfast, they also were sitting by two tables away from us” (lithuaniatribune.com/40656/russian-opposition-lithuania-is-full-of-russian-spies-201340656/).
“In Russia we got accustomed to being constantly followed and learned to distinguish them by the way they follow and hide from the photo cameras. However, we were shocked that what we see every day in Moscow is taking place in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius so unrestrictedly. It was the feeling that this is a suburb of Moscow,” he added.
Their Lithuanian hosts agreed. Audronis Azubalis, a former Lithuanian foreign minister and one of the organizers of the conference, said he does “not have any doubts” that his Russian guests were not only followed but filmed, with Russian television portraying the opposition figures as “’servants of the West’” and hence “traitors of the homeland.”
A second Lithuanian, Nerijus Maliukevicius of the Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science, added that “on the basis of such ‘documentary’ films a few lawsuits were commenced, people were persecuted, and some of them are now imprisoned … not only in Russia but … on other territories too.”
They and other Lithuanian political scientists “consider such actions by the Russian special services” not only an effort “to harm the Russian opposition but also to demonstrate” to “a foreign country who has the power there,” the Lithuanian Tribune quoted the delfi.lt news agency as reporting.
Azubalis says that the Russian intelligence services are using the media as cover to penetrate Lithuania. “For example,” he says, “one [Moscow] TV wanted to accredit 15 people. Such thing simply cannot be. It is obvious – two of them are going to actually work [as journalists] but what will [the] others do?”
Yesterday, the Lithuanian Tribune reported that the country’s State Security Department had released a report that concluded that “Russian intelligence and security services are the most active and aggressive” of all foreign intelligence organizations in Lithuania but that the Belarusian services are also present as well (lithuaniatribune.com/40835/russian-intelligence-most-aggressive-against-lithuania-201340835/).
According to the SSD, the paper said, the Russian services have “the technical means [including electronic monitoring] and human contacts to collect information, get connections in Lithuanian institutions and, in some cases, attempt to influence decisions made by Lithuanian state institutions and companies.”
The Russian operatives are focusing in particular “on certain political parties formed on ethnic grounds” and on maintaining “close relations with employees of embassies of some countries [accredited in Lithuania] that are not members of the EU and NATO.”
In addition, the Lithuanian Tribune noted, “Russian intelligence and security services contribute to dissemination of information in favor of Russia” and the formation and operation of influence groups in Lithuania. All this is designed, the SSD said to increase “social and public tensions … deepen clashes between various ethnic groups, [and] fuel discontent.”