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Protracted war makes Russian intelligence officials question the validity and legitimacy of their activities

Protracted war makes Russian intelligence officials question the validity and legitimacy of their activities

Russia’s full-scale invasion in Ukraine is having a negative impact on the malicious activities of some Russian intelligence services. Since 2023, Russian intelligence officers have been increasingly dissatisfied with the decisions of the Russian authorities and reluctant to contribute to Russia’s aggressive policies. This not only affects the quality of their duties but also encourages them to assess the possibility of cooperation with Western authorities. Hasty, ill-considered and sometimes unprofessional decisions made in the Russian services lead to mistakes and unassessed risks that not only undermine the efficiency and results of activities but also increase the number of identified cases of malicious activity.

Attempts of intelligence services to recruit Lithuanian citizens travelling to Russia are becoming less scrupulous. Russian intelligence officers are cooperating with the Russian Migration Service and conducting interviews with foreigners at the border to identify suitable targets for recruitment. However, recently there has been an increasing number of cases RUSSIA 28 29 Locations of a meeting between Russian intelligence officers and agents in Kaliningrad (Turist Hotel and Zoo) where proposals for cooperation were made without a proper screening of the candidates or assessment of foreigners’ willingness to cooperate. Recruiting officers do not consider either that the pretext used for blackmail – administrative offences committed on Russian territory (traffic accidents or artificial situations requiring involvement of law enforcement) – often does not change the beliefs of the foreigners they are attempting to recruit or outweigh the perceived harm of cooperating with authorities of hostile countries. Furthermore, there were attempts to recruit not only those travelling to Russia but also those in their immediate environment. This pattern of recruitment leads to even more people exposed to recruitment attempts and willing to report it to Lithuanian intelligence services.

It is highly likely that the motivation of Russian intelligence officers will further weaken as the Russian military conflict in Ukraine continues. There will be more cases of officials trying to demonstrate their perceived importance and please their superiors by doing seemingly useful but inefficient and unprofessional work. One of their goals is likely to avoid personal involvement in Russia’s war in Ukraine. Their negligence will lead to proliferation of mistakes that will facilitate the work of Lithuanian counter-intelligence authorities in uncovering those involved in criminal activities and revealing methods used by Russia.

Locations of a meeting between Russian intelligence officers and agents in Kaliningrad (Turist Hotel and Zoo)

Russian and Belarusian intelligence agencies are aggressively seizing the opportunity to recruit foreigners in Russia and Belarus. They are aided by political leadership of the countries in passing laws to facilitate these procedures.

In autumn 2023, the Belarusian authorities started to discuss legislative changes that would require Belarusian residents to inform the Ministry of Internal Affairs if they rented premises to foreigners. This change will mean that the Belarusian authorities will be informed about the presence of any foreigners in Belarus, even those who have not been obliged to register so far. As a result, the authorities will be able to collect more data on the residing foreigners.

Russia is considering obliging all foreigners to sign a ‘loyalty contract’. Once the proposal enters into force, foreign nationals will have to sign a special document pledging not to ‘discredit’ or interfere with the Russian Federation’s public policies, institutions or officials. The signing of such an agreement is likely to lead to prosecution of foreigners for disseminating information that is not in favour of the Russian authorities. It is likely that such a mandate will be used as a pretext for stricter restrictions on the rights of foreign citizens in Russia as well as for legal persecution and, consequently, for possible recruitment.

In the second half of 2023, several Lithuanian citizens were detained in Lithuania on suspicion of cooperating with Belarusian intelligence authorities. They are suspected under Article 119(2) of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania (espionage). The detainees were almost certainly carrying out tasks for Belarusian intelligence and were collecting and passing on information to the client for a fee. None of the persons in question had a clearance to handle classified information, worked with such information or had a possibility to collect it. Although the information on the country’s critical infrastructure and military facilities these persons collected and communicated was unclassified, these non-public data non-public data could be used by the Belarusian non-democratic regime to plan activities against Lithuania. It is almost certain that the information the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania passed on to foreign intelligence agencies is necessary for the Armed Forces of both Belarus and Russia to prepare plans for potential military aggression against neighbouring countries.

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