Lithuania intelligence: Russia and Belarus may be interfering with armed forces

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Lithuania Russia border

Lithuania Intelligence Agency VSD (Valstybes Saugumo Departamentas) has published a report accusing Russia and Belarus of infiltrating the nation’s armed forces.

In the annual report, it warned of an “aggressive Russian foreign policy”, and that Russian intelligence was highly active among Lithuanian society.

According to the report, both Russia and Belarus may be attempting to plant informants among Lithuanian armed forces and those of other Baltic states to gather information on army structure, rank, as well as NATO organisation and protocols.

In early 2016 Lithuanian army paramedic Andrey Osurkov was convicted of espionage on behalf of Belarus, and sentenced to three years in prison.

In addition, the VSD claimed that Russia was actively seeking ways to conduct pro-Russian propaganda campaigns across the Baltic states – in particular via state-run agency Sputnik.

Lithuania highlights border concerns

The report accused Russia of trying to create a favourable climate for Russia, and to stir up anti-Western sentiment. It concluded that many of the activities were being carried out by members of the Russian diplomatic mission to Lithuania in Vilnius.

The VSD also commented that the Russian Security Service (FSB) is taking advantage of the many people who engage in cross-border shopping to take advantage of cheaper prices. The intelligence agency stated that the FSB brings “fictitious or actual charges” frequently, incentivising citizens to cooperate with intelligence gathering schemes in order to continue border crossings.

Related: U.S. Military announces increase in troops for Eastern Europe

An increase in drone activity around the border with Lithuania also gave rise for concern, both for intelligence gathering and potential illegal border crossings.

The report for 2015 also voiced ongoing concerns about Russian activity in Ukraine, noting that it was undertaking a large propaganda campaign there, infiltrating community meets, clubs, and churches.

SVD concluded in the report (Lithuanian) that the best method for tackling perceived Russian interference was to raise public awareness on the issue, thereby “raising citizens’ resistance to ideological manipulation”.

Image: RIA Novosti archive, image #1052479 / Igor Zarembo / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons