Date: 9 February 2018
The base in Šiauliai on the Russian target
Revealed information about the detainment of Lithuanians suspected of spying for Russia confirms, that the main object of interest of the Russian intelligence service is the Air Force Base in Šiauliai, which is a headquarters of NATO’s aircrafts participating in the Baltic Air Policing. Information about this facility was allegedly being passed to the Russian by two already detained Lithuanians, with a former military pilot among them. An officer in Šiauliai, captain Sergey Pushin was also sentenced last year to 5 years in prison for spying for Russia. A decision concerning his appeal will be pronounced in March.
As Lithuanian law enforcement authorities revealed, during last two months three citizens of Lithuania suspected of spying for Russia had been detained. Two of them used to serve in the army. None of the suspects had an access to the secret information. They all were supposed to have been paid for their activities. They may be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. It is known that detainments resulted from two separate investigations conducted by the military counterintelligence service (Second Investigation Department under MND). One of the investigations led to the detainment of the Klaipeda dweller, who was to have been passing information to the Russian about the installation in the Port of Klaipeda and the navy. But the second case seems to be more important as it concerns espionage in Šiauliai. One of the suspects is a former military pilot and the second one is a senior of the Ministry of Defence who has a permanent residence permit in Russia.
They both were supposed to have been collecting and conveying information about the military facility in Šiauliai to the Russian. It is another act of the Russian espionage aimed at the Lithuania’s First Air Force Base beside the Šiauliai airport. Taking into consideration a minimal potential of the Lithuanian air forces, it is obvious that what interests Moscow the most is the unit of NATO’s allies. Changing every few months aircrafts of the respective members of the Alliance are stationed in the nearby Zokniai military airport. They participate in the mission of protecting the airspace of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (Baltic Air Policing mission) and especially in last years they have to frequently react on provocative flights of the Russian air forces in that region.
The suspects presumably worked for the Russian military intelligence agency GRU. But Russian civil services are as well active on the Lithuanian territory. In July 2017, an FSB agent, who was accused of trying to wiretap the President Dalia Grybauskaitė, was sentenced for espionage to 10 years in prison. Since 2014 in Lithuania, twelve people suspected of spying for Russia and Belarus have been denounced. Five were judged and sentenced to prison.
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