2019.12.12 11:00

Lithuania begins trial of two Russian spies in absentia

BNS2019.12.12 11:00

Lithuania began a trial in absentia of two suspected accomplices of a Russian FSB officer returned to Russia in a three-way spy swap last month. They are accused of recruiting Lithuanian citizens, crossing the border illegally, and other offenses.

In the new criminal case, a Russian and a Lithuanian citizens identified only by their initials I. G. and V. S., respectively, were charged in absentia with espionage.

I. G., the Russian citizen who headed the intelligence department at the Kaliningrad branch of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), was also charged with falsification of documents, use of false documents, and multiple illegal border crossings, the Prosecutor General's Office said.

The two men, acting in an organised group with Nikolai Filipchenko, the Russian FSB officer sentenced in Lithuania for espionage in 2017 and returned to Moscow last month, met with Lithuanian citizens in several countries between October 2011 and late 2014.

The officers then recruited and paid the Lithuanians citizens to spy, according to the press release. The case was sent for trial at Vilnius Regional Court.

Lithuania's former president

According to the case-file, several Lithuanian citizens, on FSB's radar due to their previous work experience and existing contacts with former and current employees of various Lithuanian institutions, were recruited at different times and separately from each other.

These people were tasked with collecting information about Lithuania's VIP Protection Department and its staff, as well as about the level of protection at the offices and homes of the country's leaders.

Prosecutors say the Russian intelligence were particularly interested in gaining access to information on the protection of Lithuania's former president, Dalia Grybauskaitė, and tried to make contacts with officers in charge of her security.

Efforts were made to bug the president's office. The Russian intelligence also made active attempts to gather information on officers at the Lithuanian State Security Department (VSD).

The accused provided the people they had recruited with gear and know-how, as well as cash for buying communication equipment and third-country visas.

According to the case-file, I. G. used fake ID documents during his trips abroad to meet with the recruited persons.

Spy swap

Filipchenko was detained by Lithuanian officials in 2015 when traveling by train from Russia's Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad to Belarus via Lithuania.

Read more: Who are the two Russian spies pardoned by Lithuanian president?

In July 2017, Vilnius Regional Court ruled that Filipchenko was a FSB officer and convicted him of espionage. According to the court, he operated under a fake identity.

According to Lithuanian intelligence, it was the first time that a Russian FSB cadre had been detained in Lithuania for espionage.

Filipchenko was sentenced to ten years in prison, but pardoned by President Gitanas Nausėda on November 14, 2019, a day before the swap exchange took place.

As part of the deal, Filipchenko and another Russian citizen, Sergey Moiseyenko, was returned to Russia in exchange for two Lithuanian citizens, Yevgeny Mataitis and Aristidas Tamosaitis, convicted in Russia for spying,

The exchange also included Frode Berg, a Norwegian citizen jailed in Russia for espionage.

Read more: Norwegian freed in Lithuanian-Russian spy swap: ‘I was asked to do a favour’

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