Published On: Sat, Apr 13th, 2024

NATO country ‘on the frontline’ as Russia uses ‘brutal tactics’ | World | News

The Baltic states are being targeted by Russian spy agencies, the head of Estonia‘s counterintelligence has claimed as fears grow among NATO members Vladimir Putin may be eyeing up his next target for a new war in Europe.

Margo Palloson, the Director General of the Estonian Internal Security Service, accused the Kremlin of trying to leverage influence in NATO’s eastern flank through a series of operations.

Among the tactics being adopted by Russian secret services would be, according to Mr Palloson, bomb scares, cyberattacks, acts of vandalism and election interference.

A bomb threat campaign was directed last October by Russian special services, Mr Palloson said, and it saw hundreds of Estonian schools, government offices, local governments and businesses receiving scary warnings via email, later found to have been sent from Russia by Kremlin-aligned activists and not to present any direct danger.

In an interview with ERR, the counterintelligence chief said: “The most significant change in the security threat picture over the past year is the shift in Russian influence activities towards more physical and brutal tactics, something which we also refer to as ‘state vandalism’.

“Over the past year, Russia has intensified hybrid operations against Estonia and several other European countries, attempting to use all non-military means as weapons against us.”

Estonia, which shares a 180-mile-long border with Russia, and the other Baltic nations are being targeted partially in revenge to the stark support being provided by the country to war-torn Ukraine, Mr Palloson said. He added: “We are on the frontline”.

After Estonia expelled many pro-Kremlin diplomats, Russia‘s security services looked at social media and people in more vulnerable situations to bolster their ranks, the Estonian spy chief claimed.

Mr Palloson’s warning came after he presented an annual report by his agency, in which was claimed the Kremlin’s goals include stoking fear and bringing “Estonia back to its sphere of influence”.

The report also said the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), which has a significant local following among the Russian-speaking minority in Estonia, is being used by the Kremlin to meddle in Estonian elections and thwart support for Ukraine.

The ROC previously addressed the war in Ukraine as “holy” because the Kremlin is defending “holy Russia” from globalism and the victory of the West.

The report was made public as Estonian Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets spoke in favour of declaring the church a terrorist organisation.

He said: “Taking the context as a whole, as minister of the interior, I have no choice but to propose to the Riigikogu that they declare the activities of the Patriarchate operating in Moscow as [a] terrorist [organisation] and supportive of terrorism, so consequently the interior minister may go to court and propose the termination of the activities of that church organisation as it operates here.”

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