Russian authorities yesterday caught Estonian citizen Ville Sonn in the act of “gathering visual intelligence” at a military base in the Pskov region near Estonia. Considering that the man “did not cause substantial harm” and allegedly “admitted to having acted on assignment from the Estonian general staff,” Russia decided to exercise leniency “in the interest of good-neighborly relations with Estonia,” by merely expelling Sonn. Russian counterintelligence officials, however, portrayed the case as evidence that foreign services continue spying on Russia “despite the end of the cold war” (Itar-Tass, October 21).
Estonia’s presidential coordinator for intelligence, Niels Kross, and the military intelligence and counterintelligence chief, Riho Uhtegi, ruled out any connection with Sonn, who, they reportedly said, is “known in Estonia as a mentally unbalanced person.” Formerly a member of the fringe Party of National Independence, then of the official paramilitary organization Kaitseliit, Sonn was expelled from the latter after personally revealing in the press that he had initially worked for the KGB.
Uhtegi commented that his service watches the Russian intelligence agents in Estonia, their few recruits and those targeted for recruitment. According to him, Estonian counterintelligence prefers to “keep those agents under control” rather than expose them. In one known exception in 1996, Estonia expelled a Russian embassy attache who was trying to collect military intelligence data from a senior parliamentary staffer (BNS, October 21).
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