Latvia's State Security Service: Keep an eye open for spies

Take note – story published 1 year and 2 months ago

The State Security Service (VDD) has released its annual public report reviewing its activities during 2022.

The VDD is one of three national security services in Latvia. The others are the Constitution Protection Bureau (SAB) and the Defense Intelligence and Security Service (MIDD). The SAB has already reported on its 2022 activities, whereas the MIDD's report is not made publicly available.

"The war in Ukraine has changed the architecture of world security and left a lasting impact on Latvian society as well. It has also introduced significant changes in the daily operation of the service, making it necessary to expand and strengthen countermeasures against the threat posed by the aggressor Russia," said head of the VDD Normunds Mežviets in an introduction to the 2022 report.

The 70-page report includes information on the main areas of activity of the VDD: counter-intelligence, protection of state secrets, protection of the constitutional system, protection of the information space, economic security, anti-terrorism, pre-trial investigation and protection of high state officials.

"Russian intelligence services are particularly interested in obtaining intelligence on military targets. Information about critical infrastructure objects is of no less importance to the Kremlin and other strategically important objects of Latvia and other Western countries in an area that could potentially be used for sabotage or planning military operations," said the VDD in its report.

"Activities were also expanded against Latvia last year by the special services of Belarus, Russia's closest ally, whose cooperation with the Russian special services became stronger as Russian influence over Belarus increased," the VDD said, adding that a Belarusian spy had been detained who had been tasked with collecting intelligence information about Latvian military facilities, critical infrastructure and other strategically important objects.

"The Chinese special services also maintained their interest in Latvia, mainly involving opportunities to promote China's influence and economic interests by investing strategically in important industries and companies in Latvia. However last year, Latvia was not among the Chinese special services' priority intelligence targets and their activities did not pose a significant threat to Latvia's national security," the report notes.

In an interesting aside, the VDD called on the public to report suspicious activities near critical infrastructure objects, military facilities, energy and logistics transmission lines or any other significant object. That might include filming or photographing facilities, repeated or long-term surveillance or burying objects in the ground, it said.

The report also includes some handy tips on how to spot foreign spies who might attempt to contact you in the workplace. Giveaways include being not very knowledgeable in the profession they use for cover, being either extremely friendly or threatening blackmail, arranging private conversations in an informal setting, making contact via friends or relatives, and showing "increased interest in the situation in Latvia", among other things.

If you do think you've encountered a spook, you can report the encounter to the VDD on the 24-hour hotline 67208964, write an email to [email protected] or arrange a visit to the VDD office at K. Barona ielā 99A in Rīga.

Among other interesting nuggets of information in the report is the fact that in 2022, VDD bodyguards provided services to 52 foreign government and international organization representatives' visits to Latvia. The figure was down on the equivalent 89 in 2021, when a major NATO foreign ministers' meeting boosted the number.

The full public report on the operation of VDD in 2022 is available here. An English-language version is usually released in the middle of the year.


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