Suspected taxi-driving Russian spy detained by Latvian security service

Latvia's State Security Service (VDD) said August 18 it had detained an individual on suspicion of spying for Russia.

While investigating the activities of an organization calling itself "Baltic Antifascists" ("Baltijas Antifašisti") on the Telegram messaging platform, the VDD said it had become aware of "a Latvian citizen who systematically and purposefully collected and passed on to the members of the organization information that could be used against the interests of Latvia's national security about what is happening in our country."

As a result, on August 15, the VDD detained the unnamed person on suspicion of spying for Russia.

"In the course of the investigation, the VDD found out that the specific Latvian citizen was in regular contact with the members of the criminal organization "Baltic Antifascists". The person sent them information about the personnel and equipment of the armed forces of allied countries, the infrastructure of the port of Rīga and the airport, oil terminals, drone ranges, as well as other strategically important objects on the territory of Latvia. Also, the person gave the so-called "Baltic Antifascists" information about persons and companies in Latvia that support Ukraine and oppose Russian aggression," the VDD said in a statement.

Though the individual was not identified, a clue was provided by the additional information that obtaining information "was facilitated by work as a taxi driver, which allowed them to remain relatively undisturbed staying near the airport, port and other strategically important objects."

The suspect is charged by the VDD with illegal collection and transfer of information to a foreign intelligence service on its behalf through another person. If found guilty, a jail term of up to ten years may be applied.

In the assessment of the VDD, the person purposefully collected the data and then distributed it to Russia via the "Baltic Antifascists" organization

"Along with the arrest, on August 15, the VDD conducted criminal procedural activities at the person's residence, during which several data carriers were found, as well as symbols confirming the person's pro-Kremlin ideological beliefs, such as the flags of Russia and the USSR," the VDD said.

On August 17, at the suggestion of the VDD, the court placed the suspect in custody as a security measure.

The VDD warned that any kind of involvement with the so-called "Baltic anti-fascists" – working apparenty without qualms on behalf of an overtly fascist Russia – is subject to criminal liability. It is not the first time the group has come to the attention of the security services and the related criminal process was initiated by the VDD as far back as November 28, 2022.

As part of the criminal process, seven persons are currently under suspect status. Three of these persons are in custody. The investigation continues.

As well as the VDD, Latvian Television has also delved into the murky pro-Kremlin world of the "Baltic Antifascists". The head of the State Security Service, Normunds Mežviets, has previously said that the aim of the Telegram groups set up by the Baltic Antifascists is to create inter-ethnic tension in Latvia by distributing various pro-Kremlin messages, by turning against the Latvian state and by questioning the numerous crimes Russia has committed against Ukraine.

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 70-page Annual Report about VDD’s activities in 2022 is available to download here.

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