TALLINN - Like elsewhere in the world, the hostile activities of the Russian Federation did not slow down in Estonia in 2021, either, however, agents of the Kremlin experienced a setback as a result of Russia's hostilities against Ukraine, the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) said in its recent annual review.
The ISS said that espionage has continued under the guise of diplomacy from the embassy of the Russian Federation in Estonia as well as from the Russian territory and while the coronavirus made intelligence activities more difficult, at least in terms of physical contacts, and a part of intelligence moved into the virtual sphere, in 2021, a partial recovery of physical contacts was observed. Both the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the GRU have attempted and are attempting to make contact with many Estonian nationals and residents in Russia.
"As a result of the start of Russian hostilities in Ukraine, the activities by Russian special services in handling their human sources has experienced a serious setback, however. In addition to fear of intelligence activities, Russia showing its real colors undoubtedly also opened the eyes of many people who previously held neutral attitudes towards Russia and finding sympathetic individuals who can be recruited will be significantly more difficult for the Russian special services going forward," the annual review reads.
From the start of 2021 until March 2022, six diplomats of the Russian Federation have been declared personae non gratae by Estonia. Three of the said diplomats have been declared personae non gratae in relation to Russia's hostilities in Ukraine.
"Russia's aggression against Ukraine was not the only reason why these people were made to leave. As to the remaining diplomats, with two of them the issue concerned the Estonian republic's response to the Kremlin's hostile activities against our diplomats and allies, such as the Russian special services' participation in the attack on the Vrbetice ammunition warehouses in the Check Republic in 2014 and FSB's clearly provocative conduct towards an Estonian consul in St. Petersburg in summer 2021," the ISS said.
On one occasion, a Russian diplomat was expelled from Estonia in 2021 due to the diplomat's activities that were not in line with the Vienna Convention.
Ordinarily, a persona non grata status means that the Schengen area and borders of other western states will remain closed for the diplomat for quite a long time.