Lithuania, a member of the European Union and NATO, has identified more spies within its armed forces. The spy discovered in this incident worked at a NATO facility in Šiauliai. Lithuanian officials did not state which country the spies worked for, but they did not rule out connections to Russia and Belarus. Other experts believe several more Russian spies have infiltrated Lithuania.
“I can only guess that in this case it should be a Russian spy, although he might have also worked through a Belarusian structure,” said Marius Laurinavičius, analyst at the Eastern Europe Studies Centre. “Nevertheless, the main country which needs that is Russia. No matter what the level we are speaking about, there are masses of those spies in Lithuania. We really cannot be glad about the fact that they have not been caught so far.”
The suspect worked for Lithuania for at least ten years. He worked at the Zoknai air base, “a large NATO facility where the organisation’s Baltic patrol flights are coordinated.” He had a hand in designing flight routes at the facility. Officials also arrested the man who received information from the suspect.
“The special services informed me about his capture,” said Lithuanian Lieutenant Colonel Vidmantas Raklevičius.
The facility is one of the more important ones of its kind within the Baltics since it is shared between Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. The agreement says the “control of the facilities is changed from one country to the next once every four months.”
This incident is the third spy case within the past month in Lithuania. On December 3, officials “charged a military medic with spying for neighboring Belarus.” They allege the man provided Minsk, the capital of Belarus, with information about “the armed forces, personnel, plans and buildings” for five years. On November 10, Lithuanian prosecutors charged a second man for spying for Belarus. Businessweek reports:
The alleged spy, from the capital Vilnius and identified only by the initials R.L., was arrested a year ago on suspicion he collected and passed on information about the Lithuanian military, its divisions, and companies of strategic importance to national security. The person took photographs of documents and other objects in his office at Oro Navigacija, Lithuania’s sole provider of air traffic services, navigation and surveillance, then transferred them to the Belarus Armed Forces’ General Staff, [General Darius] Raulusaitis said.
Officials did not confirm if the spies provided information to Russia, but Raulusaitis said it was “likely that this information that was passed on to Belarus is also being exchanged with Russia.” Gediminas Grina, head of Lithuania’s State Security Department, said spying for Belarus “’is the same to us’ as spying for Russia.”
All of these incidents coincide with a large presence of Russian planes in the Baltic airspace that grew increasingly prominent as the conflict in Ukraine developed. Incidents on November 6 and 8 put the total of 2014 NATO interceptions over 100, which is three times more than 2013. NATO interceptions of Russian jets continued in November and December. The problem will likely not end soon, as Lithuania took one step closer to alliances with the West at the conclusion of 2014, adopting the Euro as its currency. Lithuania will celebrate its 25th anniversary as an independent nation this year.
“Joining the euro zone is a very logical step in the chain of very important steps for my country,” said Finance Minister Rimantas Sadzius. “Euro adoption is perhaps the final step at this stage of integrating Lithuania into the single market of western Europe. This of course has security implications, like joining NATO and the European Union.”