Russia twists spy row to its own advantage
Tuesday 14 May 1996
As more signs emerged yesterday that the spy row between Moscow and London was being allowed to subside, there were further allegations from the Russians that the nine British diplomats accused of "spying" had been investigating the possible transfer of arms and nuclear materials to terrorists via the small Baltic state. But these allegations are probably just crude propaganda, diplomats in London and Moscow say.
The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said last week that its security services had caught an agent working for MI6, adding yesterday, for the first time, that the man was one of its own. A spokesman told Interfax news agency that the alleged spy was "a middle-ranking diplomat with good prospects". Officials threw no further light on whether Russia still intends to throw out nine British diplomats in response, prompting the most serious show- down over spying between London and Moscow since 1989.
But the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) yesterday renewed its claim that Estonia, independent from Moscow since 1991, had been involved in smuggling weapons to the IRA and to Islamic separatists in Chechnya. The FSB said the arms smuggling took placethrough Estonia's volunteer national guard, Kaitseliit (Defence League), and its secret services - an uncorroborated claim that Estonia has hotly denied, and which has prompted both sides to expel a diplomat.
Estonia still has a border dispute with Moscow, and tends to be sympathetic towards Chechnya. The Baltic republic also has a reputation for discriminating against its Russian population. "With the election campaign in full swing, many candidates, including Mr Yeltsin, happily play the patriotic card," said Izvestia yesterday. "Estonia is the most convenient target for imperial displeasure."
Allegations that senior Estonian officers were trying to sell weapons, explosives, and even nuclear materials to the IRA are seen in London as a way to elicit British sympathy for Russian action against "bandits" based in Estonia. Similar allegations preceded the invasion of Chechnya, which was portrayed as a hotbed of organised crime.
On Sunday, the Russian news agency Itar-Tass said the anti-terrorist branch of the FSB expressed willingness to exchange information with the UK and the Irish Republic on weapons smuggled from Estonia to the IRA.
On 6 May the FSB alleged that "political forces in Estonia deliberately seek to aggravate relations with Russia" by channelling weapons to Russian criminal groups and "illegal armed formations" including Chechen groups through the "extremist" Kaitseliit. Kaitseliit is in fact an official organisation playing a key role in the development of Estonia's defences while its 3,500-strong army is in its formative stages.
The latest allegations follow a stream of threats to crush Estonia if it joins Nato. Boris Yeltsin, and Presidential candidates General Alexander Lebed and Vladimir Zhirinovsky have all threatened invasion.
Western experts treat the reports of any Estonian connection with the IRA with extreme scepticism. Diplomatic sources dismiss them out of hand. David McDuff, an affiliate of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies and an expert in Estonian and Russian affairs said: "This is really crude Boy's Own stuff. But some of the media have been swallowing it."
- 1 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 2 Kate Moss: Previously unpublished nude photo revealed by Mert and Marcus
- 4 World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
- 5 Bad Jews poster 'censored' on London Tube
Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
Indian woman creates 'Marriage CV' after parents put her on dating site: 'Definitely not marriage material. Won’t grow long hair, ever'
Becky Watts: Four appear in court charged with hiding body parts after teenager's death
Isis 'bulldozes' Nimrud: UNESCO condemns destruction of ancient Assyrian site as a 'war crime'
Professor Brian Cox brands astrology-believing Tory MP David Tredinnick an 'outlier on the spectrum of reason'
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Elif Shafak: Turkish author warns against rise of British nationalism
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...
£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...
£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...
£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...