Constitution Protection Bureau is aware of spies working in Latvia under protection of the Russian embassy. The bureau does not provide comments on any specific people, commenting on news that the first secretary of the Russian embassy in Latvia is also an officer of Main Headquarters of Russian Armed Forces.
CPB does not provide comments on any foreign diplomats having any relation to intelligence and security services. At the same time, the bureau is aware that several officers of intelligence and security services do operate in Latvia under cover of the Russian embassy.
CPB stresses that intelligence services of multiple countries outside NATO and EU use embassies to cover up their activities. CPB’s goal is identifying spies among other diplomats and performing counter-intelligence measures.
It is allowed that the number of foreign intelligence officers among diplomats in Latvia could be 10% to 30% of the total number of diplomats in the country. In recent years CPB has performed active counter-intelligence activities. Thanks to these efforts, the number of spies in foreign embassies has declined significantly.
SPB uses a number of control measures and restriction methods to monitor activities of foreign intelligence services, as confirmed by the bureau. For example, if a spy works in Latvia as a diplomat and holds diplomatic immunity, one way to cease their espionage activities is expelling them from the country. Usually expulsion follows attempts to access classified information associated with state security.
Expulsion may happen discretely, without informing society. However, sometimes expulsion is widely reported by media. For example, in March 2018 Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Minister announced that in solidarity with UK and other EU countries on the Sripal poisoning case, Latvia has expelled Russian embassy’s second secretary from the country.
Another way to limit intelligence services’ activities is refusal to issue visas to officers who want to engage in intelligence activities under the guise of diplomatic service in Latvia. In certain cases authorities can decide not to extend visas, forcing spies to leave the country earlier than they planned.
If activities of an intelligence service operative do not create risks for state security, it is in the interest of counter-intelligence to control their activities and gain as much information as possible about their intelligence service’s interests, methods, as well as prevent the leak of sensitive information.
Ukrainian website Ghall.com.ua, with reference to Kremlin’s critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s portal Mbk.media, reports that the first secretary of the Russian Embassy in Latvia Roman Tatarka had studied at Moscow Military Diplomacy Academy together with alleged GRU officer Anatoly Chepiga, who is accused of poisoning former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal.
Mbk.media has published the names of the people who studies alongside Chepiga in the aforementioned institution, whose official name is Diplomatic Academy of Russian Foreign Ministry. This facility, according to Khodorkovsky’s owned website, trains future officers of Russian intelligence services.
Mbk.media reports that twelve other Russian Armed Forces officers were living together with Chepiga in the same dormitories from 2009 to 2015. This includes Tatarka, who previously studied at Cherepovets High School of Radio-Engineering Military Engineering.
The first documented reference to Tatarka’s diplomatic career dates back to 2011, when he was mentioned on the list of Latvian Foreign Affairs Ministry’s approved foreign diplomats as the third secretary of the Russian embassy. From 2018 onward he was listed as the embassy’s first secretary.