One of Latvia’s intelligence services, the State Security Service (VDD) published its annual review of 2019 March 17, and it makes for interesting reading.
“While the new coronavirus Covid-19 disease has for some time brought other priorities to the forefront of public safety, national security issues remain relevant. What’s more, the lessons learned in the future will only add to the already complex security environment, especially in the area of economic security,” said VDD Chief Normunds Mežviets.
The report includes information on the main activities of the VDD: counter-intelligence, protection of state secrets, protection of the constitutional order, economic security, counter-terrorism, pre-trial investigation and protection of state officials.
A public summary of the VDD’s activities in 2019 is available in Latvian here . An English translation is usually provided at a later date.
“Last year there were no significant changes in the interest of foreign special services. Latvia was of interest to hostile foreign special services both as a member of international organizations (NATO, EU) and in connection with current foreign and domestic affairs,” the report says.
“So far, the VDD has informed the public about four criminal proceedings pending under Article 85 of the Criminal Law regarding espionage. Last year, the case concluded in which former Latvian Railways employee Alexandrs Krasnopjorovs was convicted of espionage on behalf of Russian military intelligence… For its part, legal proceedings were initiated against Olegs Buraks, a former official of the Information Center of the Ministry of the Interior. According to the VDD, Mr Buraks collected various types of information, including containing state secrets, on a continuous and systematic basis on behalf of the Russian special service and passed it on to the Russian special service. As the proceedings in this case have not been concluded, the VDD reminds that no person can be held guilty until his guilt has been established in accordance with the law,” the report says.
Last year, the VDD prompted the Interior Minister to blacklist 53 foreigners, preventing them entering Latvia. Of these, 45 were blacklisted for the constitutional threat they posed, 6 for terrorist risks and 2 for intelligence risks. Of these, 36 were temporarily blacklisted and 17 blacklisted indefinitely.
However, the most startling revelation contained in the report concerns the prevention of a planned terror attack, apparently by a mentally unhinged individual with an obsession with the Norwegian neo-fascist mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.
“Last year, the VDD detained a person who was planning to carry out terrorist attacks at an educational institution and several commercial outlets in Jūrmala. The arrest took place as part of a criminal trial initiated in late 2018 for allegedly inciting national hatred and strife. The person came to the attention of the VDD because of longstanding comments about Russian and Roma people in Latvia on various websites, including calls for the eradication of these ethnic groups,” the report says.
“Information obtained during the investigation showed that the person considered himself a follower of the ideas of the Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Behring-Breivik and was completely obsessed with this person, following all publicly available information about him… The VDD found that, inspired by the crimes committed by A. Behring-Breivik, the individual had begun purposeful preparations for a violent assault on children at a minority school, and had planned to carry out terrorist attacks in several outlets.
“The person had planned to implement his plans on the birthday of A. Behring-Breivik on February 13th. The person had already begun to purchase the necessary means to intimidate and kill people, and his plans also included the use of explosions. By timely procedural actions, the VDD prevented this person’s carefully planned criminal activities,” the report says. An accompanying image showed knives and other items in the individual’s possession.
The unnamed individual was subsequently found guilty of the terror plot but was exempted from criminal liability on medical advice and consigned to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.
Latvian State Security Service (VDD) is one of the three Latvian Security and Intelligence Services besides Constitution Protection Bureau (SAB) and Defence Intelligence and Security Service (MIDD). VDD is counterintelligence and internal security service, which gathers the information from different sources, carries out its analysis, informs senior officials about the threats identified to the national security as well as takes measures to neutralize them.