Last week’s Kanal 2 crime news broadcast released recordings of a Police and Border Guard Board investigators’ raid of a brothel in Kopli district of Tallinn. Besides the mother and daughter residing in the apartment, there was a man who claimed to be called Morris.
Morris initially talked to the police in English and declined from identifying himself further. The women later told the police that the man also understands Russian. He denied it initially, but agreed to speak Russian after some time.
He claimed to be Boris of the Russian Embassy staff and asked the police to inform the embassy’s security advisor. Since the man had only a credit card with him, the police had to take him to the station for identification.
This was not the first time for the police to confront a Russian diplomat serving in Estonia, but the first occasion when a diplomat hid his identity. According to the usual practice, the foreign representative informs the police of his diplomatic immunity and there will be no scandal.
But Boris first began to speak in English and did not mention diplomatic immunity. He did not have it – he was in Estonia as a temporary diplomatic official, who is not granted immunity and not accredited by the host country. Therefore Russia had no obligation to inform the Estonian Foreign Ministry of his presence.
According to Postimees, the name of the diplomat is Boris Bodrov and he left Estonia quite soon after the incident. “He was here in some sense temporarily. He returned to Moscow a month and a half ago,” Denis Mosyukov, press attaché of the Russian Embassy said.
The press service was unable to answer about the length of Bodrov’s temporary duties at the embassy. Neither did they answer the question about the reasons for his departure. According to the embassy’s official version, Bodrov worked in Estonia in connection with Estonia’s chairmanship of the EU council in the second half of 2018.
Postimees has information that Russia has been sending, ever more frequently in recent years, its diplomats to the EU member countries (including Estonia) on temporary duty, which means that the host country cannot check their background or grant approval to their arrival. Essentially such diplomat drives to the border checkpoint, presents his diplomatic passport and is allowed to enter the country.
Security services are worried about such practices, since anyone could enter a country with a diplomatic passport. On the last day of 2014, a decree came in force in Russia permitting the granting of diplomatic passports to department heads and personnel of FSB and other services so as to ensure the safety of Russian institutions and citizens outside the country’s borders.
Harrys Puusepp, spokesman of the Estonian Internal Security Service, was unwilling to comment directly on the Bodrov incident. “The ISS will decline from commenting on the particular individual – this was a case investigated by the Police and Border Guard Board and he was not charged with any violation,” Puusepp said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also unwilling to directly comment on the incident; the ministry’s media advisor Sandra Kamilova said that all diplomats, both short- and long-term, are obliged to observe the host country’s laws. However, Bodrov is not suspected of any misdemeanor or crime.
Puusepp admitted that more broadly there is reason to mention the intensification of Russia’s intelligence activities on the region. “Without doubt, the modus operandi of Russian Federation’s special services includes, among other options, operating under official cover, for example pretending to be diplomats or other state officials,” he explained.
Postimees has information that dispatching temporary diplomats has become one of the most actively used methods; Russia is thus making use of the agreement on issuing visas, concluded with the EU in 2006.
The Estonian ISS has pointed it out in its 2015 yearbook. “Intensive intelligence gathering activities of the Russian Federation’s special services continued in Europe during 2014. The expulsions of Russian intelligence officers operating under the cover of diplomats from several European countries serve as proof. Estonia has used the same practice as well.” It was admitted then that Russian diplomats were expelled from Estonia, but no comments were provided regarding individual cases.