Moscow may want to swap Estonian security police officer Eston Kohver for a Russian spy jailed in Germany, thinks Boris Volodarski, a Russian intelligence expert and former officer at military intelligence for Soviet armed forces (GRU) who also advises searching for a traitor behind the snatching of Mr Kohver.
A mole hunt tip to intelligence in Estonia
«Possibly, the Russians want to exchange him (Mr Kohver – edit) for Andreas Anschlag and therefore they are blowing up Mr Kohver’s role, considering that he has been photographed with the Estonian president,» said Mr Volodarski, currently working as intelligence and security expert at London School of Economics and Political Science.
Even the fact that during the three months in Moscow prison Mr Kohver has not once been interrogated as to the essence of the accusation serves to point to negotiations, thinks Mr Volodarski. «Probably, they are in negotiations with Germany and that takes time,» guessed the expert.
Kohver lured into trap
Andreas Anschlag (actually, as alleged, Aleksandr Rost – edit), a man illegally in Germany and spying for Russia for two decades, was in 2011 apprehended together with wife Heidrun (actually, as alleged, Olga Rost – edit) and were both sentenced to jail last summer by a court in Stuttgart. The man got six and a half years, and the wife five and a half. For mysterious reasons, the woman was released this November and allegedly left for Moscow immediately.
«He (Andreas Anschlag – edit) spied for KGB/SVR for a quarter of a century, they cannot abandon him,» said Mr Volodarski.
KGB was the Soviet security service, forerunner to the current Russian FSB which this November 5th apprehended Eston Kohver. SVR is the Russian foreign intelligence service.
Mr Volodarski, who in the 2000ies advised Scotland Yard during the Alexander Litvinenko (former FSB intelligence officer who died in London as poisoned with polonium – edit) case and afterwards author of a book and TV programmes on history of Russian intelligence, considers the capture of Mr Kohver at Estonia-Russia border just the desire by FSB to get rid of him as the man was investigating cross-border smuggling and corruption. According to Mr Volodarski, such business in Russia is conducted under obvious FSB protection which means the overly active investigation by Mr Kohver may have gotten in somebody’s way.
To characterise the cross-border smuggling from Russia, the former GRU officer used the word «FSB roof» i.e. cover.
«[Smuggling channels] benefit FSB in various ways, including their own illegal staff infiltrating Western Europe, as well as useful financial transfers,» said Mr Volodarski. «They just wanted to get rid of him.»
At that, Mr Volodarski emphasised the need for Estonian intelligence to be searching for a traitor in their ranks. «There must be a so-called mole in their ranks as the Russians were very well informed of the movements of Mr Kohver and lured him into a trap so that it was very well planned and executed,» he said. «The intelligence services must look for a mole, this is one of the basic conclusions.»
FSB imitating investigation
As assessed by Mr Volodarski, FSB knows perfectly well that Mr Kohver is no spy, though accused in espionage. «Such claims by Russia are pure bluff,» he claims.
According to Mr Volodarski, FSB is just imitating investigations when it comes to Mr Kohver. «They are not seriously interrogating him as they know he will be sharing no secrets and the rest is of no interest to them, as they also know he is not a spy,» he noted.
Mr Volodarski said every day spent in a Russian jailhouse is, naturally, tormenting. «Obviously, he will emerge from there as an Estonian hero,» hoped the expert.
From Spetsnaz to intelligence analyst
- In the 1980ies, Boris Volodarski served in the Soviet military intelligence GRU at armed forces and the defence ministry of the USSR.
- To begin with, he served at the GRU special unit (Spetsnaz), after which for several years he was in preparation to ease into Austrian society as an «illegal», dwelling there as an outwardly law-abiding citizen to collect intelligence data.
- Thanks to Perestroika in the USSR, the intelligence programme where Mr Volodarski participated was halted. As the Soviet Union fell apart, he left GRU and also Russia.
- In London, Mr Volodarski is quite esteemed as expert in Russian intelligence, one focussed on the history of Soviet and Russian intelligence agencies. In case of spy scandals, he is used by expert by channels like BBC, Al Jazeera and Radio Liberty. BBC, for instance, a couple of years ago showed a documentary, prepared with participation of Mr Volodarski, on Russian intelligence agencies called «How to poison a spy».
Comment by Security Police (the Kapo):
Uncovering traitors is a vital task for any security agency. In Estonia, over these past five years four traitors have been convicted in court as working for Russian intelligence agencies, three of these during the last two years.
We have sufficient knowledge of the FSB operation. This is not a case of treason.