FSB claims Estonian security service employee spied for Russia for 20 years

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Photo: NTV ekraanipilt

Russia's federal security service FSB claims that it had an agent in the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) for 20 years, Russian news agency Interfax said on Sunday with reference to the NTV television channel.

Former ISS employee Uno Puusepp forwarded Estonian, NATO and American secrets to Russia, the news agency said.

Puusepp earlier worked at KGB, it said.

According to NTV Puusepp started to work for FSB in 1996, maintaining contact with the Russian agency through former KGB colleague Nikolai Yermakov, who was resident in Estonia, had a business there and visited Russia regularly.

Information from Puusepp reportedly enabled Moscow to torpedo several anti-Russian operations of U.S., Swedish, British and other countries' special services, including an operation to connect to a fiber optic cable through which the Russian embassy in Tallinn sent ciphered information to Moscow. The Russians first let the Americans install expensive equipment and then started using other communication channels.

Puusepp is the son of a former Soviet officer and joined the KGB in the 1970s after being trained as a saboteur radio operator, NTV said.

When Estonia regained independence, Puusepp was one of few ex-KGB officers to be employed by the Estonian security service as a specialist in the technical service.

Via Puusepp, the FSB got hold of secret reports to the ISS director and the Estonian prime minister, reports on conferences between the ISS and the intelligence services of other Baltic countries, Finland and Britain, and information about Western special services and ISS agents. Owing to Puusepp, Russia allegedly knew about the scale of intelligence activities by the U.S. National Security Agency in Europe before Edward Snowden came up with his disclosures.

Puusepp also had access to information on the recruitment of Russians by Western intelligence services and knew about surveillance Russian diplomats were put under.

His reports led to the disclosure of Valery Ojamae, a former Russian Foreign Intelligence officer, as a double agent. Ojamae voluntarily offered his services to the Estonian security service in 1999 and worked for British intelligence for about a year, after which he was arrested and received a seven-year prison term.

It was also due to information from Puusepp that former Russian border guard Col. Igor Vyalkov was found to be spying for the ISS. Vyalkov was convicted of espionage.

Interfax says that ISS information leaks and operational failures caused anxiety in the United States. After several years of looking for the source of the leaks, an arrest was made. But it was not Puusepp who was arrested but ex-KGB officer Vladimir Veitman, who worked in the same ISS division.

Veitman confessed to collaboration with Russian intelligence and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

"Of course, I was very surprised that instead of me it was my colleague Veitman who had been arrested - as far as I knew, he'd passed over absolutely no information," Puusepp said.

The FSB said Puusepp resigned from the ISS three years ago and moved to Moscow.

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