Sa, 28.01.2023

Traitor: I expected to be arrested

Helen Mihelson
, reporter
Traitor: I expected to be arrested
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Denis Metsavas
Denis Metsavas Photo: The Atlantic

Former Estonian Defense Forces member, convicted traitor Deniss Metsavas gave an interview in prison, talking about how he shared state and international secrets with the GRU for years.

The interview given to US publication The Atlantic is the first time the public is treated to Metsavas’ version of events. Metsavas and his father Pjotr Volin were convicted of treason in agreement process earlier this year. Metsavas was handed a sentence of 15 and a half years, with Volin sent to prison for six years.

The Atlantic’s 15-minute documentary starts with Metsavas taking a seat and the interviewer asking him whether he’s okay. “I have to spend the next 15 years in prison. Am I okay? You should know the answer to that,” Metsavas replied.

He added that it was like two people lived inside him and went on to describe how Russian military intelligence GRU recruited him.

Metsavas said it happened in 2007 when he traveled to Smolensk, Russia to visit relatives. They visited a local night club on a Friday night where Metsavas spent time with a young woman. The couple left together in the early hours of the morning

“When I woke up the next morning and stepped out of the building, a couple of men were waiting for me. They accused me of raping the girl. They showed me a document the girl had allegedly signed. They also showed me a couple of very short video clips,” Metsavas said.

Fear of Russian prison

Metsavas claimed he told the men that he had done nothing of the sort. Next, he was told the men can help him if he cooperates. “The thought crossed my mind that I could go to prison in Russia for 10-15 years and that it would ruin my life. I agreed to everything they wanted.”

Metsavas recalled how he returned to Estonia, but the Russian agents made no attempt to contact him for a year. In the fall of 2008, when Metsavas was leaving her mother’s place, a man approached him and asked whether Metsavas still remembered him. He was told there was nothing to worry about and that the men just wanted to help him.

“I gave them a little information and got paid,” the traitor told the US paper’s reporter. When Metsavas asked whether that was all, the men said they needed more information and wanted to continue cooperation.

That same year, Metsavas traveled to St. Petersburg and was picked up by a man who went by the name Anton. He does not know whether it was the man’s real name.

The driver took hm to a safe house where he was asked a number of questions concerning Estonian military infrastructure and equipment. Deniss Metsavas said that the questions were simple, and the information could easily have been found online. That is why he said he did not feel like he was acting like a spy or traitor at that point. At the same time, he understood that by accepting money in exchange for the information, he was in new territory. “That was the first step,” he told The Atlantic.

Metsavas said that while he was never told his family might have an accident if he does not cooperate, it was understood. For example, he was asked about his mother’s flower shop or his father’s health.

Father recruited separately

Metsavas then said how he was to drive to St. Petersburg again in 2013 to meet with Anton and tell him that was the end. However, he said that his Russian contacts “were very good at keeping him on the hook,” which is when his father Pjotr Volin entered play. Volin later became a “courier” whose task was to smuggle the secret material out of Estonia.

It turned out in St. Petersburg in the summer of 2013 that during a period Metsavas had been on a mission to Afghanistan, his father Pjotr Volin had been contacted. Metsavas’ father was on vacation in Vladivostok with his new wife who had taken seriously ill. Metsavas said his father agreed to the lucrative work to pay for his wife’s treatment.

Regarding his arrest in September of last year, Metsavas said: “I was expecting to be arrested. I had thought about it a thousand times.”

“It is very difficult for me to explain [why I did it]. I don’t really know,” Metsavas said in his first ever interview.