Belarus announces arrest of alleged Lithuanian spy ring members

Belarus and LithuaniaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The government of Belarus has announced the arrest of an espionage ring allegedly operating out of the Lithuanian embassy in Belarusian capital Minsk. It appears that the alleged ring consisted of at least one Lithuanian embassy official, identified only as “Mr. F” in Belarusian state documents, as well as an undisclosed number of Belarusian nationals. A brief statement published on the website of the Belarusian State Security Committee, the KGB, said that the Lithuanian official, who is said to be a military attaché at the embassy, was arrested along with several Belarusian members of the alleged spy ring. The arrests reportedly took place soon after members of the spy ring were caught in the act of exchanging information; the KGB press office added that “electronic equipment” and “spy gadgets” of an undisclosed nature were confiscated from the arrestees. Little is known at this point about the precise focus of the accused spies; the KGB claims that they were “engaged in efforts to gain information in the military sphere”. Media reports from Minsk suggest that the activities of the alleged ring were particularly focused on bilateral security arrangements between Belarus and Russia. Belarus, a former Soviet republic, is today one of Russia’s staunchest allies in Europe; since 1994, the country has been ruled by Russophile President Alexander Lukashenko, who often accuses other former Soviet republics —including Lithuania— of stooping to the West. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #684

Boris KarpichkovBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Pakistan sacks health workers who helped CIA locate bin Laden. Seventeen local health workers have been fired in Abbottabad for their part in a CIA scheme to try to confirm the presence of Osama bin Laden in the northern Pakistani town. The low-ranking health department employees were punished for helping Dr Shakil Afridi, who was assigned by the CIA to set up a fake vaccination scheme in Abbottabad, ahead of the US military operation that found and killed the al-Qaida leader there.
►►Estonia arrests couple for spying for Russia. Estonian prosecutors said Aleksei Dressen, who works for Estonia’s security police, and his wife, Viktoria Dressen, were arrested at Tallinn airport as she was boarding a flight to Moscow on February 22. Aleksei Dressen allegedly went to the airport to give his wife a folder that contained classified information. Meanwhile, in neighboring Lithuania, the government has released the names of 238 citizens who were reservists for the KGB during the Cold War.
►►KGB defector talks to British newspaper. Since fleeing to Britain in the late 1990s Boris Karpichkov has preferred to keep a low profile —unlike another, better-known Moscow agent who fled to London, one Alexander Litvinenko. He says he ran audacious disinformation operations against the CIA and broke into and planted bugs in the British embassy in Riga. But in 1995 he grew unhappy with the increasingly corrupt FSB (the KGB’s successor), which, he says, failed to pay him. He spent several months in a Moscow prison before slipping into Britain on one of the false passports he was given as a KGB officer. He hasn’t been back to Russia since.

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Imtiaz Ahmad

Imtiaz Ahmad

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Finland cancels visa of ex-KGB general. We reported recently on the case of Mikhail Golovatov, a former commander of the Soviet KGB’s Alpha Group, who is wanted in Lithuania for alleged war crimes against the country’s secession movement in the early 1990s. Last week, Austria arrested Golovatov, but released him 24 hours later, claiming that his Lithuanian-issued European arrest warrant was “too vague” to justify his continued detention. There are now reports that the Finnish embassy in Moscow has annulled the Schengen visa it had previously issued to the former KGB officer. In a statement, Finnish officials said they would not have granted Golovatov a visa in the first place, except there had been “a spelling mistake in Golovatov’s first name”, which made them think he the applicant was not General Golovatov of KGB fame. Hmmm…. ►►Georgian ‘spy photographers’ to be released. In a bizarre twist to the ‘photojournalist spies’ saga in Georgia, the government has announced that the three will be released under an agreed plea-bargain deal, because they had given the authorities “information of particular importance for national security” about Russian intelligence operations in Georgia. The three have allegedly “revealed the identities of Russian spies working in the country as well as the names of their Georgian collaborators and cover organizations operating on behalf of Moscow”. The three, Zurab Kurtsikidze, Irakli Gedenidze and Giorgi Abdaladze, are all professional photojournalists, who are accused by Tbilisi of spying for Moscow. ►►Pakistani ex-spy director says US owes Pakistan. Imtiaz Ahmed (often spelled Ahmad) is the former Director General of Pakistan’s main domestic intelligence agency, the Intelligence Bureau (IB). In a recent interview, he accused the United States of using the ‘war on terrorism’ as a strategic pretext for capturing energy resources and limiting China’s economic growth. He also said that the US owes the Pakistani intelligence agencies, because without them it could not have accomplished its task in the Afghan war against the Soviet Union. IntelNews readers may remember the last time Ahmad had made headlines, when he revealed a series of CIA operations against Pakistan’s nuclear program.

Lithuania recalls Austria ambassador over ex-KGB general’s release

Mikhail Golovatov

Mikhail Golovatov

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The government of Lithuania has recalled its ambassador to Vienna, in protest over the release by Austria of a former Soviet intelligence official, who is wanted in Vilnius for war crimes. Last Thursday, Austrian authorities arrested Russian citizen Mikhail Golovatov, a former general of the KGB, who was stationed in Lithuania during the final years of the Soviet Union. Golovatov’s detention was facilitated by a European arrest warrant issued by the office of the Lithuanian prosecutor. The latter accuses Golovatov of authorizing crimes of war as head of Alpha Group —also known as Spetsnaz Grupp Alfa— a special forces unit within the KGB’s First Chief Directorate. On January 13, 1991, Alpha Group forces spearheaded a counterinsurgency attack on the State Radio and Television Building and the Vilnius TV Tower in the Lithuanian capital, in an attempt to quash the Soviet Republic’s growing secessionist movement. The latter had unilaterally declared Lithuania’s independence on March 11, 1990. The attack resulted in the death of 14 and the injury of over 700 people. During the past two decades, the Lithuanian state has sponsored an international campaign for the arrest of numerous officials who represented the Soviet security apparatus in Lithuania during the final months of the USSR’s existence. But, to Vilnius’ shock, Austrian authorities released Golovatov 24 hours after arresting him, arguing that the European arrest warrant issued by the Lithuanian prosecutor’s office was “too vague” to justify the former KGB general’s continued detention. Read more of this post

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  • Japanese reporter cleared of 1974 espionage charges. A Japanese newspaper correspondent in South Korea, whose life was ruined in 1974, after he was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of helping fund North Korean espionage activities, has been acquitted in a retrial.
  • CIA interrogated al-Qaeda suspect in Poland, claims UN. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, suspected of the 2000 al-Qaeda bombing of the USS Cole, was interrogated in a secret CIA prison in northern Poland, claims a UN report. Similar allegations have also been leveled against 12 nations, among them EU states such as Romania and Lithuania.

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Lithuania’s spy chief resigns over secret CIA prison probe

Malakauskas

Malakauskas

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The director of Lithuania’s intelligence service unexpectedly resigned on Monday, reportedly in connection with a parliamentary investigation into a reputed CIA secret prison site in the country. IntelNews regulars will remember that last November ABC News cited CIA officials in alleging that the Lithuanian government provided the CIA with an unmarked building located in Lithuanian capital Vilnius, with the understanding that it would be used as a so-called black site for secretly detaining high-value al-Qaeda suspects. Lithuanian government officials denied the allegation, but promised to set up a high-level probe into the matter. But the members of the parliamentary committee that was established to examine the ABC News revelations soon found themselves shunned by Lithuanian intelligence officials. According to the committee head, Arvydas Anusauskas, the parliamentarians were offered ambiguous answers or no answers at all by Lithuanian secret service agencies. Read more of this post

Ex-KGB agent shot dead in downtown Moscow

Kalmanovic

Kalmanovic

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former KGB agent, who was jailed in Israel in the 1980s for spying for the Soviet Union, was gunned down in downtown Moscow on Monday afternoon. Shabtai von Kalmanovic was shot repeatedly from close range in an apparent contract killing operation, as his chauffeur-driven Mercedes car was stopped at a red light a few blocks away from the Kremlin. Kalmanovic, 62, was a citizen of Lithuania, Russia and Israel. He was born in Soviet Lithuania in 1947, and permitted to emigrate to Israel with his Jewish parents in 1971. In 1987, Israeli authorities arrested Kalmanovic for allegedly giving Israeli military secrets to the KGB. Read more of this post

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Dozens of MI5 agents to testify in Real IRA trial

RIRA gunmen

RIRA gunmen

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Over 30 agents of MI5, Britain’s primary domestic intelligence agency, will be anonymously giving evidence at a scheduled trial of three men arrested in connection with a Real IRA international gun smuggling operation. The men, Paul Anthony John McCaugherty, Dermot Declan Gregory, and Desmond Paul Kearns, all from County Armagh in Northern Ireland, were arrested after a yearlong infiltration operation by MI5, involving the use of informants and surveillance equipment. The latter resulted in nearly 90 hours of recorded conversations, which the court said will take “months to transcribe”. Additionally, 35 MI5 agents have so far applied to give evidence in court, their identity concealed behind screens. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0105

  • Trial of Serb former intelligence chiefs opens today. The trial of Jovica Stanišić, Director of Serbia’s State Security Service from 1990 until 1998, and Stojan Župljanin, commander of the Bosnian Serb police during the Bosnian war, opens today at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, in The Hague. As intelNews has reported before, at least two eponymous CIA agents have admitted that Stanišić was a CIA collaborator from 1991 until 1998.
  • Lithuanian Prime Minister was KGB agent, says board. A Lithuanian commission tasked with uncovering pro-Moscow informants and intelligence agents during the country’s communist period, has concluded that Kazimira Danutė Prunskienė, Lithuania’s first Prime Minister after the country’s 1990 declaration of independence from the Soviet Union, secretly collaborated with the Soviet KGB.
  • Congo says it won’t execute Norwegian alleged spies. Norway’s foreign minister says he has been assured that the two Norwegians who were sentenced to death by a Congolese military tribunal last week on spying charges will not be executed.

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Lithuania also hosted CIA black sites, says ABC News

Dick Marty

Dick Marty

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
After Poland and Romania, the former Soviet republic of Lithuania has been identified by US information outlet ABC News as another European nation that secretly hosted CIA prisons after 9/11. ABC News reporter Matthew Cole says former CIA officials told him that the Lithuanian government provided the CIA with a building located in suburban Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, with the understanding that it would be used as a so-called black site for secretly detaining high-value al-Qaeda suspects. The CIA reportedly used the building to detain up to eight suspects for over a year each, until December of 2005, when public rumors about the existence of the prison forced the CIA to abandon it. Read more of this post

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