Belarus announces arrest of alleged Lithuanian spy ring members
July 13, 2012 2 Comments
By 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. Relations between Belarus and Lithuania, with which it shares a 680 km- long border, have been especially tense since 2004, when the Baltic country joined the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Specifically, Minsk regularly accuses Vilnius of operating as a proxy of the United States and of offering clandestine support to the anti-Lukashenko opposition inside Belarus. The Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed the charges by the Belarusian government as “not true” and said that they “do not contribute to [the] improvement of bilateral relations” between the two countries. The Lithuanian diplomat is expected to be declared persona non grata by Belarus authorities, whereas the Belarusian members of the alleged ring face up to 15 years in prison, if convicted.