Russian, Lithuanian citizens sentenced for spying on former president

On Wednesday, a Russian and a Lithuanian citizen were convicted in absentia for gathering information about the protection team of the then Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

Igor Gostev, head of the intelligence department at the Kaliningrad branch of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), and Vladimir Sokolov, a Lithuanian citizen, were handed prison sentences by the Vilnius Regional Court of ten and a half years and nine years and three months, respectively.

Both men are currently hiding in Russia and are wanted by Lithuania.

According to law-enforcement bodies, a number of Lithuanian citizens, on FSB’s radar due to their previous work experience and existing contacts with former and current employees of various Lithuanian institutions, were recruited at different times and separately from each other.

They were then tasked with collecting information about the staff of Lithuania’s Dignitary Protection Service (VAT), as well as about how the country’s leaders and their offices and homes were protected and what technical equipment was used.

The court ruled that the defendants had taken active steps to receive as much detailed information as possible about the then and former officers of the Lithuanian intelligence service, the State Security Department (VSD).

The defendants provided the people they had recruited with technical and other means, advice, instructions, and cash for buying communication equipment and non-EU visas.

Read more: Russian spies recruit tourists, undermine minorities in Lithuania – report

The criminal case was separated from the one in which Nikolai Filipchenko, a senior officer of the FSB Kaliningrad branch, was convicted for spying for Russia, use of forged documents and multiple illegal border crossings.

Filipchenko was arrested in Lithuania in April 2015 and sentenced to ten years in prison by Vilnius Regional Court in July 2017.

However, he was pardoned by the Lithuanian president in November 2019 and handed over to Russia in exchange for three people – two Lithuanian nationals and one Norwegian citizen – convicted in Russia.

Read more: Lithuania and Russia conduct unprecedented spy swap

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