Last year, Latvia’s Constitution Protection Bureau found out that the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation often employs blackmail and threats to force individuals to cooperate. SAB had uncovered multiple cases involving Latvian residents and the Russian special service, according to SAB’s report for 2015.
It is mentioned in the report that Russian special services had carried out multiple operations against Latvia’s interests last year. The influence of FSB in Russia continues to grow in certain areas. This also indirectly increases the special service’s level of threat to Latvia. Activities of special services of countries outside of NATO and the European Union had been noticed in 2015. However, no significant threat to Latvia’s security was noticed in their activities. The public section of SAB’s report does not mention any specific countries.
NATO and Latvia’s defence policy remain the priority targets for special services.
Other topics of particular interest to foreign special services included Latvia’s presidency over the EU Council, Latvia’s position on matters of foreign and defence policy, sanctions against Russia, migration and energy policy. Developments in Latvia’s internal politics, including presidential elections, government stability, budget approval and public opinion on migration were also of particular interest to foreign services.
Foreign special services work against Latvia and its citizens by using the cover of diplomatic missions and generally working from the territory of their home country. To achieve their goals, special services acquire information from different sources, including informants and cyber space. Russia’s technical reconnaissance capabilities and readiness to use them have increased over the years.
Last year, in cooperation with Latvian and foreign partners, SAB uncovered multiple cases of cyber espionage aimed against Latvian state institutions’ information and communications services.
Aside from gathering information, special services also carry out activities aimed to influence decision-making processes in Latvia, EU and NATO, as well as influence public opinions.
Such activities have been particularly noticed in the virtual environment. Special services actively use social networks, and it is very hard to identify real organizers behind such activities.
Signs of influence over public opinions are found in provocative comments on social networks and internet media comment sections, creation of fictive online petitions aimed to sow nationalistic hate, publication of false and offensive information in mass media outlets.
FSB commands great authority in Russia. This special service works in a number of different fields. Foreign diplomats, businessmen, scientists, students and journalists are under close watch by FSB in Russia. Regular travellers and residents of border areas are of particular interest to FSB. Blackmail and threats are often used to force cooperation. SAB recorded multiple cases involving Latvian citizens and FSB officers last year.