Team 29: Espionage in Retrograde and High Treason in the Fifth House

posted 16 Jul 2019, 04:08 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Jul 2019, 04:14 ]

12 July 2019

Hi there. It’s Katya Arenina. 

Mercury went retrograde this week, and everything started to feel a bit precarious. Twitter stopped working and then began again; it emerged that there were security vulnerabilities affecting calls on Zoom (which I then updated somewhat feverishly); Apple Watch was suspected of attempting to listen in to its users (I’ve given up on that one); and Google came clean about the same thing on its own. Little by little, everyone is trying to spy on us. Yet in Russia, as we all know, you get ten to twenty years in a high-security prison for that kind of thing.

Clearly, Mercury is contributing to a decline in services and among corporations, but also on the part of the good old FSB, which has rolled out this not yet fully understood but interesting operation involving precisely the same kind of spy catching.

At the beginning of the week, Viktor Prozorov, who stands accused of treason and was detained a year ago, had his case referred to a court in St Petersburg. Until recently, Prozorov was being held in Lefortovo remand prison, in Moscow, and told members of the Public Oversight Committee that, “he had no questions”, or indeed complaints. Now, we know a little (but not a lot) more about him thanks to a helpful source of Fontanka, which was all over the case and published an article with language like, ‘He clearly possessed all manner of secrets’.

Another spy story has apparently been unfolding (evidently, for a while now), surrounding Kaliningrad. Early in the month, the latest high traitor candidate, Aleksandr Vorobiev, an aide to the Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Urals Federal District, ended up in Lefortovo. Originally from the Kaliningrad region, he started his career there and later ended up in the government of Governor Nikolai Tsyganov. With Tsyganov’s appointment as plenipotentiary envoy, first in the North-west and subsequently in the Urals district, Vorobiev followed him. In fact, the usual anonymous sources – this time – link his arrest to information emerging from sessions of the Security Council, which it possibly obtained from Tsyganov.

Not long after Vorobiev’s arrest on treason charges, another Kaliningrader, Konstantin Antonets, came under suspicion. It’s at this point that things get interesting. So Antonets is married to Antonina Zimina, the former head of the Baltic Centre for Dialogue of Cultures, who has been in Lerfortovo since last summer (of course she has!), also accused of treason. According to the investigation, Zimina disclosed information to Latvian intelligence about an FSB official, but she is not admitting guilt. Furthermore, like Vorboviev, Antonets worked in the Kaliningrad regional government until 2016. Nevertheless, their cases don’t appear to be linked (that’s according to the experts we consulted).

Anyway, it’s all very opaque and interesting, but then that’s down to Mercury. The FSB catches spies somewhat spasmodically. The last one was in 2015, after Crimea. It had previously been forced to tighten up on counterespionage in the wake of the Russia-George conflict in 2008. Now, in 2018, people are being accused of treason and espionage left and right – you can’t miss it – and that’s a sure sign of wartime.

Actually, it isn’t just the FSB that’s moving on. For some reason, we’ve decided after all to start using Instagram in 2019, so, you know, follow us and all that.

Katya, T29

Translated by Lindsay Munford