Estonian Businessman Detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on Suspicion of Espionage

February 19, 2016
Lefortovo Prison. Archive photo by Anton Belitsky/Kommersant

LIVE UPDATES: An Estonian businessman was detained February 11 at Moscow’s Sheremetyovo Airport on suspicion of espionage

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.

Recent Translations:
The Non-Hybrid War
Kashin Explains His ‘Letter to Leaders’ on ‘Fontanka Office’
TV Rain Interviews Volunteer Fighter Back from Donbass
‘I Was on Active Duty’: Interview with Captured GRU Officer Aleksandrov


Russian Helicopter Violates Estonian Airspace

The Estonian Foreign Ministry has delivered a protest to the Russian ambassador in Tallinn after a Russian Mi-8 helicopter violated Estonian airspace, reported.

The incident took place near the Vesknarva border guard base by the northeastern tip of Lake Peispi shortly before noon local time, military spokesmen said. The Russian aircraft was in Estonian air space for less than a minute, and had switched off its transponder. No flight plan was submitted to Estonia and there was no radio contact.


This is the first case of Russian violation of Estonian airspace this year, but in 2015 there were 3 such incidents and 8 in 2014.
Today, Russian authorities also arrested an Estonian businessman and charged him with espionage.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Russian Police Refuse to Open Case on Attack of Opposition Leader Kasyanov

Russian police have refused to open a case based on the complaint of Parnas opposition party leader Mikhail Kasyanov, reports.

Kasyanov filed a complaint regarding the attack on him by a group of men in a cafe who hurled a cake at him and said they would “get revenge on him.”  Three Chechen policemen were immediately detained, but then released because Kasyanov couldn’t positively identify them as the assailants. The police then refused to look further.

Earlier this week, the interior minister, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, responding to a parliamentary inquiry from opposition member Dmitry Gudkov, said his ministry would review Kasyanov’s case.

Kasyanov linked the cake-throwing with a threat from Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov published earlier this month. On Instagram, Kadyrov uploaded a clip from a surveillance tape of Kasyanov and Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. dining in Strasbourg, with a sniper scope superimposed over it. The Chechen government also orchestrated a “million-Muslim march” where people carried posters calling Kasyanov and other opposition leaders “traitors” and “fifth columnists.”

A complaint was also filed with the FSB and Investigative Committee regarding the Instagram threat but these agencies did not respond, says Kasyanov.

Undeterred, Kasyanov continued on his scheduled visits to other cities, but was also attacked in Vladimir, where activists from NOD (Russian National Liberation) headed by Duma deputy Yevgeny Fyodorov, threw eggs at him as he went to a press conference, and urged him to leave Russia. He cancelled a public appearance in Nizhny Novgorod, where several dozen thugs disrupted his press conference.

Ilya Yashin, a member of Parnas, will release a report on Ramzan Kadyrov on February 23.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Estonian Businessman Detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyovo Airport on Suspicion of Espionage
An Estonian businessman was detained February 11 at Moscow’s Sheremetyovo Airport on suspicion of espionage, Postimees and Novaya Gazeta reported in news that was just published today, February 19.
Raivo Susi was detained in the transit zone. His lawyer Anatoly Tolpegin reported (translation by The Interpreter):

Susi was offered to proceed to Lubyanka. The next day he was arrested for two months by decision of the Lefortovo Court, charged with espionage under Art. 276. Now Susi is in the pre-trial detention center at Lefortovo. It is still early to speak about the direction in which  his case will go since investigative actions have still not been conducted. The defense has contested the arrest, but the date for review of the complaint has not been set.

Lubyanka is the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and and Lefortovo Court is where such state security cases are tried for suspects in Lefortovo Prison.
Susi, 51, was arrested on charges related to activities that took place from 2004-2007 but his lawyer provided no details or explanation as to why they were only being raised now by Russian authorities.
Susi categorically denies the charges against him and says they are all politically motivated, but has not refused to give testimony.
Susi is the owner of several Estonian companies involved in the assembly, repair, service and sale of training jets.  Among his clients were millionaires from aviation clubs in Russia, the UK, the US and Western Europe.
Last year, Russia arrested another Estonian, Eston Kohver, a policeman seized at the border while he was pursuing Russian organized crime suspects. Last August he was pronounced guilty of espionage, illegal border crossing illegal possession of a weapon and sentenced to 15 years of strict-regimen labor colony. Estonia maintains that Kohver was on their side of the border. In September, Estonia exchanged Kohver for a former Interior Minister officer of Estonia, Aleksei Dressen, sentenced in Estonia for spying on behalf of Russia.
The case is viewed as one of many incidents of provocation by Russia which it has pursued to put pressure on Estonia, a NATO member; Susi’s case may fit in the same category.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick