1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Estonia detains 10 Russians suspected in 'sabotage' plot

February 20, 2024

Estonia's domestic security agency said it has detained 10 people on suspicion of being involved with a "hybrid operation" organized by Russia's special services to "spread fear and create tension."

A green border station at the Estonian-Russian border
Estonia's relations to neighboring Russia have remained icy ever since its independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union Image: Peter Kovalev/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

Estonia's domestic security agency said Tuesday it apprehended 10 people suspected of sabotage and of spreading fear within the Baltic country in a coordinated "hybrid operation" by Russian special services.

The suspects were detained between December and February and among them are individuals believed to have broken the car windows of Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets and a local journalist in December, according to the Estonian Internal Security Service.

"The information currently collected in criminal proceedings indicate that the Russian special service had coordinated a hybrid operation against the security of the Republic of Estonia, involving the suspects that have been detained," it said. "To the knowledge of the Estonian Internal Security Service, its aim was to spread fear and create tension in Estonian society."

Security officials said the suspects held a variety of roles in Estonia, depending on instructions from their Russian handlers.

They said they believed the suspects were collecting information in some cases, while others planned attacks that were also carried out.

The head of the Estonian security service, Margo Palloson, said in a statement that some of the suspects who are believed to have vandalized undisclosed memorials were recruited through social media. 

"Russian special services have been trying to create tension in Estonia in many ways for years," Palloson added.

How Russia could cut NATO off from the Baltic states

Relations between Estonia and Russia remain icy

Estonia, formerly part of the Soviet Union, joined the European Union and NATO in 2004. The expansion of NATO to Russia's borders has rankled Russian President Vladimir Putin, who views the alliance as a threat to Russia's national security.

Russia has since maintained a strong interest in Estonia's internal affairs and last week put Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas, on a wanted list in Russia because of her her efforts to remove Soviet-era World War II monuments in the Baltic nation.

Estonia and fellow NATO members Latvia and Lithuania have pulled down monuments that are widely seen as an unwanted legacy of the Soviet occupation of those countries. 

Estonia, which has a well-founded fear of Russian aggression, been a vocal supporter of Ukraine since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine.

rm/wmr (AP, AFP)