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Estonia arrests professor on suspicion of spying for Russia

by Nate Ostiller January 16, 2024 5:42 PM 2 min read
Professor Viacheslav Morozov, who was detained on charges of allegedly spying for Russia, in a photo uploaded on Nov. 25, 2021. (Facebook)
This audio is created with AI assistance

Estonian authorities arrested a professor with Russian citizenship on charges of allegedly spying for Russia, the Estonian media outlet ERR reported on Jan. 16, citing information from Estonia's Internal Security Service (ISS).

Estonia has long been concerned about undue influence from Russia, being on the far eastern flank of NATO and having a considerable ethnic Russian minority. The country was also the subject of a massive cyber-attack widely attributed to Russia in 2007, which was viewed by some Estonians as a wake-up call to the threat emanating from Russia.

The professor, Viacheslav Morozov, worked at Estonia's premier higher education institute, the University of Tartu, studying and teaching political theory. Morozov was born in Russia but worked at the University of Tartu since 2010.  He was arrested on Jan. 3, but Estonian authorities only made the detention public on Jan. 16.

The university informed students and alumni of Morozov's arrest in an email on Jan. 16, saying that he had been dismissed from his position.

"Understandably, this comes as a shock to all of us. Our trust has been seriously abused. We confirm you that we have had no grounds to question Viacheslav Morozov's earlier work, but in the light of new knowledge, it is important to critically review it," said Kristiina Tonnisson, head of the university's Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies.

The university's Rector Toomas Asser later commented on the arrest, saying, "I unequivocally denounce any action that could endanger the security of our country. It is impossible to measure the full extent of the potential damage."

"I urge us not to underestimate hostile countries’ ability and intent to lead and carry out anti-democratic actions," he added.

ISS General Director Margo Pallosson said that Morozov regularly traveled to Russia, where he met with his handlers. Estonia's Public Prosecutor's Office said that Morozov's alleged spying activity occurred over a period of several years.

Morozov is known for his left-leaning views, often speaking and writing critically about Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country's aggression toward Ukraine.

An anonymous associate of Morozov told Politico that he was surprised by the news. "I have never encountered any anti-Estonian or any other of his activities outside of his left-liberal publications,” he said.

Pallosson said that the extent of the information Morozov allegedly shared with Russian security services has yet to be determined.

Estonian PM: ‘Our taxpayers shouldn’t pay for damages caused by Russia’
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Estonia has been one of Ukraine’s most reliable allies since the onset of Russia’s full-scale invasion. A small Baltic country of just 1.3 million people that also shares a border with Russia, Estonia has provided

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