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Investigation: Latvian member of European Parliament allegedly Russian agent

by Nate Ostiller January 29, 2024 9:15 AM 3 min read
Tatjana Zdanoka, a Latvian member of the European Parliament, speaking at a press conference in Murcia, Spain, on Feb. 25, 2022. (Edu Botella/Europa Press via Getty Images)
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Tatjana Zdanoka, a long-serving member of the European Parliament from Latvia, is allegedly an agent working with Russian intelligence services, according to a collaborative investigation released by the independent Russian media outlet The Insider on Jan. 29.

Zdanoka, who represented Latvia in the European Parliament from 2004-2018 and again from 2019 until the present, is alleged to have been a Russian asset since at least 2015. The Insider, along with the Estonian media outlet Delfi, Latvian investigative journalism center  Re:Baltica, and Swedish newspaper Expressen, cited leaked emails between Zdanoka and her alleged Russian handlers and other sources to support its claims.

There have been a number of cases of suspected Russian spying and potential intelligence infiltration in the Baltics, including a high-profile case earlier in January, in which a Russian-born professor at Estonia's University of Tartu was arrested on espionage charges.

Citing interviews and communications it obtained, The Insider claimed that Zdanoka was primarily motivated by ideology rather than material gain.

"Despite holding a Latvian passport, Zdanoka has nevertheless built a career opposing its existence as a sovereign country," The Insider said.

"Indeed, Zdanoka has been outspoken in her support of Latvia’s eastern neighbor, Russia, along with that former colonial master’s well-documented, ongoing efforts to interfere in the Baltics."

Zdanoka's public activity, both concerning her official work as a lawmaker and statements in her private life, display a long-standing pattern of supporting Russia and promoting Russian propaganda.

While a sitting member of the European Parliament, Zdanoka participated as an international observer in a sham referendum on Crimea's annexation by Russia in 2014, widely viewed as illegitimate. She also was one of a small group of lawmakers who voted against the European Parliament's condemnation of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in March 2022.

The Insider claimed that Zdanoka's work to promote Russia extended beyond rhetoric and what was previously known publicly.

Citing leaked emails and comments from intelligence sources in the Baltics and other Western countries, The Insider alleged that Zdanoka regularly met with known members of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), whom are characterized as her "case officers."

It is unclear what exactly Zdanoka's clandestine activities to support Russia may have been, but sources told The Insider that her being a Russian spy would not be surprising given her public positions.

"The fact that the FSB didn’t hide their interaction with her, that it was open to be exposed, such as you’ve done now — I guess they didn’t care because the people they're trying to influence are favorably disposed toward Russia anyway," a former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer told The Insider.

Zdanoka responded to The Insider's requests for comment on the story, saying she could not specifically recall the individuals in question, including her supposed Russian handlers.

"I cannot consider this text to be questions put to me because it is based on information that you supposedly have, which by definition, you should not have," she wrote to The Insider.

Due to changes passed by Latvia's parliament in 2022 that ban "pro-Kremlin-oriented persons and political organizations" from running for office, which were widely thought to be specifically directed at Zdanoka, she cannot run for reelection.

The Insider referred its investigation to Latvia's intelligence services.

Estonia arrests professor on suspicion of spying for Russia
The professor, Viacheslav Morozov, worked at Estonia’s premier higher education institute, the University of Tartu, studying and teaching political theory. He was arrested on Jan. 3, but Estonian authorities only made the detention public on Jan. 16.
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