Russia spy agency says expelled Estonian consul was interested in Arctic plans

A video released by the FSB purports to show Mart Lätte seeking sensitive information about Russia's Arctic policy.

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - August 6, 2021
The Lubyanka building in Moscow is home to the FSB’s headquarters. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)

Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, says a recently released video shows that an Estonian consul in St. Petersburg, Mart Lätte, attempted to receive classified information about the Arctic from a Russian citizen.

Lätte was detained by FSB in St. Petersburg on July 6 and was the day after declared persona non grata by Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

Now, the FSB claims that the investigation has revealed that the expelled Estonian diplomat was seeking materials containing information about Russia’s policy in the Arctic.

A well-orchestrated video, given by FSB to Russian media, allegedly shows Consul Lätte entering the building of St. Petersburg State Polytechnic Institute where he meets a Russian citizen to discuss Arctic materials. Upon leaving the building, several FSB officers approach the diplomat and detained him under suspicion of violating Russia’s national security.

The Foreign Ministry in Tallinn said in a statement to Estonian media that: “The film depicting Mart Lätte is a masterful production that clearly does not present the diplomat’s work in an objective manner.”

In response to expelling the consul, Estonia declared a diplomat of the Russian Embassy persona non grata “in line with international diplomatic customs and the principle of reciprocity.”

The Estonian Foreign Ministry said in a statement it is “regrettable that Russia has taken an unfriendly line in its communication with the European Union and member states.”

Last autumn, Estonia announced the country’s application for observer status to the Arctic Council, but the bid failed to reach a unified decision at the consensus-based Arctic Council Ministerial in Reykjavik this May. At the meeting, Iceland handed over the Chair of the Council to Russia for the two-years period 2021-23.