Belarus’s security agency, or KGB, said it broke up a Lithuanian spy ring that sought classified information on the country’s military and its joint security system with Russia.
An operative of the Lithuanian military intelligence was detained simultaneously with members of his espionage network, the KGB said on its website today. The agency cited the evidence recovered during a covert operation and confessions made by the suspects as proof of spying on behalf of neighboring Lithuania.
“All those arrested are citizens of Belarus,” Artur Strekh, a deputy head of the KGB’s information and public relations department, said by phone from the capital, Minsk. The charges against the suspects carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, according to the security service.
The former Soviet republic, ruled for 18 years by President Aleksandr Lukashenko, is coming off its worst diplomatic crisis since 2008 after European Union countries pulled out their ambassadors in February and widened their sanctions against Belarus in March. Lithuania’s ambassador returned to Minsk about two months ago.
“The information on the Belarusian KGB official website doesn’t reflect reality,” said Mindaugas Lasas, spokesman for the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry. “Such insinuations by the secret service of a neighboring country don’t foster improvement in mutual relations.”
A criminal probe was opened against two of those arrested, Strekh said, declining to specify the total number of detainees. The arrests took place earlier this year and were disclosed now after law enforcement exposed the complete circle of people engaged in espionage, he said.