Lithuania pardons Russian spies ahead of possible swap with Moscow

Nikolai Filipchenko is one of the two Russians who is serving a term for espionage in Lithuania. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 November 2019

Lithuania pardons Russian spies ahead of possible swap with Moscow

  • The Russians were sentenced in 2017 by Lithuanian courts
  • A Norwegian might also be part of the prisoners’ swap

VILNIUS: Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has pardoned two Russians jailed by Vilnius for espionage, an official statement said, paving the way for a possible spy swap with Moscow.
Nauseda signed the decree to pardon Nikolai Filipchenko and Sergei Moisejenko who are serving prison terms for espionage in the Baltic EU and NATO state, according to the statement published on his official website.
Both Russians were sentenced by Lithuanian courts in 2017. They could be exchanged for two Lithuanian citizens, Yevgeny Mataitis and Aristidas Tamosaitis, convicted of spying in Russia in 2016, the Baltic News Service said.
A Norwegian, Frode Berg, convicted of spying and jailed in Russia could also be part of the swap, BNS said, quoting senior officials who requested anonymity.
Nauseda’s decree said the Russians were pardoned in line with a new law on spy swaps.
Presidential spokesman Antanas Bubnelis declined further comment when contacted by AFP on Friday.
Lithuanian officials said Filipchenko worked for the FSB Russian federal security service and was trying to recruit senior officials in the Baltic state, which was under Moscow’s thumb during the Soviet era.
He was sentenced to 10 years behind bars and did not appeal.
Moisejenko was jailed for 10 years and six months after a Vilnius court ruled he recruited a Lithuanian army captain who served at the country’s Siauliai military air base. He had pleaded innocent.
The two Lithuanians were sentenced in Russia in 2016 for allegedly sharing Russian military intelligence with Lithuania.


Afghan security forces fail to reach ‘Taliban-mined’ site of US military plane crash

Updated 28 January 2020

Afghan security forces fail to reach ‘Taliban-mined’ site of US military plane crash

  • Probe launched into cause of Monday’s incident as Taliban claim responsibility for shooting down jet

KABUL: Afghan security forces have so far been unable to reach the crash site of a US military aircraft which went down during a mission on Monday in a Taliban-controlled area of the country.
An investigation is underway to determine what caused the Bombardier E-11A plane to crash in the Deh Yak district of Ghazni province, about 120 km southwest of Kabul, although the Taliban have claimed responsibility for shooting it down.

“The Taliban have mined the area, and security forces could not make it to the site to retrieve the bodies and recover the aircraft last evening. The Taliban had laid an ambush as security forces tried to reach the site,” Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, head of Ghazni’s provincial council, told Arab News.
He added that other US aircraft had attempted to land in the area overnight but were forced back due to bad weather.
Aref Noori, a spokesman for Ghanzi’s governor, said: “Afghan and foreign forces are preparing a joint plan to go to the site to see what they can do.”
Authorities have yet to determine how many passengers and crew were on board.
Several members of the provincial council said they had heard from locals that four people on board the plane had escaped the site of the crash soon after it came down. However, the reports could not be confirmed by the US military or other officials.
The crash comes amid a push by the Taliban and US diplomats to restart peace talks which are aimed at ending the 18-year-old conflict in the country.