Tatjana Ždanoka MEP has spent decades openly advocating for Moscow from both Riga and Strasbourg. The Insider can today reveal that Ždanoka was working on behalf of the FSB’s Fifth Service, reporting to two different handlers from at least 2004 to 2017.
Their woman in Strasbourg
But her emails...
The second handler
Tatjana Ždanoka, a Latvian member of the European Parliament, has been a trusted asset of Russian intelligence since at least 2005, The Insider, in collaboration with the news site Delfi Estonia, Latvia’s Re:Baltica investigative journalism center, and Sweden’s Expressen newspaper, can disclose. Leaked emails between Ždanoka and her two known Russian case officers include explicit, detailed reports from Ždanoka to her handlers describing her work as a European legislator, particularly as those official duties relate to fostering pro-Kremlin sentiment in her native Baltic region. Other correspondence involves arranging physical meetings in Moscow or Brussels between Zdanoka and her Russian handler, along with requests for funding from Russian sources to underwrite her political activities in Latvia and the European Parliament. At least once she requested money for organizing a rally to commemorate the Red Army’s victory in World War II.
In an emailed response to The Insider, Ždanoka stated: “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.”
The Insider has confirmed that Ždanoka's two documented handlers have been officers of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB. According to the emails, her first case officer was a veteran FSB cadre from the St. Petersburg central directorate, Dmitry Gladey, 74, who ran Ždanoka from approximately 2004 to 2013. After 2013, Ždanoka was in regular contact with Sergei Beltyukov, an FSB operative since 1993.
Ždanoka told The Insider she has met “thousands of people” and cannot remember anyone named Beltyukov, which may be because he communicated with her using the cover name “Sergey Krasin.” The Insider followed up by asking if Ždanoka could confirm knowing anyone by that name or meeting him in person. She did not respond in time for publication of this story.
Ždanoka did, however, confirm knowing Gladey for decades, having met “in the early 1970s at a tourist base in the North Caucasus, where they were learning to ski.” However, she denied having any knowledge that Gladley is a Russian spy. “I can testify that the only people with whom I have sat at the same table, and with the certain knowledge that they are/were Russian FSB officers, are Vladimir Putin and Sergei Naryshkin,” Zdanoka said. (Naryshkin is the current director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the successor of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate.)
Alice Bah Kuhnke, an MEP from Sweden’s Green Party and the former Minister of Culture and Democracy in Stockholm, is vice president of the Greens/European Free Alliance to which Ždanoka belonged until April 2022. Kuhnke said news of Zdanoka’s espionage struck her as “terrible [but] unsurprising. After all, we [both] receive ongoing reports in the European Parliament, as parliamentarians. And I know, since I was a minister in the government of Sweden, about how Russia and Putin's agents work, and they have networks everywhere.”
In a comment to The Insider, German politician and former MEP Rebecca Harms, who served as president of the Greens/European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament from 2010 until 2016, said: “One of my real failures as a co-chair of Greens/EFA [was that] I was not able to convince the Greens and EFA MEPs that [Ždanoka's] obvious support for Putin and Assad (the illegal referendum in Crimea, the bombing of Aleppo, the events in [the European Parliament] with Russian nationalists) was totally unacceptable for a member of the Greens/EFA faction. In this case, my group mistrusted me and my 'Russophobia' more than the member of a party financed by Putin, an MEP who again and again supported dictators, war crimes, and crimes against international law.”
Their woman in Strasbourg
Ždanoka, like approximately a quarter of Latvia’s population, is of Russian heritage. Her family moved to Latvia, which was illegally annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 in the midst of World War II. She obtained Latvian citizenship in 1996, five years after the Baltic state regained full independence from Moscow. Despite holding a Latvian passport, Ždanoka has nevertheless built a career opposing its existence as a sovereign country. Indeed, Ždanoka 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. In 2009, the Moscow City Council sent Russian diplomat Georgy Muradov as an envoy to Riga. Muradov’s visit coincided with preparations for that year’s European Parliamentary elections, and his activities on the ground in the Latvian capital included lobbying ethnic Russians there to vote for Ždanoka, in part by disbursing money to Russian World War II veterans to incentivize their support.
Тoday Muradov serves as the deputy head of Rossotrudnichestvo in occupied Crimea. Officially, that body serves as the cultural arm of the Russian Foreign Ministry; unofficially, at least according to Western intelligence services, it is a none-too-subtle clearinghouse for Russian espionage. According to a source from one of those Western services, Muradov himself is a spy. A review of Muradov’s data footprint shows several links between the “diplomat” and the FSB, including his residential address — Michurinsky Prospect 29/1, which is located on a Moscow block of multi-storeyed apartment buildings primarily inhabited by FSB and, less frequently, SVR officers. One of Muradov’s neighbors at this Moscow address is Alexei Alexandrov, a member of the FSB assassination team that poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok in 2020.
In 2014, five years after Muradov’s trip to Riga, Ždanoka traveled to Crimea to serve as an “international observer” in the illegitimate referendum that paved the way for Russia’s illegal annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula. At this time Muradov himself was stationed in Crimea, serving as the so-called representative of occupied Crimea to the Kremlin. Two years later, in 2016, Ždanoka traveled to Syria, where she held talks with its dictator, Bashar al-Assad. At the time of the MEP’s visit to Damascus, Russia’s direct military intervention was already propping up the Assad regime in its struggle for survival against Western-backed rebel forces. The European Parliament refused to pay for MEP Zdanoka’s travel, as Assad and his entourage were under European Union sanctions. Unsurprisingly, on March 2, 2022, Ždanoka was one of only 13 MEPs who voted against the European Parliament’s resolution condemning Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
For most Latvians, the disclosure of Ždanoka's years-long connivance with Vladimir Putin’s special services will only confirm their worst suspicions about her. She has long been held by the country’s overwhelmingly pro-Western political establishment to be a Russian agent of influence, a conclusion supported by her open support for marginal left-wing political parties. Ždanoka's secret work on behalf of Russian intelligence largely complements her outward politicking: the MEP from Latvia routinely condemns all three Baltic nations for alleged mistreatment of their sizable ethnic Russian diasporas (in Latvia’s case, this ethnic Russian diaspora totals approximately 450,000 people, one quarter of the country’s entire population). The “anti-discrimination” efforts that Ždanoka advocates are often taken up by Kremlin-funded front groups, which take on the guise of non-governmental organizations ostensibly committed to the causes of “human rights,” “anti-fascism,” and “anti-Nazism.” In this context, it is notable that, during Ždanoka's “election monitoring” efforts in Crimea in 2014, several of her international colleagues were bona fide fascists and neo-Nazis from the United Kingdom, Austria, France and Germany.
A major theme of Ždanoka's campaigning in the European Parliament has been focused on what she insists is Latvia’s persecution of the Russian language. In March 2015, she took part in an event put on by “Latvia Without Nazism,” an organization Ždanoka co-founded in Belgium and which the chief of VDD, Latvia’s State Security Service, Normunds Mežviets, said was financed by the Kremlin to the tune of €25,000. “It is completely clear that these people are realizing Russia's interests,” Mežviets said at the time.
Ždanoka denied taking any Russian government money. One Western intelligence officer with whom The Insider shared the leaked correspondence said that Ždanoka's espionage is motivated purely by ideology. “She doesn’t need the money,” the source said. “She has enough of it coming from the European Parliament. She is spending her own money to fund her party’s activities.”
But her emails...
Ždanoka's first case officer was Dmitry Gladey, 74, a veteran FSB cadre from St. Petersburg. For decades, Gladey’s public-facing role has been as one of Russia’s representatives to various election monitoring organizations. His most recent role is that of chairman of the International Institute for Monitoring the Development of Democracy. The institute was formed by the Interparliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States in 2006 with the declared purpose to “facilitate the exchange of information, generalization of best practices in the development of democracy and parliamentarism, and observance of citizens’ electoral rights.”
FSB officer Dmitry Gladey in his public-facing role as chairman of Interparliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Gladey’s ties to the Russian intelligence are evidenced by his access to “state secrets” and “restricted/controlled travel ”outside of Russia, as The Insider was able to establish based on Gladey’s appearances in a Russian government database hacked by Ukrainian hackers. Leaked travel data from Russia’s Sirena booking database also shows that Gladey frequently traveled on joint bookings with other FSB operatives, which the same government database links explicitly to the agency's Fifth Service.
The Fifth Service was founded in the 1990s and repurposed in 2004 to counteract the wave of pro-democratic “color revolutions” then sweeping such post-Soviet countries as Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. More recently, it was responsible for politically destabilizing Ukraine and recruiting potential fifth columnists there in advance of Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022. The destabilization operation originated through a series of visits to Kyiv by Fifth Service members — including by its chief, Gen. Sergei Beseda — during the Maidan uprising in early 2014. On one of the trips, Beseda urged then-President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich to use force against the demonstrators, who were demanding that the government in Kyiv sign on to a long-negotiated association agreement with the EU.
The subsequent recruitment and destabilization operation against Ukraine lasted nearly eight years and was, owing to Ukraine’s fierce resistance to Russia’s military invasion, marked as something less than a spectacular success. As a result, the Fifth Service’s notorious head, the same Gen. Sergei Beseda who had met with Yanukovich in 2014, found himself in a precarious position in Moscow. Throughout March 2022, rumors swirled that Beseda had been sacked — or even arrested. Ultimately, he was simply given a second chance to ply his trade well outside the Ukrainian purview.
“Tsarist Russia used to be a gendarme of Europe, and Putin’s Fifth Service was supposed to be the gendarme of the post-Soviet region,” Andrei Soldatov, a London-based Russian journalist and author specializing in the Kremlin’s security services, told The Insider. “The more Putin’s paranoia grows, the more expanded the Fifth Service’s mandate gets — to include stations in Russian embassies in the West to watch Russian emigrants.”
The earliest communication between Gladey and Ždanoka examined by The Insider is dated October 3, 2005. Ždanoka sent two attachments to Bladey’s email address ([email protected]). One of them was an unpublished draft agenda for an upcoming conference in Tallinn and Narva, Estonia, sponsored by two parliamentary blocs — the European Parliament’s Green-European Free Alliance group and the European Russian Alliance. The second was a draft press release about the conference, an event purportedly organized to discuss, in the words of Ždanoka, “the experience of Russian politicians' participation in municipal governments and the experience of collaboration between NGOs and local government institutions. Within the EU today there are up to 6 million people for whom Russian is the native language.”
Suspicion surrounding the true allegiances of the European Russian Alliance, of which Ždanoka is a member, are not new. As far back as 2005, Estonia’s Internal Security Service, known by its native acronym KaPo, stated in the body of its publicly disseminated annual report that the “NGO” was little more than an FSB front, and that its founding had been “prepared in St. Petersburg and reported directly to the Director General of FSB as a triumph.”
KaPo was not the only intelligence service to make the connection between the European Russian Alliance and Russian espionage services. “It was designed as a vehicle for indoctrination and to establish meetings between bosses from Russia, rezidenturas [Russian spy stations] in Brussels and compatriots,” one Western intelligence officer said, speaking to The Insider on the condition of anonymity. “The best part is the FSB managed to run their operations with European taxpayer money. MEPs such as Ždanoka were financed by their parliament factions, in this case the Greens/European Russia Alliance.”
In her emailed response to questions from The Insider about her relationship with Gladey, Ždanoka wrote: “I met Dmitry and his wife several times in Leningrad [ed. the official Soviet name of St. Petersburg from 1924-1991] , where they lived. They also visited Riga a few times. Later, when their daughter married a Latvian guy, they regularly came to Riga to visit their relatives. The guy moved to his wife in St. Petersburg, started a successful business there, and opened a Latvian cuisine restaurant there.” As a Member of the European Parliament, she added, she attended several conferences organized by Gladey’s Interparliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States in St. Petersburg.
Ždanoka's version of the origin of her acquaintance with Gladey does not explain why she sent emails containing attachments called “reports” to Gladey and coordinated her political activities with the Russian operative by sharing draft initiatives and press releases with him. She also frequently arranged to meet with Gladey in Europe; however, the purpose and nature of their face-to-face discussions were never mentioned in the digital correspondence.
On October 3, 2006, Gladey wrote to Ždanoka: “I am arriving at MIDI on Wednesday at 12:40, returning at 17:30,” with MIDI referring to the Brussels South train station that connects to Brussels airport. Ždanoka replied: “Very good, I will come to MIDI – let's meet on the platform by the train. If we miss one another – [let’s meet] at the main entrance of the station.”
Email from Tatjana Ždanoka to her FSB handler Dmitry Gladey, dated October 3, 2006, arranging to meet at the Brussels South train station.
In early August 2007, the agent and handler struggled to find a place to meet. Gladey was occupied with travel to Kazakhstan and Belarus, where he was posing as an election monitor, and Ždanoka was on her way to China. They eventually agreed to meet in Moscow, where Ždanoka had a layover of a few hours on her return from Asia. Emails show that the meeting took place on September 1, 2007. After speaking with Gladey face-to-face, Ždanoka traveled by train from Moscow to Riga, then onwards to Strasbourg, France, the official seat of the European Parliament.
While it appears that Ždanoka and Gladey reserved the more sensitive parts of their communication for in-person meetings, these were not always possible to arrange and Ždanoka occasionally sent detailed discussion points – along with requests for Gladey’s input or assistance – to her FSB case officer. For instance, on Sep. 8, 2007, a week after their meeting in Moscow, Ždanoka wrote Gladey a lengthy email in Russian with the subject line “Отчет,” or “Report.” She began by apologizing that she couldn’t send “the promised information” from Strasbourg and then went on to provide an account of what tasks had been satisfied since June.
She’d been busy.
Email from Tatjana Ždanoka to her FSB handler Dmitry Gladey, dated September 8, 2007, in which Ždanoka apologizes she could not send “the promised information” sooner and provides a report of all the activities she has been conducting since June 2007. The list includes the organization of a public hearing in the European Parliament about the mistreatment of pro-Russian protesters by the Estonian authorities.
In addition to traveling to Russian-controlled Crimea, Ždanoka organized a public hearing on June 26 at the European Parliament. The topic was the Estonian authorities’ response to violent protests in Tallinn following the relocation of a Soviet-era World War II monument from a busy central intersection to a nearby veterans’ cemetery — the so-called “Bronze Soldier” affair of April 2007, which had coincided with a series of cyberattacks on Estonia that were subsequently found to have emanated from Russia. Ždanoka reported to Gladey that the hearing had received coverage in Russia, Estonia and Latvia partly thanks to the efforts of her “intern,” Ivan Engashev, who reported on the story for Russian language newspapers published in Latvia.
Ždanoka also set up a three-day training camp for “anti-fascist” Latvian and Estonian pro-Russian organizations, including the Estonia-based Night Watch movement, which was set up in the wake of the removal of the Bronze Soldier. As Harrys Puusepp, the Head of Bureau at Estonia’s KaPo Internal Security Service, told The Insider, “Ždanoka's activities in Estonia are part of a Kremlin-coordinated divisive operation. We first mentioned the divisive activities associated with her in our annual review 20 years ago. The Baltics are treated as a single region by the Kremlin, using the same template to divide, often involving the same people and organizations.”
Ždanoka even launched a radio show called “The Hour of the Russian School” in Latvia, which warned Russians in the country of the “possible problems of sending children from Russian families to Latvian [language] schools.” She also noted that she was putting together a forthcoming exhibition in the European Parliament, titled “Russians of Latvia,” to promote the ahistorical idea that ethnic Russians were the true indigenous population of Latvia.
On April 9, 2010, Ždanoka sent Gladey a draft plan for promoting the celebration of Russia’s Victory Day — a Russian national holiday commemorating the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany — in Latvia. This proposal included requests for an extra $6,000 to be added on top of the funding Ždanoka was set to obtain as an official organizer in her capacity as MEP. The cash was earmarked for various purposes. One was buying St. George ribbons — orange-and-black striped pennants honoring Soviet soldiers who fought on the Eastern Front in World War II — for distribution on the streets of Latvia. (Since 2014, the Kremlin has instrumentalized the ribbon as a symbol of support for Russia’s seizure of Crimea and other Ukrainian territory.) Another purpose was producing a documentary film about Latvian veterans’ trips to Austria and Belgium to take part in the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Vienna from the Third Reich.
The second handler
Gladey continued working with Ždanoka for at least 8 years, but in 2013, the MEP’s protocol for corresponding with her handlers in Russia changed. On September 12 of that year, Gladey forwarded Ždanoka's latest report, which Gladey received a day earlier, titled “Speech and resolutions,” to a new burner email, [email protected]. Gladey subsequently sent the MEP a virtual introduction to a man named “Sergey Krasin,” who used a similarly numbered burner email — [email protected] — to communicate with Ždanoka. Ždanoka first communicated directly with “Krasin” on December 12, 2013, directing all of her future reports to him. He thus became her second case officer.
Email from Tatjana Ždanoka's FSB handler Dmitry Gladey, dated September 12, 2013, to Ždanoka's second handler Sergey Beltyukov, a.k.a. “Sergey Krasin.” Gladey is forwarding Ždanoka's attachment “Speech and resolutions,” to her new handler.
FSB officer Sergey Beltyukov, a.k.a. “Sergey Krasin.” Photo obtained from Rospasport, the Russian Federation’s passport registry.
The Insider was able to identify “Krasin” based on a unique leaked password that was used by the owner of the [email protected] email account. The password was also used for logging in to an account with a telephone number that belongs to Sergey Beltyukov, an active FSB officer from St. Petersburg. The Insider identified several other emails from the numbered range used by Beltyukov, all starting with the same letters (“ser”) and sharing the same password, thus allowing the investigative team to conclude with a high degree of certainty that “Sergey Krasin” is in fact Sergey Beltyukov.
Born in 1970, Beltyukov graduated from the St. Petersburg Economic University in 1993. His employment records, obtained by The Insider, show that he has been an employee of the FSB headquarters in St. Petersburg since that year. Furthermore, leaked data shows that in 1993 Beltyukov received form-2 secrets access, the second-highest level of security clearance in Russia. The clearance restricts its holder from embarking on any international travel other than trips approved by the FSB.
FSB officer Artem Kureev, date and place unknown
Credit: The Dossier Center
Gladey and Beltyukov are not the only FSB operatives Ždanoka has assisted. In September 2022, an Estonian court verdict named Artem Kureev, a Russian national, as an FSB officer who was running another Russian, Sergey Seredenko, a self-proclaimed “human rights ombudsman of Estonia.” Kureev was one of seven suspected Russian handlers of Seredenko, who, like Ždanoka, was openly promoting narratives about the alleged persecution of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in the Baltic states. The Estonian verdict states that Ždanoka filed an application at the Belgian Embassy in Moscow to obtain a Schengen visa for Kureev’s visit to the European Parliament from April 2-8, 2014, mere weeks after Russia’s armed takeover of Crimea.
Ždanoka explained her actions to The Insider by claiming that Kureev “was invited to participate in one of several conferences that I organized in the European Parliament with the support of my political group [Greens/European Free Alliance], namely the EU Forum for Russian-Speaking Youth.” Kureev, she added, was “recommended to me as a lecturer at the Faculty of International Relations of St. Petersburg University by my intern who was studying there.”
Latvia’s State Security Service, the country’s domestic counterintelligence agency, has taken notice of Ždanoka's many entanglements with the St. Petersburg-based FSB. Not coincidentally, on June 22, 2022, Latvia’s parliament passed an amendment prohibiting “pro-Kremlin-oriented persons and political organizations” from running for office. Ždanoka, it was widely reported, was the main — if not sole — inspiration for the revision. As such, she will not be on the list of candidates for the European Parliamentary election this year.
This is not the first time Riga has attempted to prevent Ždanoka from seeking office. In 2002, the Latvian government banned her from running in the general election, citing her continued membership in the Communist Party after January 13, 1991, the date when the party conspired to dissolve the newly independent Latvian government in a coup. She was also removed from a posting in the municipal government in Riga for the same reason. Although the European Court of Human Rights later ordered Riga to pay Ždanoka €20,000 for violating her democratic rights, the case was then sent to the Grand Chamber on appeal, and the original judgment was overturned. Ždanoka called the ban a “witch-hunt.”
The Insider, along with its investigative partners Delfi Estonia and Re:Baltica, alerted Latvia’s counterintelligence service, the VDD, to Ždanoka's correspondence with Russian intelligence officers. However, prosecuting the MEP could prove challenging. Under Latvia’s criminal code, taking instructions from a foreign spy agency — or even receiving compensation from one — was not made illegal until 2016. However, while Ždanoka may be able to evade any legal consequences for actions spanning the majority of her career as an agent of Moscow, The Insider has examined an email proving that she continued to report to Beltyukov, her second handler, after the changed law. On January 14, 2017, Ždanoka emailed him about arranging for a delegation from Latvia to attend an event in St. Petersburg. The 74th anniversary of the end of the Nazis’ World War II-era siege of Leningrad was coming up on January 27, and Ždanoka wanted Latvia to be represented.
Congratulations on all the holidays that have occurred and will occur in January! I have a big request for you: Need your help in finding out whether it's still possible for a group of 8 people from Latvia to join the foreign delegations that will be received in St. Petersburg on the anniversary of the lifting of the blockade. Traditionally, I cover travel costs of such groups, whilst the administration pays for accommodation and catering. I understand that timing is tight. We were not able to send the request on time due to a major break in the Embassy’s activities which was not much in conjunction with holidays but rather with the change of Ambassador. In addition, I got sick and was not advised that the letter to the Ambassador from the blockade survivors whom I am in charge of curating, failed to be delivered.
Email from Tatjana Ždanoka to her FSB handler Sergey Beltyukov, dated January 14, 2017, where Ždanoka, apologizing for a late request, asks Beltyukov help in inquiring whether a delegation of 8 Latvians can attend an event commemorating the Red Army’s breaking of the Nazi blockade of Leningrad in St. Petersburg.
The Russian verb курировать, “to curate,” conspicuously used by Ždanoka in the phrase “the blockade survivors whom I am in charge of curating,” can be translated as “supervising.” However, in the parlance of the FSB, it is also the term used to mean “run” — as in running assets or subagents.
“I’m sure Ždanoka was spotting others who could have been of interest to the FSB,” said Dan Hoffman, a former CIA officer who was stationed in Moscow and Tallinn. “Anyone she ever came into contact with in the European Parliament — all that went to the FSB. And I'm sure she was being tasked to do it.”
Hoffman noted that the use of unencrypted communications — mail.ru email accounts in the case of both Gladey and Beltyukov — indicated a cavalier attitude on the part of the Fifth Service as to just how clandestine this agent-handler relationship was intended to be. “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,” Hoffman said. “And they’re fine for this to be discovered because now they'll say she’s being victimized by an anti-democratic Latvian government.”
Ždanoka's fate in the Baltic nation is uncertain. So long as she is still a sitting MEP — she has five months left in her final term — she retains parliamentary immunity from prosecution, including in Latvia. And it is unclear whether or not Riga plans to open a criminal counterintelligence investigation into Ždanoka's activities based on the documentary evidence.
Commenting on the 2017 email between Ždanoka and Beltyukov, which The Insider shared with Latvia’s counterintelligence agency, VDD chief Normunds Mežviets responded simply that, “We will look into it.”
UPDATE: Juri Laas, the spokesperson for the European Parliament's President Roberta Metsola, commented after the publication of this story:
“The President takes these allegations very seriously and is referring the case to the Advisory Committee on the Code of Conduct. This means that investigations within the European Parliament have been opened. She will also bring the issue to the Parliament´s Conference of Presidents on Wednesday.”
With additional reporting from Holger Roonemaa, Inga Springe, Mattias Carlsson and Kato Kopaleishvili.