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Lithuania's intelligence claims Russia made a failed attempt last year to carry out an information attack on Lithuania, using an impersonator of Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch close to the Kremlin regime.
Intelligence: Russia sent Prigozhin's impersonator to Vilnius for info attack on Lithuania
© Bendrovės archyvas

This case is described in the annual report from Lithuania's State Security Department and the country's military intelligence.

In early 2020, Hawker 800, an aircraft owned by Prigozhin, landed at Vilnius Airport. At the same time, a person resembling Prigozhin and holding a Russian passport issued in the name of "Yevgeny Prigozhin" with the same birth date on it as Prigozhin’s – but not real Prigozhin – arrived in Lithuania on a commercial flight, Lithuania's intelligence says.

Presenting the report in the Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, Darius Jauniskis, the SSD director, said the country's intelligence used this example to show the chain of action.

"First of all, our border control was tested. Second, an attempt was made to attract media attention," he said.

Asked whether such a person's entry into Lithuania did not raise question on border control, Jauniskis said it was not determined during the checks that Prigozhin himself arrived in the country.

"Some figures just didn’t match and that person entered Lithuania, raising no suspicion. He was not identified as the person who is on the sanction list," the SSD director said.

The first time Prigozhin's impersonator flew in to Vilnius from Russia on february 13, 2020 and the person went straight to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, took a picture in front of the building and went back to the airport for a return flight to Russia. Overall, he spent five and a half hours in Lithuania, the intelligence report sates.

On February 26, 2020 Prigozhin’s impersonator took a regular flight to Lithuania for a second time. This time his itinerary included taking pictures of the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas), the National Museum and the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. He did not take his return flight scheduled for the same day, instead, he left for Belarus by train on the next day.

Russian tabloid news website sobesednik.ru later published false information that oligarch Prigozhin had arrived in Lithuania on his Hawker 800 on february 10, 2020 to discuss IT projects with a high-ranking official of Lithuania's Ministry of Transport and Communications.

A second article on sobesednik.ru claimed that Prigozhin had once again come to Lithuania and visited the Lithuanian parliament despite being on the EU sanction list. To add credence to the story, the articles included photos taken by Prigozhin’s impersonator outside Lithuanian state institutions.

Several other Russian news websites reported the story and added even more fictional details, for instance, claiming that Prigozhin had met not only state officials but business executives as well. One website even claimed that a assistant to the chairman of the Lithuanian parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense had expressed his discontent that there were no restrictions for Prigozhin to visit Lithuania.

"Setting the record straight, Prigozhin’s impersonator did not actually meet any of the state officials or businessmen mentioned in the fake news published on Russian media," the Lithuanian intelligence report states.

Lithuania's intelligence believes the intent of such information campaign was likely to undermine trust in Lithuania’s international commitments and probe for loopholes in the Schengen border control, incite distrust of the Lithuanian public and NATO and EU states in Lithuanian state institutions in a bid to show them as untrustworthy partners playing double games.

"Despite the resources allocated by the perpetrators, neither in Lithuania nor internationally did the story receive any significant traction," the report concludes.

BNS
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