What Metsavas really knew?

Treason of General Staff of the Defense Forces planning officer Deniss Metsavas (38), who, together with his father, leaked classified documents to GRU for years, could spell months of reorganization in a highly sensitive field for the armed forces.

According to the prosecution, Major Deniss Metsavas and his father Piotr Volin worked in tandem until they were arrested on September 3.

Only Metsavas had access to state secrets and classified foreign information, working at the general staff’s operations center.

Both men forwarded information to the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU). Information was leaked both using telecommunications and during meetings with contacts. The prosecution will not reveal where these meetings took place. Their motive for committing treason was not ideological, while there is information to suggest the men received benefits from the GRU in exchange for classified information.

Even though Director of the Estonian Internal Security Service (EISS) Arnold Sinisalu praised the Defense Forces for its contribution in catching Metsavas, the reality is different. Metsavas’ activities first caught the eye of the security service, not the general staff’s internal control unit.

«These persons have been caught courtesy of prior work and experience, as well as cooperation with other institutions,» Sinisalu said. The Estonian public will likely never know whether Metsavas’ activities were discovered during another counterintelligence operation or when keeping tabs on GRU agents.

Investigative organs did not say when Metsavas first appeared on EISS’ radar as this could give the GRU too much information on what the security service knows about Metsavas’ cooperation with the Russian agency.

Circumstances speak for themselves however. Metsavas served with the general staff until July of this year. He was scheduled to be rotated to the Headquarters of the Defense League from September 3 but was arrested based on a Harju County Court warrant before that.

Exemplary officer

Both Metsavas and his now retired father were given Estonian citizenship with a government decision in the 1990s. Volin is a former Soviet Union border guard and later worked for the Estonian prison service.

While originally from Lasnamäe, Metsavas commuted to work from his apartment in Viimsi in recent years. He pursued a dizzying career after completing master’s studies. Metsavas was one of only a few Russian-speaking officers to have reached the rank of major as recently as 2015.

«He was very much up to speed on general politics. He could have served as a bridge between the armed forces and the civilian population. There was no doubt he was very patriotic,» a source who knows Metsavas said.

Metsavas has taught national defense at the Tallinn Mustamäe Science School and represented the Defense Forces on television on numerous occasions.

The five-year period during which Metsavas is suspected of having leaked classified data started when he came to work for the general staff in 2013.

He initially served as a staff officer with the artillery inspectorate but was promoted half-incidentally before the year’s end.

The structure of the armed forces was changed in 2013. When the ground forces staff was abolished, Metsavas’ position was merged with that of the general staff’s battle support center that answers to the operations center.

If at first Metsavas was only in charge of development and supervision of artillery forces, he could have gained access to other state secrets in his new position. The operations center of the general staff also deals with national defense plans, trainings and foreign missions’ planning, allied cooperation and mobilization.

Rapid development

Metsavas’ position with the operations center was tied to development of fire support and use of firepower in defense plans. Development in the field has been rapid – during Metsavas’ term in office, the Defense Forces has procured CV90 IFVs and launched procurement of K9 Thunder mobile artillery. Postimees’ information suggests that while Metsavas was not part of the K9 workgroup, he had contact with 155 mm howitzers.

Experts consulted by Postimees said that weapon specifications were probably no the GRU’s main interest and that they were potentially much more interested in other documents Metsavas’ department had access to. One such area is mobilization that Estonia has repeatedly tested using short notice reservist trainings in recent years and information regarding which is considered priceless in intelligence circles. The same goes for general defense plans and allied troop placement.

Asked how much damage Metsavas could have done in five years, Commander of the Defense Forces Gen. Riho Terras said: «We need to expect the worst. The Defense Forces and Estonian national defense have suffered a grave wound,» he said.

Arnold Sinisalu said that a part of documents leaked is known. «We can say they were interested in allied troops in Estonia, all manner of military infrastructure and of course our cooperation with partners,» he said.

Minister of Defense Jüri Luik has put together a group of experts to ascertain the full extent of the leak and decide what kind of reorganization is needed in defense planning and allied operations in the coming months.

Metsavas was one of the main characters of a book called «Laigulised edulood» (Success stories in camouflage) where Russian officers told their life stories.

«Ahead of me is a long and interesting life full of change. The main thing is to be prepared for perspective, instead of looking on with cloudy eyes,» he said two years ago. «Additionally, an officer needs to keep in mind that condemnable conduct will also reflect poorly on his colleagues, friends and brothers in arms.»

COMMENTS

postimees.ee
Metsavas Treason of General Staff of the Defense Forces
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
6 views in january
I recommend
No recommendations yet

Comments

Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Politics
Even though education is a matter close to the heart of Estonia 200 leader Kristina Kallas, she cannot imagine herself fighting for the post of education minister: ideas can also be realized by someone else. You just took away Postimees’ editor-in-chief. In your opinion, how is the editorial to feel? Lauri [Hussar] had to give the matter thought, and I presume he did. We talked about why he wants to go into politics. Still, to what extent do you imagine wh...
Society
TALLINN – Russia is seeking integration in Estonia only in words, Kalev Stoicescu, researcher at the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) who is running on the ticket of the Estonia 200 party in the March 3 general elections, said on Wednesday commenting on the words said on the subject by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.  "Russia is the only neighboring state which does not wish -- due to its own interests -- progress in integration...
Politics
Former top centrist Evelyn Sepp admitted that she donated money the origin of which was unknown to her to the Center Party in 2006. The former politician claimed other members also engaged in the practice but refused to name names. Sepp’s confession on ETV investigative journalism program «Pealtnägija» does not come as a total bombshell. She first said that such covert funding of parties is a widespread practice in the aftermath of the Silvergate scandal i...
Society
"In addition to our ongoing programme of passenger vessel renovations, we are also continuing to upgrade and modernise our cargo vessels to ensure that we continue to develop this important part of our business," he noted, adding that the relocation of the company's Estonia-Finland cargo route to Muuga on the Estonian side in October 2017 and the launch of the Smart Port solution in Tallinn's Old City Harbour in spring 2018 both contributed to improved ser...
Society
During the final week of 2018, a total of 2,524 patients with viral upper respiratory infections sought medical attention, 47.5% of whom were children. A total of 210 cases of influenza were laboratory confirmed, nearly twice as many as during the week before, according to Health Board data. Over the past two weeks, the number of flu cases has quadrupled. The majority of these cases were laboratory confirmed at emergency medical departments, from which pat...
Society
I actually think that B1 is too low of a bar for attaining citizenship. You still can't participate in Estonian society on anything other than a superficial level as noted above, so I'm not sure how you can constitute a "citizen" on that basis. Naturally there has to be a high degree of arbitrariness, and that's precisely the point — whilst B1 level might be sufficient in German or French (I understand that it is the benchmark level when applying for citiz...
Society
Following a white Christmas throughout most of Estonia, Wednesday will see sleet and even rain in parts of the country, and temperatures hovering around the freezing point will means slippery road conditions. Early Wednesday morning, many major highways were salted or wet, but some patches were still icy, the Estonian Road Administration said. Eastern parts of the country will see scattered rain or sleet. Temperatures throughout the day will remain around...
Society
Last weekend, Christmas Eve as well as Christmas Day and Boxing Day still ahead means that most chemist's shops are closed for five days in a row. Tallinners can still get hold of prescription as well as over-the-counter drugs in the 5 Tõnismägi St and 19 Vikerlase St shops. As doctors' practices are closed for the holidays as well, people will have to turn to the emergency room of a nearby hospital in case of any more serious health problems. In Tallinn,...
Society
Irene Ilves, the mother of former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, died on Tuesday aged 91. Irene Ilves was born on 6 January 1927. An Estonian refugee, she raised her family in New Jersey, on the US East Coast. She is survived by two sons, Andres Eerik and Toomas Hendrik, and four grandchildren, Juulia Kristiine, Luukas Kristjan, Kadri Keiu and Hans Hendrik, Mr Ilves wrote on social media on Wednesday, adding that she will be very missed by family and frie...