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Lithuania launches telephone hotline to fight spies

A customer tries out a Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Note 7 at the company's headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, October 10, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

VILNIUS, Lithuania: NATO member Lithuania has launched a telephone hotline for citizens to report anyone they suspect could be involved in intelligence gathering for foreign powers, namely its Soviet-era master Russia.

The move is part of a wider public information campaign warning citizens about the risks of being used or recruited by foreign spies.

It comes amid a string of Cold War-style espionage affairs involving Russians in eastern NATO member nations and intensified East-West tensions in the wake of Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

"Military threats and propaganda war have been widely addressed... but the activities of hostile intelligence agencies also pose a very great danger to the state and every Lithuanian citizen can become a target," Darius Jauniskis, director of the state security department, said in a statement issued this week.

The department has created video clips recounting the true stories of how three Lithuanians – a mother, a student and a businessman – were targeted by foreign spies looking for information.

The woman explains in one of the clips that her work computer was infected with spyware after she plugged-in a USB key given to her by a handsome man who had invited her on a coffee date.

Public and private news media have widely posted the clips on their websites.

According to Vilnius University political scientist Margarita Seselgyte, as a small state – its population is just 2.9 million – Lithuania is particularly vulnerable to spies.

"This vulnerability is one of Lithuania's main weaknesses," she told AFP. "Russia is using hybrid techniques, sending messages to our society. We must act to warn our citizens about the risks they face."

Describing the decision to create a hotline an "audacious" move, Seselgyte insisted that it will be worth the effort "even if only one call proves to be important".

Lithuanian prosecutors said in July that a Russian spy attempted to recruit Lithuanian officials to bug the home of President Dalia Grybauskaite.

Earlier this year, Russian courts sentenced two Lithuanian nationals to 13 and 12 years in prison for spying on Moscow.

 

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