Artem Zinchenko, Former Russian Spy, Defects Back to Estonia After Prison Swap

Artem Zinchenko, Former Russian Spy, Defects Back to Estonia After Prison Swap

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Artem Zinchenko, an agent of the GRU or Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, was arrested by the Estonian Internal Security Service, known by its Estonian acronym as KAPO, on Jan. 9, 2016, and sentenced to five years in prison that May for spying on Estonia and its NATO allies.

According to the charges, Zinchenko was recruited by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (formerly GRU) in 2009. Between 2013 and 2017, he allegedly collected information about state defense objects and other vitally important services in Estonian territory. He also allegedly monitored the deployment of the military equipment of the defense forces of Estonia and its allies.

However, he was released in a high-profile prison swap on the Estonian border with Russia on February 10th, 2018. He was exchanged for Raivo Susi, an Estonian businessman convicted of espionage in Russia.

Estonian Raivo Susi, second from left, and Russian Artem Zinchenko, second from right, in a prisoner exchange at a border crossing in Estonia on Feb. 10, 2018. (KaPo via AP)

However, Yahoo News, in an exclusive story, has revealed that Zinchenko has defected back to Estonia. According to their interview, Zinchenko defected due to his disgust with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and came back across the border in late September or early October.

“The awful situation that took place on the 24th of February,” he says, referring to the start of Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine. “It is the worst scenario that could even be imagined in my mind, and it was not only because my relatives live there, but because of the huge number of innocent victims.”- Michael Weiss, Yahoo News correspondent who met with Zinchenko.

This is extremely embarrassing for the GRU, who the Estonians believe did not know about the defection until tonight when Yahoo News broke the story. The military intelligence agency has had a slew of failures this year including several Brazilian covered agents arrested in Europe attempting to infiltrate the International Criminal Court and Norwegian universities.