Washed-up Russian spy takes part in war of monuments in Latvia20.03.2021
The Kremlin’s narrative that it is fine to pull down the monument to Latvian Riflemen in St. Petersburg, but completely unacceptable to dismantle the Soviet Army cannon in Jēkabpils, was made up by a person who is no longer welcome in Latvia – Russian spy Dmitry Yermolayev.
It is quite uncommon for any information concerning clashes between intelligence services or the real names of intelligence officers to appear publicly, but with Yermolayev this was exactly the case. It is still possible to find information about this person on the website of the Constitution Protection Bureau of Latvia under an article titled “Website run by Russian diplomat publishes articles discrediting Latvia”.
“From 2002 to 2005, Yermolayev, under a diplomatic cover, worked in the Russian Embassy in Latvia as the third secretary. During this time, the Constitution Protection Bureau identified him as being an officer of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. After an initiative by the bureau in 2005, Yermolayev was included in the list of people barred from entering Latvia.”
Kremlin schools in Latvia
The website that caused concern for the Constitution Protection Bureau in the context of the upcoming elections was the digital extension of the Russian federal newspaper Rossiyskie Vesti riga.rovesty.ru. Currently, the website is inactive. Yermolayev published the last article on the website in 2017. Around this time, he began publishing articles on the Russian propaganda media outlet Sputnik, meaning that the Russian propaganda forces were being consolidated.
To this day, Yermolayev’s specialty remains everything that concerns Latvia. Even 16 years after his expulsion, he writes about elections, politician Nils Ušakovs, pro-Kremlin activist Aleksandrs Gaponenko, politics in sport and, most of all, Russian schools. Yermolayev has frequently expressed that there should be schools near the Russian Embassy in Latvia that would be attended by the children of diplomats, as well as locals.
Of course, the curriculum would be approved by the Kremlin and tuition would take place in the Russian language. In other words, a blatant opposition to the goal of the education system of Latvia to get rid of bilingualism in schools and ensure that children receive tuition in the official language of Latvia, regardless of their nationality.
Over the course of four years, Yermolayev has provided the Russian propaganda mouthpiece Sputnik with 21 articles, the last one being about the dismantling of the monument to Latvian Riflemen in St. Petersburg. The central message of the article was that the destruction of the monument in Russia was “merely the consequence of unwarranted construction”, but the dimsantling of the Soviet cannon in Jēkabpils – “a shameless act of vandalism”.
Evidently, those who paid for the article did not want both cases to be compared, and it seems that they were able to achieve this in some sense. Mass media reports on the removal of the cannon in Jēkabpils almost never mention the dismantling of the Latvian Riflemen monument in Russia, despite the monument in St. Petersburg being removed a month before the cannon in Jēkabpils disappeared.
By Putin’s decree No. 894
When Neatkarīgā wrote about the monument to Latvian Riflemen, Yermaloyev responded by sending a link to the counter-article published on Sputnik that expressed that it is no monument, but instead an unlawful construction – ugly, out of place and never liked by the locals. When Neatkarīgā asked Yermolayev whether it is true that he is still barred from entering Latvia because he works for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, he responded with a copious amount of links to interviews where he alleges that he is not a spy.
He said that during his time in the Russian Embassy in Latvia he dealt with transit issues and that he has nothing to do with Russian intelligence services. In an interview with Neatkarīgā in 2011, he explained that the Constitution Protection Bureau is wrong and that he is not a spy, but instead a journalist. Hard to imagine a spy publicly confessing to his deeds.
“Regardless of what Yermolayev likes to call himself – public official, public persona or journalist – the fact is that he spreads narratives that damage the national interests of Latvia.”
These articles were paid by none other than the Kremlin. On 9 December 2013, after Russian President Vladimir Putin issued the Decree No. 894 the news agency Rossiya Segodnya was created, which also includes Sputnik that furthers Russia’s geopolitical interests abroad, including in Latvia.