Latvian Member of the European Parliament Tatjana Ždanoka


European Parliament sanctions Latvian MEP charged with spying for Russia


The European Parliament has sanctioned a Latvian MEP after Riga’s secret service charged her with spying for Russia’s FSB security service.

Tatjana Ždanoka, until 2022 a member of the Greens/EFA Group, arranged travel visas for Russian spies to visit Europe and reported to handlers from the FSB, according to the Insider, an independent Russian news outlet.

“Allegations that former Latvian MEP Ždanoka provided assistance to Russian intelligence services came as no surprise to many,” said Irish MEP Barry Andrews.

Ždanoka is “politically classified as ‘old Soviet’,” said Michael Gahler, a German MEP and the EPP’s spokesman on foreign affairs.

“I declare that you will not be able to scare me. I and my peers continue and will continue to use the European Parliament platform to fight neo-fascism,” Ždanoka wrote on Facebook.

Ždanoka was one of only 13 MEPs who voted against a March 2022 resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Greens/EFA expelled her afterwards from the group, of which she had been a member for 18 years.

The Insider says it accessed leaked emails between Ždanoka and her handlers dating back to 2005, which revealed her asking for money to organise events, and reporting on her political activities.

This period would cover nearly all of her time as an MEP, as she was first elected in 2004.

Her case officers–initially ​Dmitry Gladey, 74, and then Sergei Beltyukov, 53–were from the FSB’s Fifth Service, a department concerned with weakening the internal unity of Russia’s adversaries, said Insider editor Michael Weiss.

She arranged a Schengen visa for a third FSB operative, Artem Kureev, says Weiss.

“Hacking personal email without the permission of law enforcement bodies is unacceptable,” Ždanoka protested on Facebook. Journalists had committed “a criminal offence,” she said.​​

Ždanoka’s punishment included a fine of €1750 and a ban on representing the European Parliament at conferences, foreign visits and other official events for the remainder of her term, said President Roberta Metsola.

The MEP claimed the April 10 punishment was only for her “declaration of financial interests being inconsistent”, she afterwards told Latvia’s state-owned public broadcaster Latvijas Televīzija.

Latvia’s State Security Service confirmed in March it had opened a criminal case against Ždanoka on February 22, for alleged cooperation with Russian special services.

Ždanoka has not denied the authenticity of the emails, but does deny being a Russian spy.

“Yes, I am an agent: an agent for peace, an agent for a Europe without fascism. An agent for a united Europe from Lisbon to Ural,” Ždanoka told the European Parliament February 7.

“I want to apologise, here and now, before the people for not being a successful agent.” 

As a sitting MEP, she is immune from prosecution until the June elections and her term ends.  

Before 2016, Latvia’s criminal code made it illegal to pass classified information to a foreign spy service, but not actually to work for one. 

So only her alleged activities on behalf of Russia’s FSB from 2016 on would actually have been illegal under Latvian law.

The Greens/EFA, her former bloc in the European Parliament, released a statement saying Ždanoka was “not part of the Green political family nor a member of the European Green Party”. 

She had belonged to the European Free Alliance (EFA), “a European political party consisting of various regionalists, autonomists, independentists and minorities political parties in Europe,” it said. 

She was unlikely to be the only Russian agent in the European Parliament, said a group of her Latvian MEPs. 

“We are convinced that Ždanoka is not an isolated case,” said three Latvian MEPs representing the EPP, ECR, and Renew blocs in a joint letter. (Only the Latvian Socialists did not join the letter.)

Ždanoka did not respond to requests for comment.