December 3, 2014 / 4:54 PM / 3 years ago

Lithuania charges former army paramedic with spying for Belarus

VILNIUS (Reuters) - Lithuania charged a former military paramedic with spying for Belarus on Wednesday, the second case to emerge in recent weeks after a three-year investigation into alleged espionage by Belarus, possibly in cooperation with Russia.

The suspect, who was arrested in January, is accused of selling information to the Belarusian secret services about Lithuanian army personnel, military plans and bases, Valdemaras Rupsys, the military assistant to Lithuania’s chief of defense told a news conference to announce the charges.

Although the former paramedic had no access to classified information, he endangered lives by revealing covert activities and operated for five years, prosecutor Raimondas Petrauskas said.

Last month prosecutors charged an employee at the state air navigation company for spying for Belarus and possibly Russia over civilian and military air operations.

Prosecutors provided few details about the investigation but said they had spent three years looking into possible espionage activities by neighboring Belarus, a staunch ally of Moscow.

The foreign ministry in Belarus was not immediately available to comment.

Tensions between NATO-member Lithuania and Russia, its former Soviet master, hit a new high last week after Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite called Russia a “terrorist state” for its role in the Ukrainian conflict.

On Wednesday, Lithuanian police searched two Russian-language schools and several homes after reports that some students had attended paramilitary camps in Russia in recent years.

The police said there were concerns that a “foreign state” was helping individuals carry out criminal acts against Lithuania, without giving further details.

Russia, which this week accused NATO of destabilizing the Nordic and Baltic region, has been testing the region’s defenses in recent months, repeatedly incurring on Baltic and Nordic airspace and triggering NATO responses.

Baltic states Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, home to large Russian minorities, were part of the Soviet Union until shortly before its collapse in 1991. They are now all part of the European Union and NATO.

Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Writing by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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