A Russian newspaper says that a married couple faces criminal charges for photographs taken at their wedding five years ago and published online that reveal the identity of a counterintelligence officer with Russia’s main security agency.
Kommersant reported on February 11 that Konstantin Antonets and Antonina Zimina were detained in July 2018 in the Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad. The couple have denied the allegations.
According to the newspaper, the Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, has been investigating how details of a Kaliningrad FSB officer had been obtained by the intelligence agency in Latvia.*
Among the guests who attended the couple’s wedding in April 2015 was an FSB counterintelligence officer who was a friend and former university classmate of Zimina's. The officer spoke openly about his employer, and at the wedding, he also handed out business cards and posed for photographs with guests, Kommersant said.
Zimina's father, Konstantin, told the newspaper that it was common knowledge where the FSB officer, whom he named as Maksim, worked, and that Maksim made no effort to hide it.
Other guests in attendance were relatives of Zimina's, who were from Lithuania.
Some videos and photographs from the wedding were later published on social media, and reportedly were included in an unspecified Baltic television program, at which time the FSB opened a criminal investigation, Kommersant said.
At the time of her arrest, Zimina served as director of a nongovernmental organization, the Baltic Center for the Dialogue of Cultures, and Antonets had been employed as a government lawyer in Kaliningrad, and then later in a private firm in Moscow. Zimina was also affiliated with an organization that advocates for public diplomacy, and her professional interests were identified as "the policy of the Baltic countries towards Russia" and "the identity of the political elite of Latvia."
Zimina has been held in the Lefotovo detention center since her arrest. Her husband’s whereabouts were not immediately known.
Social Media Concerns
Russian military and intelligence agencies have grown increasingly concerned about social media and how content posted online by soldiers, officers, or security personnel to platforms such as Facebook or VK can be used to identify people, their affiliations, or even military movements.
In 2017, the Defense Ministry called for legislation to ban contract soldiers serving in the Russian military for posting content to social media sites. Last year, parliament passed related legislation that also banned soldiers from using smart phones, or similar devices—measures that echoed restriction in place in other countries.
The issue of wedding photos inadvertently revealing Russian intelligence officers got renewed public attention in October in a joint report published by RFE/RL and open-source researchers Bellingcat.
In that report, two men linked to a notorious Russian military intelligence unit were identified using photos and videos taken at a wedding in 2017 and published online.l
The two men were members of unit linked to a series of assassination attempts in England, Bulgaria, and other activities in Europe.
The photos have since been taken down.
* CORRECTION: This story mistakenly reported that details of a Kaliningrad FSB officer had been obtained by the intelligence agency in Lithuania.