Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 21 June 2021
A Future FSB Director? He Got Promotion from Putin
As the incumbent head of the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, is close to retire, the fight to become his successor now reaches a crucial stage. There are many candidates, but now it seems that plans are to appoint someone from the FSB. In early June, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a secret decree to promote Colonel General Sergei Korolev, who serves as the first deputy head of the Federal Security Service, to the rank of an army general.
So far, these were only Alexander Bornikov, the head of the FSB, and Vladimir Kulishov, the first deputy director of the FSB and the chief of the Border Service, who were awarded such a senior rank in the FSB. Korolev’s recent promotion gave rise to speculation that he may succeed Bortnikov as the director of Russia’s most powerful special agency. Nonetheless, the number two official in the FSB usually held the rank of an army general, just to quote here Sergei Smirnov, whom Korolev replaced as the first deputy director of the FSB in February 2021. This is an influential position giving power to oversee a range of powerful directorates: the Economic Security Service (SEB), the Service for the Protection of the Constitutional Order, and the Inspection Directorate of Control Service. In addition, the first deputy director of the FSB assumes duties of the head of the agency in his absence. Korolev has in the past been in charge of the Economic Security Service (SEB), which tends to be a stepping stone for the most important jobs in the agency. Former directors of the SEB included Nikolay Patrushev, the former director of the FSB, and Alexander Bortnikov, who now holds this post. Before Korolev took over the SEB, he had served as the director of the Interior Security Department (USB FSB). A few years ago its key component was the Sixth Service, one of the agency’s most influential units. It was created to operate some high-profile political cases, including corruption-related investigations against the governors of the regions of Kirov and Sakhalin as well as the Komi Republic. The Sixth Service also played its part in corruption probes against senior siloviki in the Interior Ministry and the Investigative Committee. There were many fierce competitors in the race for the seat of the first deputy director of the FSB. Korolev won not only because earlier he had been in charge of Lubyanka’s top directorates, but also because he had reportedly––and unlike other siloviki––warned the agency against the opposition figure Alexey Naval when he had left for Berlin, saying that he would return to Russia and cause trouble.
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