Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 25 February 2021
More Than Just Spies: Putin Mobilizes FSB Officers
Speaking at a meeting of top officials of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the agency for being efficient in disrupting the activities of foreign spies. He focused mainly on what he named “the policy of containment of Russia.” The president warned against foreign meddling in his country’s domestic affairs before the upcoming State Duma elections. He also claimed that foreign intelligence services used terrorists against Russia. The issue of the Russian fight against coronavirus and its homegrown vaccine was also on the agenda. The speech shows that Putin sees the FSB – where he started his career – as the top shield for its regime even amid its spectacular trainwreck of the operation to poison Alexey Navalny.
On February 24, Vladimir Putin attended a board meeting of the FSB as he always did in the past. In his belligerent address, the Russian leader reported some figures on how many foreign intelligence officers and their informants were unmasked in Russia, a tally that came for the first time in a year. Putin said throughout 2020, the FSB disrupted the activities of foreign spies, maintaining it unmasked 72 foreign intelligence officers and 423 of their informants. At the meeting last year, the president did not specify any exact figures, yet saying that these had grown by a quarter throughout the whole year. Speaking at the FSB board meeting two years ago, Putin said the Russian agency thwarted the activities of 129 foreign officers and 465 of their informants in 2018. Back in 2017, these figures were 72 and 397 while in 2016 – 53 and 386, respectively. The past three years have been marked with a spy mania in Russia. What resonated in Putin’s speech was his attempt to link the activities of foreign intelligence agencies to terrorism. Putin instructed the agency to “uncover contacts between terrorist groups and foreign special services.” As for the war against terrorism, in December 2020, Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov told the National Antiterrorism Committee, or NAK, that Russian law enforcement had prevented 41 terrorist attacks, killed 49 militants, detained 198 suspects and 591 helpers, and dismantled 55 terrorists’ cells that were plotting attacks.
If content prepared by Warsaw Institute team is useful for you, please support our actions. Donations from private persons are necessary for the continuation of our mission.
The Russian president made much room to familiarize FSB officers with growing threats to Russia while urging them what to pay particular attention to. Putin pointed at the “policy of containment of Russia,” charging that it includes efforts to derail its development and – most importantly – “provoke internal instability.” He accused unnamed countries although he certainly meant the Unites States and its stance on Nord Stream 2. Without naming the gas link, it is sure Putin meant it as he added: “they are trying to shackle us with economic and other sanctions, to block large international projects – those our partners are also interested in.” Putin also commented on “a targeted information campaign” waged against Russia, “unsubstantiated accusations,” and “conspiracy theories,” mainly those that undermine “Russian achievements in the fight against coronavirus.” The Russian leader asked the agency to be particularly vigilant before the September parliamentary election, saying that opposition politicians – or at least part of them – were paid to “serve foreign interests” in their attempts to destabilize Russia. Focusing on the campaign and then the election – as possibly also the first days after the ruling United Russia party wins the ballot – shows how much the Kremlin feels insecure about the vote and the public reaction to its rigging.
All texts published by the Warsaw Institute Foundation may be disseminated on the condition that their origin is credited. Images may not be used without permission.