The chief of Russia’s main counterintelligence agency — the Federal Security Service (FSB) — has offered amnesty to those Russians who step forward and admit that they are spying for foreign powers. The proposal, announced by FSB director Nikolai Kovalev in a June 3 TV appearance, calls for such people to dial a special hotline number. They will then be recruited by trained FSB personnel and used as double agents. More than that, the new recruits will be allowed to keep the cash payments that they continue to receive from their foreign handlers. Kovalev assured television viewers that anonymity and confidentiality will be guaranteed. He also warned that those who fail to step forward will be caught eventually in any case, and will presumably not receive such privileged treatment. An FSB spokesman explained yesterday that Kovalev’s offer is related to an article in Russia’s new criminal code which stipulates that individuals can avoid charges of treason if they prevent further damage to Russia by "voluntary and timely reporting to bodies of power." (Reuter, Itar-Tass, Interfax, June 4)
Although an FSB official claimed yesterday that the new hotline number was receiving a large number of calls, it remains to be seen how many Russians will want to place themselves at the mercy of the FSB — the new criminal code notwithstanding. On the other hand, the novel idea — and the monetary inducement it contains — could at the very least sow some doubt in relations between Russians engaged in spying and their foreign handlers. Kovalev’s offer comes, not surprisingly, in the broader context of repeated claims by the FSB that foreign intelligence services continue to operate vigorously on the territory of the Russian Federation.
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