The presidential decree restructuring the Federal Security Service (FSB), which was signed by President Vladimir Putin on July 11 and made public by the Kremlin on July 14, has not amounted to the worst-case scenario that some human rights activists had feared, namely the restoration of an institution resembling the Soviet KGB. Some observers, however, say such changes may still be in the offing.
The decree cuts the number of deputies to FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev from 12 to four — including two first deputies — reduces the number of FSB departments and raises the salaries of senior officials. Colonel General Yevgeny Lovyrev, who heads the FSB’s department of organizational-personnel work, said that the decree also widens the FSB director’s powers and gives deputy directors and other senior officials wide authority to represent the agency in relations with the government, other federal agencies, plus legislative and judicial bodies (Interfax, July 14).
The decree does not, however, do what the newspaper Gazeta predicted and what some rights activists feared it might do — merge the FSB with the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the Federal Guard Service (FSO). Gazeta also reported on July 14 that the FSB would be renamed the Ministry of State Security. Given that the FSB last year absorbed several independent agencies that were originally directorates of the KGB — the Federal Government Communications and Information Agency (FAPSI) and the Federal Border Service (FPS) — such a reorganization would have come very close to reconstituting the KGB.
Indeed, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on July 15 that some FSB employees were unable to hide their disappointment that the decree did not do precisely that. It quoted a source “close to the FSB” as saying that without a merger of the FSB, SVR, and FSO into a “single powerful fist,” all the other changes had little meaning. According to the newspaper, the SVR and FSO, in an effort to maintain their independence, had mounted “intense resistance” to plans to merge the three agencies. Still, the source “close to the FSB” told the newspaper: “I don’t rule out that this decree is only a transitional stage to more radical reforms.” Likewise, in an analysis for Moskovskie novosti published on July 16, Andrei Soldatov of the Agentura.ru website predicted that the SVR and FSO will eventually be brought under the FSB’s aegis and their directors made deputies to Patrushev. President Putin, it should be noted, has given the FSB three months to complete its reorganization (Newsru.com, July 14).
Even if the new presidential decree on the FSB did not come close to restoring something resembling the Soviet-era security service, it marked a continuation of the steady rise in the FSB’s power and influence. “The president apparently increasingly depends on the FSB as a structure opposing other power agencies, viewing it as his private, personal basis of support,” Igor Bunin, director of the Center for Political Technologies, told Vremya novostei. “Now the Interior Ministry will undergo a serious reorganization, and in these conditions the FSB is a kind of guarantee of security for the president.” Indeed, the newspaper reported that decrees are being drafted for the restructuring of the Interior Ministry, the Defense Ministry, and the Federal Service for the Control of Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances, which was created just a year ago (Vremya novostei, July 15). Other power ministries have already been restructured: Along with the decree on the FSB, President Putin on July 11 also signed a decree reorganizing the Emergency Situations Ministry (Interfax, July 14).
While the decree on restructuring the FSB did not confirm the human rights community’s worst fears, Boris Nemtsov, the former Union of Right Forces (SPS) leader who is now a co-chairman of the Committee-2008 democratic opposition group, was nonetheless scathingly critical. Referring, among other things, to the failed July 13 attempt to kill acting Chechen President Sergei Abramov with a remote-control bomb and last month’s raids by insurgents in Ingushetia, Nemtsov dismissed the FSB restructuring plan as a “fuss over nothing,” “completely senseless,” and “incoherent.”
“Until the special services are under public control, as long as the heads of the special services don’t resign after the failure in Ingushetia and the unsolved murders of journalists, as long as the public cannot call them on the carpet to ask them what they were doing when the fighters were attacking Abramov, nothing will work out with them,” Nemtsov said. “They will be…greedy, minimally-professional, insolent and, as always, involved in politically-motivated investigations. Therefore whether he [FSB Director Patrushev-EDM] has four or 100 deputies, has renamed them has absolutely no meaning whatsoever. They will cost us more, their usefulness will decrease, but the danger from them will increase” (Nezavisimaya gazeta, July 15).