Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 155

An official working in the Omsk regional branch of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed on August 10 that counter-intelligence officers there had uncovered a network of informers working for foreign intelligence agencies under the direction of an Israeli maintaining contacts with Jews in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. According to the official, the Israeli Nativ agency is responsible for “an extremely perfidious operation of secret services staged on Russia’s territory.” The official said that counter-intelligence officers working in Omsk had last year detained a Russian defense plant worker who confessed to having provided information to the Israeli organization. That arrest, the official said, led to the discovery of a whole network of informers working for Israel. (Itar-Tass, August 10)

The accusations by the Omsk FSB officer–repeated and elaborated on by other Omsk intelligence officials yesterday–follow up an interview given to a Russian daily last month by an unnamed officer described as a senior FSB official. That official charged that Nativ had stepped up its activities throughout Russia and that it had sought, among other things, to select and organize gifted young Russian Jews for emigration to Israel. The organization has also sought, the official said, to make contacts with Russian scientists “whose knowledge and experience may be of help to Israel.” In addition, he said, Nativ has attempted to collect wide-ranging information regarding the socioeconomic and political situation in Russia’s regions. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, July 29)

A senior intelligence source in Israel denied the Omsk report–saying that the story was “completely without foundation.” He also said that he had no knowledge of Israeli espionage being conducted by Nativ representatives in Omsk or elsewhere in Russia, and observed that in the past month the Russian government had filed only one minor complaint with Israel over alleged irregularities in Nativ’s activities. The intelligence officer said that recent weeks have seen a number of articles appear in the Russian press–some, he said, of an anti-Semitic nature–accusing Nativ of operating as an Israeli espionage center. Israeli media have described Nativ as a secretive unit run through the office of the Israeli prime minister. It was once responsible for gathering information in the former Soviet Union, and currently has main offices in Moscow and Kyiv. (Ha’aretz, August 11)

The accusations leveled in recent weeks by the FSB against Nativ are not unlike charges–also attributed to Russia’s secret services–directed several years ago against the Jewish Agency. The Agency is an Israeli nongovernmental organization that has facilitated the emigration of well over half a million Jews to Israel. In May 1996, Russian security service officials were said to have accused the Jewish Agency of seeking to bring Russia’s most talented Jewish children to Israel for study. The Agency was said also to be contacting Russian scientists who possessed expertise in new technologies and inviting some of them to Israel. Russian officials were quoted as describing the activities of the Jewish Agency as both interference in Russia’s internal affairs and a threat to Russia’s national interests. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, May 15, 1996) Efforts by Russian authorities to deny the Agency accreditation brought international condemnation down upon Moscow. In October 1996, the Agency was finally licensed to operate in Russia.