Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 156

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB)–the country’s chief counter-intelligence agency–appeared to be sending mixed signals yesterday on the subject of an alleged Israeli spy network in Russia. In recent weeks officials of the FSB have accused an Israeli government organization of launching a broad-based effort aimed at recruiting Russian citizens as spies for foreign governments. Then, in what was apparently meant to substantiate that charge, the Omsk regional bureau of the FSB announced on August 10 that, one year earlier, it had arrested Aleksandr Sakov, a defense worker at Russia’s Transmash defense plant. The Omsk FSB claimed that Sakov had confessed to providing Nativ with information on a new, advanced tank–called the “Black Eagle”–which is being produced by the Transmash plant. The Omsk FSB also suggested that Sakov’s arrest had helped uncover the entire spy network being run by Nativ. (Itar-Tass, August 10-11; see also the Monitor, August 12)

The Russian FSB’s press department in Moscow continued yesterday to accuse Nativ of conducting espionage operations in Russia. It charged that Nativ’s activities had focused in particular upon the gathering of information on the social, political and economic situation in Russia, as well as on relations among Russia’s nationalities, the prevalence of nationalism and antisemitism in Russia, and on other questions that might influence rates of emigration to Israel. The FSB press office pointed to Sakov’s arrest as proof of Nativ’s activities–but also suggested that, because Sakov’s activities had not yet progressed very far at the time of his arrest, the Russian authorities were limited in the actions they could take against him. (Russian agencies, August 12)

That last admission was presumably intended to explain what happened in Omsk yesterday. There, the FSB’s regional branch announced that it would not bring espionage charges against Sakov. Their apparent reason: The charge that he had passed sensitive information to Nativ could not be fully substantiated. (Russian agencies, August 12) On April 11, an Israeli intelligence official had flatly denied the charges leveled by the FSB against Sakov.