The chief of Russia’s domestic counter-intelligence service — and the main successor to the Soviet era KGB — claimed yesterday that his agency had caught twenty-nine foreign agents last year while exposing some 400 foreign intelligence officers. Nikolai Kovalev, director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), attributed the success at least in part to a special hotline that the FSB created in June of 1997. The hotline was part of an unusual program under which the FSB offered amnesty to Russian citizens spying for foreign powers. They had only to dial the special number and turn themselves in. (See Monitor, June 5, 1997)
Kovalev also said yesterday that his agency had prevented 130 terrorist attacks last year and arrested thirty-two drug dealers, including thirteen from abroad. His remarks followed a closed-door meeting of the FSB leadership attended by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and recently named Security Council Secretary Andrei Kokoshin, among others. The session was devoted to an examination of the agency’s performance in 1997 and to setting its goals for the coming year. (AP, Russian agencies, March 4)
Like others in the Russian intelligence community, Kovalev has argued that the post-Cold War years have brought not the expected decline in foreign espionage conducted on Russian territory, but a significant increase. Kovalev has typically pointed to the United States and various other Western countries, along with the Baltic states, as the primary culprits. Such views dovetail with Russia’s turn to what its practitioners would call a more hard-headed and pragmatic approach to broader foreign policy issues, and to Moscow’s now long-established determination to defy Washington and seek its own allies around the world. It was therefore something of a surprise when one of Kovalev’s deputies on February 3 accused two of those new-found allies — Iran and China — of having stepped up their intelligence activities in Russia. (AP, March 4)
Yesterday’s FSB meeting comes amid a shakeup of Russia’s defense, security and intelligence establishments. To date, the FSB appears to have benefited from that shakeup. Reports have indicated recently that the country’s border forces will be subordinated to the FSB, a change seemingly borne out by the presence at yesterday’s meeting of recently named border forces commander Colonel General Nikolai Bordyuzha. (Russian agencies, March 4)
Russia Reopens Plane Crash Investigation.