Publication: Prism Volume: 1 Issue: 20

Russia’s counterintelligence service takes aim at Turkey

by Ernest Andrews

Since early June of this year the Russian media has carried aspate of reports which allege strong ivolvement by Turkey, morespecifically, by Turkey’s intelligence services in the Chechnyacrisis. The source of these allegations, according to the pressreporting them, is the FSB, Russia’s post-KGB Security (or Counterintelligence)Service.

The allegations contain an almost bewildering array of charges: subversive activities against Russia; intense clandestine information-gatheringactivities in Chechnya and Dagestan (republics within the RussianFederation) and in Azerbaijan (bordering Dagestan); use of Azerbaijanterritory as a base for infiltrating spies and saboteurs intoDagestan and Chechnya; aiding and abetting Turkey-based terroristorganizations which support the Chechen separatists; supplyingthe Chechen separatists with all sorts of destructive weaponsand with money, as well as with intelligence-specialist advisers;and recruiting Turkish nationals to fight alongside the Chechenseparatists.

An August 29 Interfax report alleges Turkish involvement in "specializedmilitary training camps for Dudayev supporters." The reportasserts that information by "a Russian ‘power’ department"confirms the existence of "such bases" in Turkey aswell as in "some East European states." The report thenlinks these training bases for Dudayev supporters with the "financialassistance the strong Chechen diasporas [in Turkey and elsewhere]provide to the [Dudayev] regime."

An August 23 Segodnya report subtitled "Accordingto the FSB, Hireling-Terrorists Are Being Recruited in Turkey,"under the title, "The Process of Disarmament Continues inChechnya," alleges Turkish involvement in recruitment andtraining of "terrorists" to be deployed in Chechnya.Quoting FSB sources, the report says that the Turkish firm "ChelebilerIshaat,",headed by Musa and Ismet Chelebi, is recruitingand dispatching "hirelings" to Chechnya, and that aTurkish political party, "Milki Halki Partisi," is overseeingthe creation of a " special base" for recruitment andtraining of "hirelings" among students ("ten thousand"of them) in "Istanbul’s Topkapi district." Moreover,"according to latest FSB information," a group of ahundred of these" hirelings," under the command of Dudayev’sson, was dispatched from Turkey to Chechnya on July 5.

Allegations linking Turkish intelligence services to a varietyof purported subversive and espionage activities in Chechnya areraised in the August 19 Severny Kavkaz article titled "SpecialServices: ‘I Was Used Then Abandoned,’" and in the August15 Kommersant-Daily article titled "A Spy Who WasFirst Undertrained, Then Left in The Lurch."

"The FSB knows", the Kommersant-Daily reportasserts, that "the Turkish intelligence organization MIT,and a number of other special services now have capabilities inAzerbaijan," and "[are using Azerbaijan as a base] totrain agents over the long term," who, the report hints,are infiltrated into Chechnya via Dagestan, with the latter presumablyalso being used as "a communication courtyard via which weaponsfrom Azerbaijan are routed to Chechnya." Moreover, "[FSB]documentary evidence … proves that starting in January 1995the Turkish intelligence service has engaged at least four full-timeofficers of the MIT central staff (Tekin, Vuslat, Erhan, and Sener)to deal with the Chechen problem". The report then says:"the Dudayevites are receiving financial and logistical assistance."

Yet another allegation in that report, presented as if part ofa large riddle, says that, according to the FSB, "there areplans [presumably by Turkey and Jordan, at least] to set up asort of Islamic cordon sanitaire in the North Caucasus" (Dagestan-Chechnya-Abkhazia,it seems). Repeating this " Islamic cordon sanitaire"allegation, but with a strong hint at Turkish intelligence servicesbeing the main schemer, the Severny Kavkaz report announcesthat the FSB has arrested one Selim Eker, a Turkish spy, apparently,who had been posing as a journalist in Chechnya. It adds ellipticicallythat the FSB had "filed" charges against "fourother foreigners" who, the report seems to hint, were alsospies posing as journalists in Chechnya, and among whom "werecomrades from Turkey."

Both of the above-reviewed reports carry as their major storythe "Kasap Testimony," as the Severny Kavkazcalls it, which was first reported, along with a Russian ForeignMinistry demarche, in a June 1 Interfax report. The "KasapTestimony" refers to statements and "admissions"purportedly made to the FSB by one Ishak Kasap, a Turkish citizen,after he was arrested in Dagestan on April 23, and after he was"grilled" by the FSB, as the Severny Kavkaz reportputs it. Kasap is supposed to have admitted that he was a Turkishspy sent to Chechnya by the Turkish intelligence service MIT.In all its reported versions, however, the "Kasap Testimony"story is so filled with obscure allusions, ellipses, irrelevantdetails (e.g., Kasap’s "biography" in the SevernyKavkaz report takes up the better portion of the story ofthe Kasap "evidence"), innuendos, dark humor, and thelike, that makes it hard to take the story seriously.

In fact, the Kommersant-Daily report concedes at one pointthat the "Kasap Testimony" may well represent a "low-keycase." The report then speculates about thr FSB’s purposefor "widely publicizing the details [of the Kasap low-keycase]," which probably was "to cut the Turks down tosize, so that they won’t pull our leg about ‘non-interference.’"

A tongue-in-cheek report in the July 7 Kommersant-Daily,titled "CIA and Mossad Tentackles Reach Out To Rostov," presents what appears to be a complex plot by intelligence servicesof "several Near-and Middle East countries" apparentlydesigned to subvert Russia’s national security. Quoting statementsmade by FSB Maj.-General Valery Diatlenko at a press conferencein Rostov, the report at one point specifically charges Turkey,along with Iran, Pakistan, Syria, and Jordan, as being engaged"not only in espionage activities [against Russia],"but also activities aimed "at spreading the ideology of Pan-Islamismand Pan-Turkism to fan extremist and separatist tendencies inRussia."

A June 7 Itar-Tass report, quoting statements made by FSB Maj.-GeneralAleksandr Mikhailov at a press conference in Volgograd, raisesthe allegation that Turkey, along with Germany and Poland, isstepping up espionage activities in Russia. As evidence, the reportcites, first, General Mikhailov’s "story about an agent ofthe Turkish Special Services," who, the report goes on, hadposed as a journalist while involved with establishing contactswith "Dudayev’s close allies," and who "was subsequentlyarrested" by the FSB. Moreover, " [according] to AlexanderMikhailov, the Fedderal Security Service [FSB] exposed twenty-twoagents of foreign intelligence services" and nibbed in thebud "sixty attempts" at espionage activity.

The core part of all of the above-reviewed allegations is containedin a demarche the Russian Foreign Ministry presented to the TurkishAmbassador to Russia on May 25 of this year, which charged theTurkish intelligence services with "interference in Russia’sinternal affairs," and which was released to the press byRussian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigori Karasin on June 1,according to an Interfax report of the same date.

Quoting the Ministry’s press release, the Interfax report saysthat the "reason" for this charge relates to the arrestby the FSB (in Dagestan, April 23) of "the Turkish citizenIshak Kasap," which Kasap, "it was discovered, wasa member of an espionage group of the Turkish national intelligenceMIT, deployed in Chechnya last January." Kasap is supposedto have given "evidence on his mission and on the resultsof the group’s activities, nature of contacts with Dudayev andhis supporters," as well as "names of specific personsof the MIT central headquarters, who directed the Turkish intelligenceoperation in Chechnya." Presumably he also admitted to havinggone through "a special training in the MIT" for thepurpose of "learning satellite communication equipment."(This "special training" of Kasap’s was completed intwo days, according to17 August Kommersant-Daily report.)

The Ministry’s statement goes on to imply guilt on the part ofthe Turkish government by way of not being forthright, when itclaims that the "explanations given by Ankara with regardto the [Kasap] case do not seem to us to be convincing or comprehensive." Ankara had in fact expressly denied that Kasap was in any wayconnected with Turkish intelligence services and that Turkishintelligence services were conducting esionage-subversive operationsin Chechnya. Ankara, in other words, had made quite explicit itsview on the "Kasap case."

The Foreign Ministry statement attempts to link the Turkishgovernment to Turkish-Chechen private organizations in Turkeythat (presumably) actively support the Chechnya separatists. Onreflection we may have here a significant clue about what thisobviously black-propaganda operation by the FSB is, in fact, allabout. The statement says that although the Turkish Governmentdenied that Kasap was employed with the MIT etc, "the Turkishside admitted that Kasap is a member of the organization The Caucasian-ChechenSolidarity Committee which is officially registered [in Turkey]"and "is an organization waging terrorist and sabotage activitiesin Russia in support of the criminal elements of the pro-Dudayevseparatists."

The hidden message in this seemingly illogical assertion is thatthe actual concern of the Russian government is the activitiesby Turkey-based organizations of the type of the Chechen SolidarityCommittee, and not Kasap-type "MIT espionage" operations.This is also a message the entire FSB operation reviewed hereis sending the Turkish government. Linked with that message isthe deliberately obfuscated, or "coded" demand thisFSB operation is pressuring Turkey to acceed to, which in partis given, in the Interfax report’s last paragraph, as "theTurkish side should resolutely stop activities of this kind".Whereby "activities of this kind" makes sense only inreference to organizations such as the Solidarity Committee, or"Milki Halki Partisi," or individuals such as the Chelebibrothers (mentioned in previously cited reports), that are presumablyactively involved in the Chechya problem.

The reason that the demand to Turkey in this FSB black-propagandaoperation is "coded" is that the Russian governmentcannot possibly demand from the Turkish government that it puta stop to activities by private organizations and individualssupporting the Chechen cause, without the Russian government itselfappearing to interfere in the internal affairs of another country.

One more clue that further explicates the actual purpose of thisFSB black-propaganda operation is present in the opening paragraphof the July 27 Krasnaya Zvezda report titled "TurkeyIs Still Our Concern," where it says: "Ankara is adoptinga clearly pro-Dudayev stance and is doing nothing to prevent thecollection of funds that are sent as aid to Dudayev’s men."

The message this extended FSB black-propaganda operation is sendingmay be decoded as follows: The Russian government demands thatthe Turkish government put a stop to activities by private organizations,parties, and individuals in Turkey, which provide financial andother forms of aid to the Chechen separatists.

Ernest Andrews is a freelance reporter and consultant on developmentsin Russia and in the Balkans.