Post-KGB spies keep the old flag flying
Wednesday 12 March 1997
Nor does it make much secret of that fact. Only a few months ago, Nikolai Kovalyov, head of the Federal Security Service, boasted that the service was monitoring 400 foreign spies and 39 locally recruited Russian spies.
The agency, known as the FSB, has an estimated 75,000 employees which, though small when compared with the network of the KGB of 400,000 agents in the mid-Eighties, is still - a considerable force, and one which includes elite armed forces.
Still based at the Lubyanka in central Moscow, the security services play a diminished role in the daily life of most Russians, and have switched their focus to embrace the conditions in post-Soviet Russia - for instance, the mafia, new technology, weapons-smuggling and industrial espionage. Yet, particularly in more backward regions, they remain powerful and occasionally intrusive.
In the past few years, there have been increasing warnings that - despite hefty budget and staff cuts - the Russian security services are regaining their strength. The head of Germany's counter-intelligence service, Hasjoerg Geiger, last year accused Russia of espionage of Cold War proportions, claiming that KGB-type spies were working under the guise of businessmen. And British parliamentary committees have, on several occasions, complained about an increase in Russian spying. Last month MPs warned of the risk that Russians would infiltrate the security services by preying on impoverished agents.
The FSB has, however, also suffered some major setbacks, particularly in Chechnya. The security services ran the war and eventually suffered the humiliation of seeing Moscow's troops withdraw.
Its influence on the Kremlin - once huge - has fallen off with the ousting of several hardline generals. Last month, Boris Yeltsin, the Russian President, fired the FSB's deputy director, Colonel General Vasily Trofimov, accusing him of financial irregularities. He was reportedly involved in an investigation into a scandal in which two of the President's campaign officials were caught leaving the White House with $500,000 (pounds 312,000), just before last year's presidential election.
Shortly before that sacking came news that two FSB officers had been detained for suspected drug trafficking. Even last year's spying row with Britain was far from an outright triumph for the service; it had wanted nine British expulsions, but - under pressure from the Russian Foreign Ministry - settled for four.
- 1 Cyclist in Russia narrowly misses being hit by car and lorry
- 2 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 3 What are your fingerprint words?
- 5 Pink Floyd new album: Band unveil cover art for first record in 20 years
Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
Slough train station deaths: Woman and child killed after being 'pushed in front of train'
Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
Jennifer Lawrence: Leaked 4Chan sex video branded 'fake' by users
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
Labour Party conference: Ed Balls to set out plan to freeze child benefit to balance books
£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...
£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...
£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...