FSB as a threat to Russia's security

The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation is a structure that destroys the country, and does not work for its good, experts say

FSB as a threat to Russia's security

The Dossier Center, a project by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, which prepares a series of studies on the Kremlin’s activities, presented on Monday, October 5, at the Washington Council of the Atlantic Council, an English-language version of the report “Lubyanka Federation: How the FSB Determines Russia’s Politics and Economy”.
The purpose of the report was to study the work of “one of the most closed structures” of the Russian Federation – the Federal Security Service – in order “to determine the degree of its influence on the political and economic life of the country.” The investigation was carried out for a year and its Russian-language version was presented in June of this year..
Based on the results of the study, the authors of the report came to the conclusion that the influence of the FSB on the political and economic spheres went beyond the constitutional powers of the special service, put under its control almost all other state institutions, and the structure itself is actively used for personal and commercial interests. At the same time, FSB officers are involved in corrupt activities and are often themselves organizers and participants in operations with whom they are called upon to fight. “In fact, almost the entire market for illegal banking operations is under the direct control of the FSB and brings significant profits to certain groups of intelligence officers and representatives of their“ clans ”,” the authors of the report write..
The actions of the FSB often include the worst practices of the KGB times, including falsification of criminal cases, raiding, torture and murder of persons objectionable to the Kremlin both in Russia and abroad. “The FSB performs the functions of a repressive apparatus that works both against opposition-minded citizens and against businessmen, officials or security officials built into the vertical of power, who for one reason or another are undesirable to the Kremlin, as well as to certain high-ranking officials or” clans ” in the report.
At the same time, the structure, although divided into various competing groups, is subordinate to the President of the Russian Federation, the authors of the report conclude..
“Vladimir Putin is directly in charge of the FSB. He leads it not only through the head of the department, Alexander Bortnikov – and this is important – but also through representatives of various divisions of the FSB. Thus, there is a multilevel control by the FSB over the system, ”said Director of the Atlantic Council Eurasian Program and former US Ambassador to Ukraine and Uzbekistan John Herbst during the presentation of the conclusions of the report to the Western audience..

FSB as a threat to Russia's security

He also noted that the closest members of the Russian President Putin’s entourage also have influence on various units of the FSB. Such figures as the head of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Rosneft Igor Sechin, the general director of Rostec Sergei Chemezov, the chairman of the board of directors of Gazprom Viktor Zubkov and the member of the Security Council Sergei Ivanov, form groups of personal allies within the special services to promote their own economic and political goals.
Luke Harding, a journalist for the British newspaper The Guardian, who is also the author of several books on Russia and is engaged in, among other things, collecting information about the Russian special services, noted during the discussion that he agreed with the conclusions of the authors of the report: “The report notes growth over the two decades of Putin’s rule, from being a kind of KGB-style agency to something much more. And the report speaks of him as a super agency, as a shadow government, the main institution in Russia. And I think this is true. “.

FSB as a threat to Russia's security

He adds that in recent years, Western countries have mainly focused on the actions of the foreign intelligence service – the GRU, in particular due to its interference in the American elections or hacking operations, but the FSB is also actively involved in foreign policy operations. If earlier the service focused on the internal situation, now it is also involved in operations in Ukraine, the Baltic countries, Finland, Georgia and other countries..
Former FBI officer Charles McGonigal noted that since 2004, there has been a gradual erosion of the rule of law in the FSB, which has increasingly transformed into a structure involved in criminal activity. These activities include money laundering, illegal wiretapping, and acting as private contractors for those trying to eliminate either rival businessmen or rival criminal gangs, says the former FBI agent..
“The FSB has really turned into an organization that I see is fraudulent and acts on the instructions of those who can pay for the services they offer,” says Charles McGonigal, adding that this is a growing problem not only within the country itself, but and when interacting with the Russia of the West.
Louise Shelley, professor at George Mason University, who specializes in the study of organized crime, believes that the FSB’s connection with criminal structures could already be observed in the 1990s. At the same time, throughout this time, there has been a hidden withdrawal of funds abroad, which the KGB began during the collapse of the Soviet Union..

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“This is tens of billions a year, and we are talking about hundreds of billions over this period,” the professor says about a rough estimate of the funds withdrawn abroad – either for covert influence operations or money laundering and personal enrichment. These are the funds that remain uninvested in the development of the country, be it the social sphere, education, infrastructure or business development. This undermines Russia’s ability to diversify and develop its economy, says Louise Shelley.
The authors of the report cite data that only through Danske Bank and Swedbank, 230 and 130 billion dollars were laundered and withdrawn abroad, respectively..
“Over the past five years, we have seen an escalation of selective repression by the FSB against governors, ministers and businessmen,” said Irina Borogan, an expert on the Russian special services, during the discussion. This leads to fear when people do not know who may be the next target of persecution by the FSB. The expert notes that it is precisely “bringing everyone out of balance” is the method in which the Russian president exercises control over the system.
The FSB is an extensive structure – it has various divisions into groups, and offices located far from the center may be less controlled – however, the service as a whole is under the control of the Russian president, Irina Borogan emphasizes: “The FSB, like all security services in general , is under Putin’s control even more than it was five or 10 years ago “.

  • Valeria Jegisman

    Journalist «Voices of America». Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington DC and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Interior Ministry. Interests – international relations, politics, economics


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