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Resurrecting The Old Lubyanka

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
There is more speculation in the Russian media that the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) is about to be swallowed by the Federal Security Service (FSB), a move that would essentially recreate a monolith Russian spy agency reminiscent of the Soviet KGB.

Citing unidentified intelligence sources, the website writes that the FSB will swallow the SVR by the end of the year (another big h/t to the indispensible Paul Goble over at Window on Eurasia for flagging this). cites an unidentified intelligence official explaining the rationale behind the merger:
This will lead to better coordination in the fight against terrorist acts. At this time, the interaction between the SVR and the FSB is quite weak. Meanwhile, the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other regions where terrorists are in a strong position requires that this coordination be improved, including in the exchange of information.

Earlier this week, I blogged here about reports that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was planning to use the embarrassment of the recent spy scandal with the United States to clean house in the SVR, with the ultimate aim merging it into the FSB.

If these reports are true and if Putin is successful in putting the SVR under Lubyanka's control, it would reverse one of the landmark reforms former President Boris Yeltsin carried out in the heady days after the fall of the Soviet Union -- the breakup of the KGB.

Meanwhile, Putin's remarks that the U.S. spy ring was unmasked by a "traitor" have sparked fresh speculation about the person's identity. "Traitors always end badly," Putin said. "The other day, one such person ended his existence abroad....The special services live under their own laws, and everyone knows what these laws are."

A lot of the speculation has focused on Sergei Tretyakov, a former intelligence officer who conducted espionage under diplomatic cover as a press attache at Russia's UN mission in New York. Tretyakov defected to the United States in 2000 and died of a heart attack in June at the age of 53. His wife requested that an autopsy be conducted under the supervision of the FBI.

Other observers, including political analyst Yulia Latynina, believe the most likely suspect is Christopher Metsos, the 11th spy in the U.S. group who vanished after jumping bail in Cyprus:

In contrast to the 10 clowns, Metsos was a top-level spy.

According to the official version, he apparently 'fled' the United States to Cyprus, where he was arrested, released on parole and then disappeared. On the surface, this appears to be a blatant act of negligence by the FBI when it let Metsos leave the United States, particularly since he was supposedly under much heavier surveillance than the other 10 agents.

But maybe Metsos’ flight was just a smokescreen to cover up his work as a double agent. Maybe Metsos was a mole who was feeding the Foreign Intelligence Service false information while working for the Americans during the 2000s.

Another circumstance supporting this version is that no one is blaming the FBI for letting the ringleader go free.

Another strange thing: Why has Russia not said a word about its brilliant victory — that it was able to evacuate its top spy from Cyprus in a secret operation? To be sure, the security service is probably prohibited from giving details, but if Russia did, in fact, save Metsos, we would have surely heard bits and pieces of this amazing operation through leaks or anonymous sources

And if all this spy stuff wasn't enough, another Russian espionage scandal was revealed this week, this time in the Czech Republic.

The Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes reported on Tuesday that three Czech generals -- the head of President Vaclav Klaus's Military Office, the Czechs' NATO representative in Europe, and a deputy general for the Chief of Staff -- were forced to leave the military in 2009 after a Russian spy had contact with their offices.

The alleged Russian agent, identified as "Robert R," is a Czech citizen with a Russian parent who worked as a prison psychologist. He allegedly made friends with a female army major, who at different points in time had worked as chief of staff for the three generals.

Czech intelligence had been investigating him for five years, but he managed to avoid arrest and slip out of the country.

-- Brian Whitmore

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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