They do espionage. They do subversion. They do active measures. They do repression. They do a lot of business, most of it shady. And often, they're at each other's throats.
Russia's security services are Vladimir Putin's sword and shield.
They've been called the new nobility, the new Oprichniki, and the power behind the throne.
But what is the real state of Russia's siloviki?
On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we tackle this issue with co-host Mark Galeotti, author of a widely discussed new report for the European Council on Foreign Relations titled: Putin's Hydra: Inside Russia's Security Services.
Joining Mark and I to discuss the report is veteran Kremlin-watcher Edward Lucas, author of the books The New Cold War and Deception: The Untold Story Of East-West Espionage Today.
Also on the podcast, we look at a recent shoot-out at Moscow's largest cemetery that was reminiscent of the gangland wars of the 1990s -- and may be a harbinger.
Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to The Power Vertical Podcast on iTunes.