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Russia and its intelligence activities. Financial Times: Renewed spy war with the West

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Russia has aggressively “resumed its espionage war with the West,” says the Financial Times. She writes that after the failures in early 2022 and the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats from Western countries, her services have regained self-confidence and modified their intelligence methods. “The cat and mouse game is back,” one Western intelligence officer tells the daily.

In the material published on Wednesday, the daily quotes representatives of the intelligence services and analysts. “The cat and mouse game is back,” one Western intelligence officer told the daily. Another officer assessed that the activities of Russian intelligence are perhaps even more intense than during the Cold War. “Russian intelligence is a huge machine that is again doing what it has always done,” says another FT source. In the opinion of the daily Russia “renewed the spy war against the West.”

The daily writes that after the first failures related to the invasion of… Ukraine, Russian services – the GRU military intelligence, the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) – “regrouped and modified their espionage methods to increase the chances of Russia’s conventional military operations.” As the daily adds, the goals are still the same: stealing Western secrets, deepening internal divisions FOR THIS and weakening support for Ukraine.

An important change is that Russia has begun to use “intermediaries” much more intensively in intelligence activities and involves foreigners active in politics, business and crime in its operations. These people may not know that they work for the Russians, they may simply be criminals or other paid people, an intelligence official told the FT. Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine it was different – back then, Russian operations that Western intelligence agencies dealt with were conducted mainly by Russians.

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Moreover, Russia puts pressure on its citizens who went abroad after the aggression against Ukraine and tries to recruit them, for example by putting pressure on their relatives who stayed in the country.

“Difficult to control” intermediaries

Interview sources told the FT that operations conducted remotely or through newly recruited intermediaries have pros and cons for Moscow. Intermediaries “may be effective in such activities as stealing trade secrets, organizing a system to bypass sanctions imposed on exports, or penetrating computer networks”; However, they can also be “difficult to control,” the daily explains. To remedy this, the GRU began to recruit agents without a history in the army who could get into the target countries undetected and establish personal contacts there.

The “old” model of activity – agents operating under the guise of the diplomatic service – exists in traditionally neutral countries such as Switzerland and Austria. Sources in the security structures of both countries told “FT” that there are still about 150 such agents. Another representative of the services estimates that almost 1/3 of Russian operations in Europe are directed from “secure centers” in Geneva and Vienna. Countries outside are also important outposts Schengen zone: : Türkiye and United Arab Emirates. Down Serbia in turn, several previously expelled Russian agents moved.

“Illegal” agents

Russia can now make greater use of “illegal” agents – such as a Russian spy with a Brazilian passport who worked at one of the universities in Norway. He was arrested in 2021, identified as Mikhail Mikushin and charged with espionage.

It is practically impossible to assess how effective the new methods of the Russian services will be, says “FT”. At the same time, the daily admits, recalling the recent Russian interception of German military commanders’ conversations, that “almost every week” new secret operations come to light. This shows “how Russian intelligence agencies have infiltrated Europe since Moscow launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” the FT adds.


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