November 24, 2005

Russia beset by foreign spies: official

By Oliver Bullough

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Foreign espionage is on the increase in
Russia and foreigners are not taking Moscow's "war on
terrorism" seriously, the head of the FSB state security
service was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Nikolai Patrushev's comments suggesting encirclement by
Russia's enemies coincided with broader moves against foreign
organizations in Russia.

Parliament gave outline approval on Wednesday to a bill
that will limit the right of non-governmental groups (NGOs) to
employ non-Russians or receive foreign funding.

"Espionage activity is not only not weakening, but is
increasing," Patrushev said in an interview published in the
official daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

The remarks by Patrushev bore overtones of the Soviet era,
underscoring the strong grip that the security and military
establishment now exerts under President Vladimir Putin.

Patrushev, a close ally of Putin's, said some 20 foreign
agents had been arrested this year, three of them caught
red-handed. Another 65 people linked to foreign spies had been
stopped from operating he said, without elaborating.

"Despite the fact that security services are concentrating
significant efforts on the fight against terrorism, opposing
foreign espionage remains one of our main priorities."

The FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, has
previously expressed concern that foreign states are working to
undermine Russian influence in the former Soviet Union by
organizing democratic revolutions in Ukraine and elsewhere.

On Thursday, Patrushev accused foreign states -- by
implication Britain and the United States -- of failing to give
Russia the backing it needs in fighting terrorism.

"We are not feeling the international support for our
efforts in the war against terrorism that we have been counting
on," he said.

"The practice of double standards in assessing events
continues. How else can you explain that fact that the leaders
and ideologists of terrorists trying to stimulate anti-Russian
sentiments have found asylum in certain countries?"

He singled out two men living in London exile, Chechen
rebel Akhmed Zakayev and Boris Berezovsky, a once-influential
businessman who has fiercely attacked Putin for the Chechen war
since fleeing Russia.

Chechen leader Ilyas Akhmadov, who has received asylum in
the United States, was also seen as a particular threat.

Moscow considers its war to crush separatism in Chechnya to
be part of the war on terrorism, and Patrushev said Russia was
still under attack from international terrorists who were
sending people "educated abroad" and money to infiltrate local
Muslim groups.

"The FSB considers it necessary to make credit
organizations and their managers more answerable for the
financing of terrorist activities and the organized crime which
is closely linked to it," he said, giving no further details.

Under the bill passed in the first reading by the State
Duma (lower house) of parliament on Wednesday, charities would
be restricted from receiving foreign cash in what has been
called a general move to isolate Russians from the influence of
the West.

Analysts say the concern was sparked by officials' fears
that Ukraine's pro-Western "Orange Revolution" could repeat
itself in Moscow.