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11 Jan, 2024 15:21

Russia’s top spy warns about US-educated 'fifth column'

Washington is trying to seize the slightest opportunity to shake up the political situation ahead of elections, Sergey Naryshkin said
Russia’s top spy warns about US-educated 'fifth column'

Washington is planning to use Russian graduates from student-exchange programs in the US to meddle with the presidential election this March, the head of the country’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Sergey Naryshkin has said.

Some 80,000 Russian students have traveled to the US over two decades under programs such as Access, Advance, Summer Work and Travel, FLEX, Fulbright, Global UGRAD and other programs, Naryshkin told the media on Thursday.

“In advance of the presidential election in Russia, the Americans are seizing on even the slightest opportunity to shake up the internal political situation in our country,” he said, adding that this includes “intensifying work” with Russian graduates of these exchange programs.

According to the spy chief, the US authorities believe that with “the right preparation” these graduates are capable of becoming “the core of the fifth column” in Russia and replace members of the opposition, many of whom had fled abroad after the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine.

Washington plans to actively involve these graduates “in the political struggle against the Russian authorities,” he stressed. 

A special training program has already been developed for them, focusing on teaching its students “the methods of inciting inter-ethnic and social hatred, of interfering in elections and discrediting Russia’s leadership on social media,” Nasryshkin said. A lot of attention will be paid to establishing secure communications between the graduates and their American “curators,” he added. 

An inaugural seminar as part of the program is to take place in Latvia’s capital Riga mid-February, the SVR director said. American spies, who work undercover at US diplomatic missions in Moscow and Riga, are going to offer coaching at the event, he said. 

As for the students who will attend the seminar, it won’t be difficult for the Russian intelligence services to establish their identities, Nasryshkin warned. 

During his meetings with the leaders of the grouping in the Russian parliament last month, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said that any attempts to interfere in the country’s internal affairs are going to be “curbed strictly and in accordance with the law. ”The government is going to protect the freedom of the Russian people, their sovereignty and their right to choose their future” during the election, scheduled to take place between March 15 and 17, he reassured the assembled lawmakers.