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6 Mar, 2024 10:08

Russian spies are innovating – FT

Expelling hundreds of suspected agents from the country’s embassies has made counterintelligence harder, a source told the paper
Russian spies are innovating – FT

Russia has stepped up its intelligence work in the West and is innovating its spycraft, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing interviews with analysts and intelligence officials.

Last week’s leak of a recording in which German Air Force officers discussed potential ways of helping Ukraine use Taurus missiles to target Russia’s Crimean Bridge, while maintaining plausible deniability of involvement, was “Moscow’s most explosive propaganda coup so far this year,” the outlet said. But it was only one example of Russia’s reinvigorated competence in the world of spying, according to its sources.

”Russian activities… are as high or even higher than during the Cold War,” one of them said. Another described Russian intelligence as “a huge machine,” adding that it was “back doing what it always did.” Most of the interviews were conducted before the German leak.

In 2022, Western nations tried to undermine Moscow’s intelligence networks by expelling hundreds of diplomats on suspicions that they may be working covertly for intelligence services. In hindsight, this move may have made counterintelligence more difficult, one of the agents said.

”You would invite them round to the house, have drinks, introduce the family, make them realize you are a human being, cultivate trust. It was basic,” the source said, explaining how having the Russians around had its benefits.

Moscow has ramped up the use of ‘illegals’ – agents without diplomatic cover – as well as ‘proxy’ agents, such as foreign nationals drawn from politics, business, and organized crime, the article claimed. There are also concerns in the West that critics of the Russian government who have fled to other nations amid the Ukraine conflict could be pressured by Moscow into cooperation.

Some of the complaints were about neutral European nations, such as Austria and Switzerland, as well as Russia-friendly Serbia, allegedly serving as bases of operation for Russian officers. One source claimed that nearly a third of Russian operations on the continent are run from “the safe hubs” of Vienna and Geneva. Turkey and the UAE are likewise used as staging posts for Moscow’s operatives, the newspaper was told.

”The Russians are such klutzes,” an intelligence source said. “But,” the official conceded, “they can also do some very sophisticated operations that, in intelligence terms, are stupendously cool.”