The FSB is involved in counter-intelligence, internal and border security, counter-terrorism, and surveillance. Its headquarters are on Lubyanka Square, downtown Moscow, the same location as the former headquarters of the KGB.
The service was formerly known as the Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK). A bill calling for the reorganization, expansion and renaming of FSK passed both houses of the Russian parliament and was signed into law on April 3, 1995 by Boris Yeltsin. It was made subordinate to the Ministry of Justice by presidential decree on March 9, 2004.
The FSB is engaged mostly in domestic affairs, while espionage duties were taken over by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (former First Chief Directorate of the KGB). However, the FSB also includes the FAPSI agency, which conducts electronic surveillance abroad. In addition, the FSB operates freely within the territories of the former Soviet republics, and it can conduct anti-terrorist military operations anywhere in the World if ordered by the President, according to the recently adopted terrorism law. All law enforcement and intelligence agencies in Russia work under the guidance of FSB if needed. For example, the GRU, spetsnaz and Internal Troops detachments of Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs work together with the FSB in Chechnya.
The FSB is responsible for internal security of the Russian state, counterespionage, and the fight against organized crime, terrorism, and drug smuggling. However, critics claim that it is engaged in suppression of internal dissent, bringing the entire population of Russia under total control, and influencing important political events, just as the KGB did in the past. To achieve these goals, it is said the FSB implements mass surveillance and a variety of active measures, including disinformation, propaganda through the state-controlled mass media, provocations, and persecution of opposition politicians, investigative journalists, and dissidents.
The FSB is a very large organization that combines functions and powers similar to those exercised by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Federal Protective Service, the Secret Service, the National Security Agency (NSA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection, United States Coast Guard, and Drug Enforcement Administration. FSB also commands a contingent of Internal Troops, spetsnaz, and an extensive network of civilian informants. The number of FSB personnel and its budget remain state secrets, although the budget was reported to jump nearly 40% in 2006. The number of Chekists in Russia in 1992 was estimated as approximately 500,000.
Some observers note that FSB is more powerful than KGB was, because it does not operate under the control of the Communist Party as KGB did in the past. According to Ion Mihai Pacepa, "In the Soviet Union, the KGB was a state within a state. Now former KGB officers are running the state. They have custody of the country’s 6,000 nuclear weapons, entrusted to the KGB in the 1950s, and they now also manage the strategic oil industry renationalized by Putin. The KGB successor, rechristened FSB, still has the right to electronically monitor the population, control political groups, search homes and businesses, infiltrate the federal government, create its own front enterprises, investigate cases, and run its own prison system. The Soviet Union had one KGB officer for every 428 citizens. Putin’s Russia has one FSB-ist for every 297 citizens."
Peter Finn of the Washington Post argues that the FSB is now the leading political force in Russia, which simply replaced the Communist Party. Alexander Litvinenko and Yuri Felshtinsky claim in their book, Blowing up Russia: Terror from within, that the FSB became an international criminal organization that actually promotes and perpetrates the terrorism and organized crime in order to achieve its political and financial goals, instead of fighting the terrorism and crime.
During the late 1980s, as the Soviet government and economy were disintegrating, the KGB survived better than most state institutions, suffering far fewer cuts in its personnel and budget. Following the attempted coup of 1991 (in which some KGB units participated) against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the KGB was dismantled and formally ceased to exist from November 1991.
In late 1991 the domestic security functions of the KGB were reconstituted as the Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK), which was placed under the control of the president. The FSK had been known initially for some time as the Ministry of Security. In 1995, the FSK was renamed and reorganized into the FSB by the Federal Law of April 3, 1995, "On the Organs of the Federal Security Service in the Russian Federation", granting it additional powers, enabling it to enter private homes and to conduct intelligence activities in Russia as well as abroad in cooperation with the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).
The FSB reforms were rounded out by decree No. 633, signed by Boris Yeltsin on June 23, 1995. The decree made the tasks of the FSB more specific, giving the FSB substantial rights to conduct cryptographic work, and described the powers of the FSB director. The number of deputy directors was increased to 8: 2 first deputies, 5 deputies responsible for departments and directorates and 1 deputy director heading the Moscow City and Moscow regional directorate. Yeltsin appointed Colonel-General Mikhail Ivanovich Barsukov as the new director of the FSB.
In 1998 Yeltsin appointed as director of the FSB Vladimir Putin, a KGB veteran who would later succeed Yeltsin as federal president. Yeltsin also ordered the FSB to expand its operations against labor unions in Siberia and to crack down on right-wing dissidents. As president, Putin increased the FSB's powers to include countering foreign intelligence operations, fighting organized crime, and suppressing Chechen separatists.
According to a decree signed by Putin on March 11, 2003, by July 1 Border Guard Service of Russia had been transferred to FSB while FAPSI, agency of government telecommunications, had been abolished, granting FSB with a major part of its functions.
On August 12, 2003 Putin allowed the FSB to have three first deputy directors, including the Chief of the Border Guard Service (Vladimir Pronichev), and specified that a deputy director position must be assumed by the Chief of the Inspection Directorate. On July 11, 2004, the President reorganized FSB again. It was prescribed to have a director, two first deputy directors (Sergei Smirnov and Vladimir Pronichev, one of whom should be the Chief of the Border Guard Service (Pronichev).
On December 2, 2005, Putin authorized FSB to have one more deputy director. This position was assumed by Vladimir Bulavin on March 3, 2006.
In the beginning of 2006 the Italian news agency ANSA reported the publication on the FSB website of an offer, open to Russian citizens working as spies for a foreign country, to work as double agents.
In September 2006, the FSB was shaken by a major reshuffle, which, combined with some earlier reassignments (most remarkably, those of FSB Deputy Directors Yury Zaostrovtsev and Vladimir Anisimov in 2004 and 2005, respectively), were widely believed to be linked to the Three Whales Corruption Scandal that had slowly unfolded since 2000. Some analysts considered it to be an attempt to undermine FSB Director Nikolay Patrushev's influence, as it was Patrushev's team from the Karelian KGB Directorate of the late 1980s – early 1990s that had suffered most and he had been on vacations during the event.
An increasing number of scientists have been accused of espionage and illegal technology exports by FSB during the last decade: researcher Igor Sutyagin, physicist Valentin Danilov, physical chemist Oleg Korobeinichev, academician Oskar Kaibyshev, and physicist Yury Ryzhov. Some other widely covered cases of political prosecution include investigator Mikhail Trepashkin and journalist Vladimir Rakhmankov. All these people are either under arrest or serve long jail sentences.
Ecologist and journalist Alexander Nikitin, who worked with the Bellona Foundation, was accused of espionage. He published material exposing hazards posed by the Russian Navy's nuclear fleet. He was acquitted in 1999 after spending several years in prison (his case was sent for re-investigation 13 times while he remained in prison). Other cases of prosecution are the cases of investigative journalist and ecologist Grigory Pasko, Vladimir Petrenko who described danger posed by military chemical warfare stockpiles, and Nikolay Shchur, chairman of the Snezhinskiy Ecological Fund.
Other arrested people include Viktor Orekhov, a former KGB officer who assisted Soviet dissidents, Vladimir Kazantsev who disclosed illegal purchases of eavesdropping devices from foreign firms, and Vil Mirzayanov who had written that Russia was working on a nerve gas weapon.
It has been reported that the FSB uses drugs to erase the memories of people who had access to secret information.
During the Moscow theater hostage crisis and Beslan school hostage crisis, all hostage takers were killed on the spot by FSB spetsnaz forces. Only one of the suspects, Nur-Pashi Kulayev, survived and was convicted later by the court. It is reported that more than 100 leaders of terrorist groups have been killed during 119 operations on North Caucasus during 2006.
On July 28, 2006 the FSB presented a list of 17 terrorist organizations recognized by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, to Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper, which published the list that day. The list had been available previously, but only through individual request. Commenting on the list, Yuri Sapunov, head of anti-terrorism at the FSB, named three main criteria necessary for organizations to be listed.
Besides the services (departments) and directorates of the federal office, the territorial directorates of FSB in the federal subects are also subordinate to it.
Of these, St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast Directorate of FSB and its predecessors (historically covering both Leningrad/Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast) have played especially important roles in the history of this organization, as many of the officers of the Directorate, including Vladimir Putin and Nikolay Patrushev, later assumed important positions within the federal FSB office or other government bodies. After the last Chief of the Soviet time, Anatoly Kurkov, the St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast Directorate were led by Sergei Stepashin (November 29, 1991 - 1992), Viktor Cherkesov (1992 –1998), Alexander Grigoryev (October 1, 1998 – January 5, 2001), Sergei Smirnov (January 5, 2001 – June 2003), Alexander Bortnikov (June 2003 – March 2004) and Yury Ignashchenkov (since March 2004).
Human rights activists have claimed that the FSB has been slow to shed its KGB heritage, and there have been allegations that it has manufactured cases against suspected dissidents and used threats to recruit agents. At the end of the 1990s, critics charged that the FSB had attempted to frame Russian academics involved in joint research with Western arms-control experts.
Despite early promises to reform the Russian intelligence community, the FSB and the services that collect foreign intelligence and signals intelligence (the SVR and the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information) remained largely unreformed and subject to little legislative or judicial scrutiny. Although some limits were placed on the FSB's domestic surveillance activities — for example, spying on religious institutions and charitable organizations was reduced — all the services continued to be controlled by KGB veterans schooled under the old regime. Moreover, few former KGB officers were removed following the agency's dissolution, and little effort was made to examine the KGB's operations or its use of informants.
In August 7, separatist guerrilla leader Shamil Basayev began an incursion into Dagestan leading to the start of the Dagestan War which was regarded by Anna Politkovskaya as a provocation initiated from Moscow to start war in Chechnya, because Russian forces provided safe passage for Islamic fighters back to Chechnya. It was reported that Aleksander Voloshin of the Yeltsin administration paid money to Shamil Basayev to stage this military operation. (Basayev reportedly worked for Russian GRU at this time and earlier).
On September 4, a series of four Russian apartment bombings began. Three FSB agents were caught while planting a large bomb in the basement of an apartment complex in the town of Ryazan in September 22. That was last of the bombings. Russian Minister of Internal Affairs Rushailo congratulated police with preventing the terrorist act, but FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev declared that the incident was a training exercise just an hour later, when he had learned that the FSB agents were caught.
The next day, Boris Yeltsin received a demand from 24 Russian governors to transfer all state powers to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, according to Sergei Yushenkov. The Second Chechen War began on September 24. This war made Prime Minister Vladimir Putin very popular, although he was previously unknown to the public, and helped him to win a landslide victory in the presidential elections on March 26, 2000.
This was a successful coup d'état organized by the FSB to bring Vladimir Putin to power, according to former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, lawmaker Sergei Yushenkov, and journalist David Satter, a Johns Hopkins University and Hoover Institute scholar. All attempts to independently investigate the Russian apartment bombings were unsuccessful. Journalist Artyom Borovik died in a suspicious plane crash. Vice-chairman of the Sergei Kovalev commission created to investigate the bombings, Sergei Yushenkov, was assassinated. Another member of this commission Yuri Shchekochikhin died presumably from poisoning by thallium. Investigator Mikhail Trepashkin hired by relatives of victims was arrested and convicted by Russian authorities for allegedly disclosing state secrets.
This situation is very similar to that of the former Soviet Union where all key positions in the government were occupied by members of the Communist Party. The KGB or FSB members usually remain in the "acting reserve" even if they formally leave the organization ("acting reserve" members receive second FSB salary, follow FSB instructions, and remain "above the law" being protected by the organization, according to Kryshtanovskaya). As Vladimir Putin said, "There is no such thing as a former KGB man". GRU defector and writer Victor Suvorov explained that members of Russian security services can leave such organizations only in a coffin, because they know too much. Soon after becoming prime minister of Russia, Putin also claimed that "A group of FSB colleagues dispatched to work undercover in the government has successfully completed its first mission."
The idea of the KGB acting as a leading political force rather than a security organization has been discussed by historian Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov, journalist John Barron, writer and former GRU officer Victor Suvorov, retired KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin, and Evgenia Albats. According to Avtorkhanov, "It is not true that the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party is a superpower... An absolute power thinks, acts and dictates for all of us. The name of the power — NKVD — MVD — MGB. ...Chekism in ideology, Chekism in practice. Chekism from top to bottom."
According to Albats, most KGB leaders, including Lavrenty Beria, Yuri Andropov, and Vladimir Kryuchkov, have always struggled for the power with the Communist Party and manipulated the communist leaders. Moreover, FSB has formal membership, military discipline, an extensive network of civilian informants, hardcore ideology, and support of population (60% of Russians trust FSB), which makes it a perfect totalitarian political party. However the FSB party does not advertise its leading role because the secrecy is an important advantage.
With regard to death of Aleksander Litvinenko, the highest-ranking Soviet Bloc intelligence defector, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa stated that there is "a band of over 6,000 former officers of the KGB — one of the most criminal organizations in history — who grabbed the most important positions in the federal and local governments, and who are perpetuating Stalin’s, Khrushchev’s, and Brezhnev’s practice of secretly assassinating people who stand in their way."
It is well known that certain very senior clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate are members of the FSB. They use their ecclesiastical positions to further the interests of the Russian State in foreign countries.
Political dissidents from the former Soviet republics, such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, are often arrested by FSB and extradited to these countries for prosecution, despite protests from international human rights organizations. Special services of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan also kidnap people at the Russian territory, with the implicit approval of FSB.
According to Anna Politkovskaya, most of the "Islamic terrorism cases" were fabricated by the government, and the confessions have been obtained through the torture of innocent suspects. "The plight of those sentenced for Islamic terrorism today is the same as that of the political prisoners of the Gulag Archipelago... Russia continues to be infected by Stalinism", she said.
Many journalists and workers of international NGOs were reported to be kidnapped by FSB-affiliated forces in Chechnya who pretended to be Chechen terrorists: Andrei Babitsky from Radio Free Europe, Arjan Erkel and Kenneth Glack from Doctors Without Borders, and others.
Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission Richard Butler found than many Russian state-controlled companies were involved in the Oil-for-Food Programme-related fraud. As a part of this affair, former FSB Director Yevgeny Primakov had received large kickbacks from Saddam Hussein according to Butler. The KGB, FSB and Russian government had very close relationships with Saddam Hussein and Iraqi Intelligence Service Mukhabarat according to Yossef Bodansky, the Director of Research of the International Strategic Studies Association.
ALEXANDER LITVINENKO ; KGB Secret Agent Turned Political Dissident Who Lifted the Lid on the Russian Security Services
Nov 25, 2006; Alexander Litvinenko was a middle-ranking Russian security service agent who knew he was risking his life by stepping out of the...