Yevgeny Prigozhin, or “Putin’s chef,” as he’s called in the press, is notorious for two things: dispatching Russian mercenaries into war zones and running a troll farm accused of interfering in democratic elections. This report by Michael Weiss and Pierre Vaux features new insights, including leaked materials from within Prigozhin’s own organization, into how his operation in Africa has evolved into the realm of political consultancy and “election monitoring” using a network of European far-right extremists.
WEDNESDAY APRIL 29, 2020
11:00 – 12:00 EST / 17:00 – 18:00 CET
LIVE WEBCAST – AMERICA: PUTIN’S OLIGARCHS’ PLAYGROUND
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America has become a safe harbor for incredibly wealthy men who made billions from their post-Soviet homelands. For some, the U.S. offered a fresh start to those seeking to leave behind bad reputations, political risks or legal problems in their home countries. For others, it was a society that allowed them to safely park their assets all while continuing to indulge the leaders they sought to escape.
Enter the twenty-first century and the posse of Putin’s oligarchs: Deripaska, Malofeev, Blavatnik, Vekselberg, Yakunin, and Prigozhin with their sacks of money, their blandishments, and, when necessary, their legal threats.
These are men used to making their own rules – including rule No. 1: Don’t call them oligarchs. They come from their own closed societies to bask in the freedom offered in the U.S. But, in their own ways, they insist on tweaks to our society to suit their needs and habits. If their dark pasts or motives are challenged by journalists, threats to investigators and reporters often follow. To launder their reputations, they have been buying up experts and think-tanks, and even bribing politicians. This is a story of powerful men using seemingly unlimited resources to purchase their own version of the American dream – with a distinctly Soviet-style twist.
Please join Free Russia Foundation at 11:00 EST / 17:00 CET on April 29, 2020 for the report launch “Kill the Messenger: How Russian and Post-Soviet Oligarchs Undermine the First Amendment” and a discussion of how Putin’s oligarchs are working to reshape American society by corrupting its values and institutions, and what can be done to curtail their brutish ways
The report’s author
Director for Special Investigations
Free Russia Foundation
Q&A with the audience
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By Andrei Soldatov
In the third year of Perestroika, in 1988, the intelligence branch of the KGB was deep in a crisis – the headquarters in Yasenevo woods a few miles southwest of Moscow found the officers at KGB rezidenturas in Western countries increasingly reluctant to approach foreigners. They effectively turned off the aggressive recruiting mode the Soviet intelligence was once so famous.
In the United States, Soviet intelligence scored some spectacular successes in penetration, namely Aldrich Ames at CIA and Robert Hannssen at FBI, but the recruited Americans were the walk-ins – i.e. they themselves initiated the contact with Soviet spies, they were not approached by the Russians.
The Soviet Union was losing the Cold War and that certainly contributed to the confusion in KGB intelligence stations all over the world, but most importantly, the officers themselves didn’t want to risk their postings in the West. Being kicked out of a Western country if caught red-handed was not a particularly attractive idea at time when all kinds of shortages back home were already palpable.
Finally, the big shots at Yasenevo came up with a solution. It was a bold and witty idea, and the translated Analytical overview was part of it. Yasenevo suggested to exploit the natural advantages the KGB still enjoyed back home.
In addition to its espionage abroad, the KGB was always busy collecting “intelligence from the territory,” a euphemism for recruiting foreign nationals in the Soviet Union, with an eye to subsequently running them as agents in their home countries. This system worked because the Soviet Union, as a police state, had an opportunity to watch literally every foreign national in the country. Each regional KGB department had what was called a First Section in charge of recruiting foreigners.
This activity was coordinated by the Directorate RT (Razvedka s Territorii: intelligence from territory) of the First Chief Directorate in Yasenevo.
The problem was that no so many foreigners wanted to come the Soviet Union. Now that was changing, thanks to Gorbachev, who was busy opening up the country.
But the Soviet Union was still a totalitarian state, meaning that there was no media, a trade union, or a nascent private enterprise (not to mention a government agency) in position to say no to the KGB if approached and asked to plant a spy in the organization under disguise.
These spies planted by the KGB were known as DR officers, Destvuyushego Rezerva: of the active reserve. The term had a long history; it was used since the 1920s.
The KGB’s “Tradecraft in Intelligence Work from Cover Organizations on Soviet Territory,” an analytical overview presented here for the first time in both its original Russian and in English translation, suggested boosting the activities of the Directorate RT as a way to compensate the passivity of hibernated intelligence stations abroad.
The beauty of the report was that it suggested combining two things, already at KGB disposal – the capabilities of planting KGB spies in almost any Soviet organization; and the activities of the Directorate RT in approaching foreigners now coming in big numbers to the Soviet Union.
The Directorate RT was thus encouraged to plant more spies in Soviet organizations with an eye to recruiting foreigners in the Soviet Union.
The report even suggested to send officers of the Directorate RT abroad to run its assets, and not to handle them to the intelligence stations in respective countries, probably acknowledging the reluctance of the intelligence stations to taking risks.
The Soviet regime was facing its collapse, but the KGB intelligence branch once again proved its resourcefulness and ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
Andrei Soldatov, The coathor of “The Compatriots: The Brutal and Chaotic History of Russia’s Exiles, Émigrés, and Agents Abroad”
Watch the full version of the “Misrule of Law: How the Kremlin Uses Western Institutions to Undermine the West” report presentation in Kyiv, Ukraine. Speaker: Michael Weiss, the Director of Special Investigations at Free Russia Foundation and co-author of the report.
The report is available by link: https://bit.ly/34uYJ9W
Watch the full version of the "Misrule of Law: How the Kremlin Uses Western Institutions to Undermine the West" report presentation in Kyiv, Ukraine. Speaker: Michael Weiss, the Director of Special Investigations at Free Russia Foundation and co-author of the report.The report is available by link: https://bit.ly/34uYJ9WСмотрите полное видео презентации доклада «ВЕРХОВЕНСТВО ПРАВА? Как Кремль использует западные институты для влияния на Запад» – широкомасштабного обзора организованных усилий Кремля и его инсайдеров с целью использования правовых систем и институтов в западных обществах против этих обществ и в своих интересах. Спикер – директор специальных расследований Фонда Свободная Россия, со-автор доклада.Доклад доступен только на английском языке: https://bit.ly/34uYJ9W
Posted by Дом Свободной России on Sunday, November 17, 2019
The bottom line for spy recruitment comes down to this: look for the losers, especially the ones who want to think they are winners because they hang on to important positions.