- Putin put the GRU spy agency in charge of Ukraine intelligence, replacing the FSB, Russian investigative reporters say.
- The head of the FSB was reportedly jailed in March following Russia’s botched start to the Ukraine invasion.
- It follows multiple reports that said Putin purged multiple FSB agents over poor Ukraine intelligence.
President Vladimir Putin fired Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and put the military’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) in charge of providing intelligence on the Ukraine invasion, according to two leading Russian journalists.
The FSB is Russia’s main intelligence agency and the successor of the KGB, where Putin served as an officer. The GRU is the country’s military intelligence agency.
Supplying the Kremlin with intelligence on Ukraine has long been the duty of the fifth service of the FSB, Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov, the founders of independent investigative outlet Agentura.ru, wrote in a Monday article for the Center for European Policy Analysis.
However, Putin recently relieved the FSB of that responsibility following a string of failures in Ukraine and appointed the GRU instead, the authors wrote. Christo Grozev, the lead Russia journalist at Bellingcat, also said last month that Putin had purged a key FSB unit over Ukraine intelligence failures.
Providing intelligence on Ukraine is now the duty of Vladimir Alekseyev, a top GRU chief accused of masterminding the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the UK in 2018.
According to Borogan and Soldatov, a news program aired last week on the pro-Kremlin Tsargrad TV network also suggested that the GRU would now be helping Russia succeed in Ukraine.
It’s unclear when the switch was made, but Soldatov reported in March that Putin had arrested and jailed Gen. Sergei Beseda, the head of the FSB, in Russia’s notorious Lefortovo prison following the lackluster start to the Ukraine invasion.
However, in the article for CEPA, Soldatov and Borogan wrote that Beseda was recently seen walking into his office in the FSB headquarters in Moscow.
“There is some logic in that move. Putin is adamant that the war has been going ‘according to plan’ and is likely acting accordingly,” they wrote.
“Throwing your top Ukraine spymaster into prison said the precise opposite and made clear that there had indeed been a significant intelligence failure in Ukraine. So, Putin’s message is now to pretend that nothing ever happened to Beseda.”
The GRU has cut a low profile in connection with the Ukraine invasion to date. However, a number of GRU officers have been killed in Ukraine and Microsoft has accused the GRU of being behind a string of cyber attacks on the Ukrainian government led by the Strontium hacking group.
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