MOSCOW, December 20. Employees and veterans of Russian security services – the Federal Security Service, the Foreign Intelligence Service, the Federal Guard Service and the Main department of special programmes set up under the president of Russia will celebrate their professional holiday – Security Service Workers’ Day – on Sunday. The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) will also see its 95th anniversary.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree establishing Security Service Workers’ Day on December 20, 1995. However, the history of Russian security bodies dates back to December 20, 1917 when the VChK or Cheka, the Russian Emergency Committee led by Felix Dzerzhinsky was created. In December 1920, Dzerzhinsky ordered to set up a foreign deparment at Cheka. That date is considered to be the birthday of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. Its main tasks were to obtain information about subversive activities of counter-revolutionary forces of the White Army abroad and their agents (amidst the ongoing Civil War) and secret documents, which were important for state security. A prototype of the Federal Guard Service – a special department in charge of protecting state leaders and events in which they took part – was founded in 1920 after an assassination on Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the 1917 October Socialist Revolution in Russia.
The President’s Assessment
In his speech at a gala meeting held at the State Kremlin Palace on the occasion of Security Service Workers’ Day, President Vladimir Putin accessed the security services’ work and assigned them with new tasks.
“The international situation is not easy. Tensions are growing in the Middle East and other parts of the globe. Terrorists have declared an open war on civilization and the entire world community. Their plans and actions are posing a direct threat to our country,” Putin said.
“This year, the FSB employees averted more than 30 terror-related crimes. I am asking you to continue staying highly concentrated and mobilized and improve all aspects of anti-terror struggle,” Putin said urging to pay special attention to neutralization of recruiters and terrorist emissaries.
He noted that the intelligence services of a number of foreign countries were stepping up their activities and operations in Russia. This year, Russian counter-intelligence agents have exposed more than 320 career officers and agents of foreign security services and their accomplices.
“We see that the intelligence services of a number of countries are stepping up their work in Russia, so to speak,” the president said adding he had no doubt that Russian security services were ready to respond adequately to that challenge.
“I also expect you to act effectively in such areas as the protection of the state border; fight against corruption and economic crimes,” Putin stressed.
The president made separate notice of the Foreign Intelligence Service whose task according to him was to promptly reveal Russia’s external security threats.
“Our foreign intelligence service, which is going to mark its 95th anniversary tomorrow, is facing complicated tasks. It is important to promptly reveal all external threats to Russian security; carry out exhaustive analyses and report about possible scenarios of development of regional conflicts on time,” Putin said.
Results of Counter-terrorism Efforts
Alexander Bortnikov, the FSB chief who heads the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, told the committee’s last meeting this year that the security service had exposed more than 2,900 Russians suspected of links to terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq, including those who took part in military hostilities.
“198 of them have died in action abroad while 214 have returned to Russia. Russian law enforcers have taken them under control – 80 people have been convicted and 41 have been arrested,” Bortnikov said.
“Criminal proceedings have been initiated against more than 1,000 Russian nationals suspected of participation in military hostilities outside this country,” he added.
This year, FSB managed to stop more than 100 Russians, predominantly young people, from going to Syria to fight on the side of rebels. Most of them came from the republics of North Caucasus; the Volga and Southern Federal Districts.
At the same time, Bortnikov noted that the number of radically minded Russians, primarily young people, who were leaving for trouble spots kept rising and called for taking exhaustive measures to improve the situation.
“It is necessary to step up anti-terrorist and anti-extremist propaganda and attract broad public, the media, youth and student organizations; teachers and professors at institutions of high learning to this work; pre-emptive measures should be taken in schools in most problematic regions,” Bortnikov stressed.
He called for intensifying the previously established contacts with partners in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and foreign countries, especially in sharing information on persons who are on police wanted lists and their criminal activities; plans, contacts and itineraries of movement; and use migration and tourism as additional channels of search.
Twenty-six chieftains of rebel units who swore allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group, which is banned in Russia, have been neutralized, Bortnikov told the National Anti-Terrorism Committee meeting.
“A total of 156 militants, including 36 chieftains, have been liquidated. Some of them headed the Imarat Kavkaz terrorist group,” Bortnikov said. “The liquidation of major functionaries has paralyzed the activities of terrorist underground,” the FSB chief said adding that more than 770 terrorists and their accomplices had been detained.
“That helped to decrease the number of terror-related crimes by 2.5 times on the national scale, including the North Caucasus,” the FSB director said.
More that 1,600 individuals and legal entities suspected of financing the IS had been exposed in Russia.
Bortnikov added that more than 3,000 Internet pages, which used to publish terrorists and extremist materials, had been blocked in Russia in the first six months of 2015.