Russian journalists Soldatov and Borogan track the troubling rise of the new Russian secret service—the Federal Security Service (FSB).
With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the successor to the much loathed and feared KGB became the FSB, decentralized and defanged of much of its espionage activity under Boris Yeltsin, who initiated an unprecedented era of openness. However, the FSB was beset by internal splintering, ethnic independence conflicts, organized crime and corruption—until Yeltsin appointed KGB veteran Vladimir Putin as the new director in 1998. Under Putin the service consolidated much of its lost power, such as overseas electronic intelligence and military counterintelligence, and absorbed many of the former retired KGB chiefs as “agents on active reserve” or captains of business, media and the public sector—e.g., former FSB spokesman Gen. Alexander Zdanovich, appointed deputy director of the state-owned TV and radio company VGTRK. After the economic crisis and renewed war with Chechnya, the KSB reasserted its control under Putin, and a new era of targeting foreign organizations ensued. The “hunt for foreign spies” was deemed top priority, experienced firsthand by the authors, who were both harassed as journalists at Novaya Gazeta. Soldatov and Borogan pursue the KSB’s tactics in monitoring “extremists,” i.e., dissident protestors, trade unions and youth groups. They look into further pernicious developments, including how the new elite KSB officers have cultivated a taste for luxury every bit as decadent as the former KGB heads; how the KSB has infiltrated sports; the haunting ramifications of Putin’s rehabilitation of ruthless long-running KGB chief Yuri Andropov; and the shakeup following the disastrous responses to the Chechan hostage-taking attacks of Nord-Ost (2002) and Beslan (2004). In short, clear chapters, the authors delineate with substantial evidence FSB activities at home (Lefortovo Prison) and abroad (assassinations and hacking).
A relentless investigation that demonstrates how, with Putin’s rise, the KSB has taken its place “at the head table of power and prestige in Russia.”