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Kremlin official issues death threat in Russian spy scandal. Is the KGB coming back?

The Russian spy scandal has provoked an upheaval within the country's humiliated foreign intelligence agency. Some are pushing for a recreation of Soviet-era security machinery.

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The SVR has said the last "state enemy" killed by Soviet secret services abroad was the Ukrainian anti-Soviet insurgent Stepan Bandera, who was assassinated in Munich in 1959.

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A law passed by the State Duma in 2006 licenses the SVR to carry out extra-territorial assassinations, but only against "terrorists." In 2004, Qatar charged two Russian intelligence agents with the murder of former Chechen president Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev. There have also been suspicious deaths of Kremlin political enemies abroad, notably the apparent murder-by-radiation of former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London four years ago.

"They say they've stopped all killings of traitors, but that claim should be treated with caution," says Mr. Soldatov. "I don't think it's likely that Stepan Bandera was truly the last enemy to be assassinated."

How safe are Russian defectors?

A Russian online newspaper, Leningradskaya Pravda, on Friday published a list of five defectors from Russian secret services who have died under suspicious circumstances in recent years.

They include Sergei Tretyakov, a former SVR agent working inside the United Nations, who defected to the US 10 years ago and died last June after choking on a piece of meat. Yevgeny Toropov, an SVR officer who defected from the Russian Embassy in Canada in 2000, is said to have accidentally electrocuted himself in his bath in April of this year. Vasily Mitrokhin, a former KGB archivist who defected to Britain with 25,000 pages of secret documents in 1992, reportedly died of pneumonia in 2004, although the Leningradskaya Pravda report says he was "liquidated."

But Gennady Gudkov, deputy chair of the Duma's security committee, says there are plenty of former KGB "traitors" running around without being touched.

They include Oleg Gordievsky, a former KGB bureau chief in London who was an MI-6 double agent for more than a decade before defecting in 1985, and former KGB general Oleg Kalugin, former head of KGB operations in the US, who now lives in Washington. Mr. Kalugin has publicly denied ever betraying any Russian agents.

"One can well understand that some [Kremlin official] may have made an emotional remark, wishing he could grab the traitor by the scruff of his neck and make him pay for what he did," says Mr. Gudkov. "But these are not the methods of our intelligence agency. Otherwise, how could Gordievsky go around giving interviews and taking part in events, or how could Kalugin feel free to go anywhere in USA? They would not likely be walking around safe and sound today."

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