The Name Is New, But It Still Looks a Lot Like the KGB
MOSCOW — DESPITE a fancy new name and alleged reorganization, Russia's new secret police is looking a lot like its old predecessor, the former KGB.
Sergei Stepashin, first deputy director of the Federal Counter-Intelligence Service, used his first public appearance since the secret police was supposedly dissolved on Dec. 16 to accuse foreign countries of recruiting senior Russian officials and stealing nuclear secrets.
Mr. Stepashin told a Jan. 10 news conference that foreign intelligence activities in Russia had not diminished since the end of the cold war. He accused former Soviet republics of stepping up their intelligence activities.
``Cases of recruiting some senior Russian officials have increased, including some highly placed state employees. President Yeltsin is aware of this,'' Stepashin said.
Several Russian officials had lost their jobs for their involvement in such recruitment attempts, he said.
Stepashin also said that intelligence organizations in former Soviet republics had ``strengthened their activities in Russia'' despite agreements Russia has with the Baltics and Commonwealth of Independent States members forbidding such actions. About 20 people were arrested in 1993 for espionage, and several dozen more cases are still under investigation, he said.
``We are worried today by cases involving a number of diplomatic missions and other foreign intelligence services concerning the leaking of important scientific, technical, and nuclear secrets,'' Stepashin said.
He did not provide details about which countries were involved, but did refer to a previously reported attempt by North Korea to lure Russian rocket scientists to Pyongyang.
N a Dec. 16 press conference, President Boris Yeltsin made his decree abolishing the Security Ministry, the KGB's legal successor, sound as though it would be the end of repression in Russia. Mr. Yeltsin spoke disparagingly of the ministry, calling it the ``last stronghold of the former Soviet totalitarian system.''
But there is little indication that the new Federal Counter-Intelligence Service is very different than what it was before. To a large extent, the KGB has been reorganized rather than ``dissolved.'' The police counter-intelligence functions remain with the renamed agency, and it continues to function from the former KGB headquarters. Paramilitary units, such as the elite Alpha counter-terror squad, are being transferred to the president's personal guard.
Stepashin said the staff of the new service, which is completely under Yeltsin's control, will be cut by 46 percent to about 75,000 employees. But it is not clear how much the ``reduction'' is actually the result of shifts of certain units to other organizations.
The Counter-Intelligence Service's primary aims are combating terrorism, drug-trafficking, and military and economic counter-intelligence, Stepashin said. But he stressed there was still a need for internal surveillance in Russia.
``That type of work should continue,'' he said. ``The president ... needs to know what is going on in the country.''