Russian dirty tricks (“The Washington Post”, USA)

Russian dirty tricks (“The Washington Post”, USA)

Former Senator Christopher S. Bond (right), who served as vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2007 - 2010

Over the past four years, Russia's security services have stepped up a campaign of intimidation and filthy provocations against US officials and diplomats in Russia and countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union.

American diplomats and officials found their homes hacked, broken and trivially filthy; faced anonymous or veiled threats; there were instances of making compromising photos or videos that later leaked to the local press and were used to inflate sex scandals.

“The thing is, they want to show — we can get to you, even where you sleep,” one of the American intelligence officers told The Washington Times. "This is the kind of psychological attack."

Despite the official policy of warm US-Russian relations, proclaimed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev, the campaign of intimidation of special services, or what the CIA calls "direct actions", continued throughout what the two sides called "resetting" relations.

Some US officials say the situation has become worse over the past year. The objects of "direct action" are now becoming human rights defenders, employees of non-governmental organizations and diplomatic missions.

The most audacious example of this kind of intimidation was the explosion-attack on the US embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, 22 last September. The National Intelligence Council confirmed to Congress last week that the blast had been ordered by Major Yevgeny Borisov from Russian military intelligence, four American officials who read the secret report said.

Fake rape charges

One example of such intimidation is action against a senior American official who worked for the Moscow office of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a congressionally-funded non-governmental organization that promotes democracy throughout the world. At the request of the NDI, the Times did not disclose the name of the official.

According to a telegram from US Ambassador John Beyrle (January 30 2009) published by WikiLeaks, USAID employees received an e-mail with a falsified photo of an NDI official lying with a minor girl.

In the letter, a certain person, allegedly a citizen of Russia, accuses an official of raping his 9-year-old daughter.

In a telegram, Mr. Beyrle writes that the embassy believes that behind this slanderous stories there is the Federal Security Service of Russia, the story also appeared in Russian newspapers. FSB is the successor of the Soviet KGB.

Katie Gest, NDI's director of public affairs, said: "The accusations told by WikiLeaks are false and were appealed at the same time. We consider the matter closed and the NDI, which is officially registered in Russia, continues its programs."

Former Senator Christopher S. Bond, who served as vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee between 2007 and 2010, said he had discussed the issue of intimidation of Russian American diplomats with the administration of President Obama.

"We are concerned about the acts of intimidation [by the Russians], as well as their actions under previous agreements and other activities. This is a real problem and I raised it. This is not the intelligence committee does not understand the problem. This is the Obama administration."

Yevgeny Khorishko, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Washington, said that the accusations of Russian diplomats stepped up the intimidation by US officials were false.

“These are absolutely false insinuations that do not deserve any comments. This kind of“ information ”is distributed by those who are not satisfied with the current state of Russian-American relations,” he said.

Recent escalation

According to two American intelligence officers, since 2007, there have been complaints from Belarus, Russia, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan that when junior diplomatic service officers come home, they discover that their apartments are hacked, things are scattered, they put out cigarette butts on the kitchen table, but at the same time nothing is stolen.

According to the same staff, quite recently, members of official delegations of the Congress complained that their rooms in the hotel were opened, and things were rearranged.

David Merkel, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in 2008 and 2009, said he had seen an escalation in these direct actions since the last two years by the George W. Bush administration.

“Such actions are aimed at limiting the diplomat’s ability to meet with local people, aggressively demonstrating that they are being followed. If you are a political affairs officer and you realize that you are being followed, you are less likely to meet people, even if it’s normal political official ", said Mr. Merkel, who from 2005 to 2007 held the post of director for European and Eurasian affairs at the National Security Council.

Other US officials said the intimidation company had tightened even more in the 2010 year, after the Obama administration из exile ’of 10’s Russian“ deep cover ”agents.

Mr. Merkel said that these acts of intimidation were registered in all regions that Russia calls its “near abroad”, or independent states that were formerly part of the Soviet Union.

“They focus mainly on people whose concern is domestic politics and human rights,” he said. “You have to estimate how much courage is required for a foreign citizen, Russian or Belarusian, to meet with our diplomats, because they know that they are being watched.”

Another diplomat who served as a compromise target was Kyle Hatcher, who served at the US Embassy in Moscow as a political officer responsible for tracing religious freedom in Russia.

In August 2009, two Russian newspapers published articles based on Hatcher’s falsified videotape in a hotel room, the articles said that he used the services of a prostitute.

Two US officials familiar with the incident (they asked not to give their names) said the US intelligence community saw this as the work of the FSB.

"They intercepted several of his phone calls and connected them so that they look unusual. Then they took footage from him, taken in his hotel room or somewhere else. And they made a video of all this video, as if he had sex with prostitutes at the hotel ".

Long story

Moscow security services have long been playing their dirty games against American diplomats. In the secret (“Spy vs. Spy”) world of the Cold War, operations called the “honey trap” were commonplace when a young, attractive woman with a half-clothed face harassed a US foreign service officer in order to take a picture that could be blackmailed later.

Specially trained KGB agents could also occasionally enter the hotel’s room or residence of high-ranking guests. In some cases, such incidents ended tragically for pets of American diplomats.

This kind of practice largely ceased after the Cold War, but a surge of similar incidents at the end of the 1990s prompted the Clinton administration to form a special bilateral commission to consider them. The representative of Moscow at that time was Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer who later became the president of Russia.

The surge in these incidents, called "discreet acts of intimidation" by one of the American intelligence officers, has been carefully discussed by members of Congress and the Obama administration since 2009.

But the public question was only in the last month, after the Times published a series of articles about attempts at bombings in Georgia.

After the Times published an interview with officials of the Georgian Interior Ministry, stating evidence that Major Borisov was behind the blast, five senators led by Republicans John Kyle (Arizona) and Mark Kirk (Illinois) asked the office of the director of national intelligence brief on this incident.

In response to this request, the Obama administration sent senators a report from the National Intelligence Council, an analytical unit of the office of the director of national intelligence.

As stated by four officials, this report states that two bombs were placed near a parking lot that borders the complex of buildings of the US Embassy. One bomb exploded in the parking lot, the other, an unexploded bomb, was thrown over the wall surrounding the parking lot.

According to officials, the CIA concluded that Mr. Borisov was acting on orders from the Russian military intelligence. The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research believes that Mr. Borisov acted as an agent of the enemy agent.

Jamie Fly, executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative, who also served on the National Security Council in 2008 and 2009, said that the cases of intimidation and discrediting of US officials were evidence that the reset policy had failed.

"This Russian activity directed against American officials, combined with Russian policies pursued by Moscow against US allies, show that the concept of a reset in relations with Russia is simply ridiculous," said Mr. Fly.

Domestic Policy of Russia

Last week, in an interview with the official Russian agency ITAR-TASS, Mr. Obama was much more optimistic: "Well, first of all, I think it is important for us to look back on the past two years and see the tremendous progress that we I did. I started talking about the “reset” when I was still a candidate for the presidency, and as soon as I was elected, I immediately turned to President Medvedev. And we, I think, are extremely successful partners in the direction of “reset” he said.

An administration official who defended Obama’s reboot policy emphasized that Russia's political leadership was sincere in its desire to improve relations with the United States.

"There are, of course, people in the Russian government - nationalists, hawks, KGBists, etc. - who do not like the reboot and they are doing everything possible to disrupt it," said the official.

He compared the situation in Russia with internal political differences in the United States.

“We here, in the US government, also have critics / skeptics who are also still busy with the Cold War. And in these matters, they have a good excuse, because some of the Russian establishment is doing the same thing,” the official said.

He pointed to Russia's readiness to help supply US troops in Afghanistan and its support for UN sanctions against Iran, North Korea and Libya, as evidence of the success of the reset policy.

“The Kremlin seems willing to cooperate, even if, perhaps, some regime members do not like this new trend, and they are doing everything possible to thwart it,” he said.

Nevertheless, on Tuesday, Mr. Putin, the current Prime Minister of Russia (and many consider him the real leader of the country), made some belligerent comments about the United States, calling them a “parasite” of the world economy.

At the conference of the Nashi and Young Guard youth associations, Mr. Putin also suggested that his country could invite the breakaway region of Georgia and the South Ossetia separatist region to the Russian Federation, finally annexing the lands won three years ago. Mr. Putin, the former director of the FSB, is widely known as a real man, a responsible representative of former KGB officers and current FSB officers in the Russian establishment.

In the 2006 year, the sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya conducted a study in which it became clear that 78% of the current Russian elite is made up of people associated with the KGB or the FSB.

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