Moscow has deployed a team of secret assassins from the Federal Security Service (FSB) to eliminate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and a number of key figures in the government and Ukrainian armed forces.
A source told this correspondent that the members of Putin’s secret assassins from FSB are instructed to apply weapons, explosives and dangerous poison Novichok in eliminating the Ukrainian civil-military leaders including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Meanwhile, Kremlin is offering millions of dollars to members of the Ukrainian armed forces in exchange for the murder of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
FSB. The letters are not just familiar to fans of spy thrillers. They have come to symbolize Vladimir Putin’s grip on power in Russia.
Russia’s secretive security agency has gained notoriety around the world with its intelligence and counter-terror operations.
But with roots in the Soviet Union’s KGB secret police, allegations of state-sanctioned killings and close ties to the president, it faces questions about its true nature and ambitions.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) was set up in 1995, and is tasked with tackling perceived threats to the Russian state. Putin ran the agency before he came to power.
It co-operates with foreign police forces in fighting jihadists and some organized crime gangs
The FSB poured resources into fighting separatist rebels from Chechnya in two wars, in the 1990s and early 2000s.
In 2015 the FSB was involved in a Cold War-style spy swap with Estonia. A Nato member, Estonia accused Russia of having kidnapped Eston Kohver, the security official exchanged for a jailed Russian spy.
Some other prominent opponents of Vladimir Putin, including journalists, have died mysteriously, fueling speculation about FSB “hits”. Often the victims had other enemies, however, who could have targeted them.
The FSB can officially warn individuals against “creating the conditions” for crimes. Critics see that as a KGB-style power of intimidation, enabling the state to stifle dissent.
In their book on the FSB, called The New Nobility, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan say Putin expanded the FSB’s powers by enabling it to send agents abroad for special operations, including intelligence gathering.
But Russia’s equivalent of the British MI6 – the main overseas spy service – is the External Intelligence Service (SVR).
Agents of the military spy service GRU also gather intelligence abroad.
The FSB is integral to Russia’s new doctrine of information warfare, which includes shaping public opinion abroad via social media.
The FSB has powerful legal tools to monitor internet traffic. A technology called Sorm lets it snoop on emails and phone calls; data has to be kept for 12 hours, by law, for possible inspection; virtual private networks (VPNs) and other anonymization tools are restricted.
The headquarters in central Moscow is the Lubyanka – a symbol of FSB power. The KGB interrogated political prisoners there in Soviet times.
The FSB’s head Alexander Bortnikov reports directly to President Putin.
In 2000, Bortnikov’s predecessor Nikolai Patrushev called his FSB operatives “modern nobles”. On becoming president, Putin gave top posts to former spies from St Petersburg.
Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a leading Russian sociologist, says that “we are witnessing a restoration of the power of the KGB” under Vladimir Putin.
During his first term as president, about one-third of government officials were “siloviki” – or “security guys”, she said.
Most of the elite – including Bortnikov – are now subject to EU and/or US sanctions because of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Most have acquired huge fortunes and control key Russian resources.