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Putin purges more than 100 FSB agents in apparent retaliation amid Ukraine invasion quagmire


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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appears not to be going according to plan, and President Vladimir Putin seems intent on blaming his old colleagues at the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) – the intelligence agency successor to the KGB – for the quagmire. 

Putin reportedly purged more than 100 agents from the FSB, and his government sent the head of the department responsible for Ukraine to prison.

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About 150 FSB officers have been dismissed, The Times of London reported Monday. The ousted agents belonged to the Fifth Service, a division that Putin – then director of the FSB – set up in 1998 in order to carry out operations in the countries of the former Soviet Union, aiming to keep those countries in Russia’s orbit. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to female flight attendants in comments broadcast on state television on Saturday, March 5, 2022. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to female flight attendants in comments broadcast on state television on Saturday, March 5, 2022. 
(Reuters Video)

Authorities placed Sergei Beseda, the former head of the Fifth Service, under house arrest last month. He has since been moved to the FSB-run Lefortovo prison in Moscow, The Times reported. The NKVD, the KGB’s predecessor, used the prison for interrogation and torture during Stalin’s 1930s Great Purge. 

This move sent a “very strong message” to other elites in Russia, Andrei Soldatov, an expert with the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), told The Times. 

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“I was surprised by this,” Soldatov said. “Putin could have very easily just fired him or sent him off to some regional job in Siberia. Lefortovo is not a nice place and sending him there is a signal as to how seriously Putin takes this stuff.”

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, April 8, 2022.

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, April 8, 2022.
(Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Soldatov suggested that Russian authorities may suspect Beseda of having passed information to the CIA.

Analysts previously told Fox News that Beseda’s house arrest sentence seemed a form of retaliation for intelligence errors in Ukraine. 

Soldatov said the Fifth Service represents “the most sensitive department of the FSB department, which is in charge of espionage in Ukraine. And now it looks like Vladimir Putin finally understood that the intelligence he was given before the invasion was not extremely accurate. And he has started looking around trying to find someone to blame.”

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While Russian troops fight to take ground in Ukraine, Moscow is also fighting an intelligence war. The U.S. FBI announced last week that it had disrupted a Russian military hacking scheme to set up a “botnet” on victim devices in the U.S. and elsewhere. Late last month, Ukrainian intelligence released a purported list of more than 600 Russian spies. 

Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., called on the FBI to investigate the Russian Diplomatic Compound, located in New York City, which experts previously told Fox News Digital houses diplomats who are in the U.S. to spy on America. 

A view of the Russian Diplomatic Compound at 355 West 255th Street; Inset: Russian President Vladimir Putin (Getty Images) 

A view of the Russian Diplomatic Compound at 355 West 255th Street; Inset: Russian President Vladimir Putin (Getty Images) 
(Getty Images/Google Maps)

“We have been appalled and alarmed by Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine. We have been appalled by his war crimes against the Ukrainian people, and it is in that context that I have formally requested that the FBI open an investigation into reports of espionage at the Russian diplomatic compound,” Torres told reporters Tuesday about the white high-rise tower located at 355 West 255th Street, in the Bronx borough.

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The Bronx Democrat called it “both metaphorically and literally a structure of surveillance.”

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