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Moscow Times
December 20, 2006
Patrushev Says More Spies Work in NGOs
By Simon Saradzhyan
Staff Writer

Foreign intelligence services are increasingly using international nongovernmental organizations and foreign press bureaus in Russia as cover for their agents, Federal Security Service chief Nikolai Patrushev said Tuesday.

Patrushev said a "sharp increase" had been observed in information-gathering activities carried out by agents who work in Russia legally, but not as diplomatic personnel, Interfax reported.

Foreign agents take employment with international foundations and organizations that specialize in humanitarian development and assistance, as well as media outlets, in order to spy on Russia, Patrushev said.

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, plays the leading role in counter-espionage, guarding the country's borders and fighting terrorism.

Back in May, Patrushev accused U.S., British and other foreign NGOs of providing cover for intelligence agents, but he gave no specifics.

On Tuesday, however, Patrushev singled out the Danish Refugee Council, accusing it not only of collecting "biased information" on the situation in the North Caucasus, but also of employing a terrorist.

In July, North Ossetian police stopped a car whose driver was carrying a document that identified him as an employee of the Danish Refugee Council. Officers searched the vehicle and found a homemade bomb. The man "confessed to taking part in sabotage and terrorist attacks in North Ossetia," Patrushev told Interfax.

Calls to the NGO's offices in Copenhagen went unanswered on Tuesday. Officials at its offices in Ingushetia and North Ossetia declined to comment.

The Danish Refugee Council registered with federal authorities this fall in accordance with a new law on NGOs, which critics say is designed to allow the government to shut down troublesome foreign organizations.

Patrushev also accused the Danish Refugee Council, the largest humanitarian assistance organization working in Ingushetia and Chechnya, of distributing aid to people not targeted because of need.

"As a result, some of this aid ends up in the hands of organized crime and terrorist groups," Patrushev said.

Other employees of the NGO "systematically collected biased information on the social, political, economic and military situation in the North Caucasus as well as on the probability of fresh armed conflicts motivated by religious and ethnic tension," Patrushev said.

The NGO has also dispatched to Russia "supervisors from Denmark with experience in intelligence gathering," he said, adding that some of these supervisors had already been expelled from the country.

The FSB has stopped 110,000 people from entering Russia so far this year, Patrushev said. It has also thwarted the work of 27 foreign intelligence officers and 89 foreign citizens who collaborated in intelligence gathering.

One spy and 21 collaborators have been deported.

Patrushev said a Lithuanian military intelligence courier had been deported. Two diplomats, from Estonia and Sweden, have been declared personae non grata.

Last December, by comparison, Patrushev said the FSB had uncovered 50 people involved in spying in 2004 and 2005.

The FSB has also detained seven Russian citizens who attempted to pass classified information to foreign intelligence services, including a regional official who offered information in exchange for political refugee status for himself and his family.

Four Russians and one foreigner have been convicted of treason or espionage this year, Patrushev said.

In addition to its counter-espionage efforts, the FSB also made progress in fighting terrorism, organized crime and corruption. Patrushev said the FSB and other law enforcement agencies had thwarted 300 terrorist attacks this year. He gave no details on the number of terrorists apprehended, but said 470 rebel fighters in the North Caucasus had surrendered to take advantage of an offer of amnesty from prosecution.

In addition, 108 people are currently being tried and 16 have been convicted for giving false information about planned terrorist attacks, Patrushev said.

Patrushev estimated that the FSB had saved the state 45 billion rubles ($1.7 billion) by thwarting crimes such as credit-card scams and computer hacking.

The FSB recorded 900,000 hacking attacks on government computers this year, including 120,000 attacks on the Kremlin web site.