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#25 - JRL 2007-23 - JRL Home
Russian president sets tasks for FSB at collegiate meeting

MOSCOW, January 31 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin outlined Wednesday a wide range of priority tasks for the Federal Security Service (FSB) aimed at protecting Russia's national interests and reducing the number of economic and race hate crimes in the country.

The FSB, the alleged successor to the Soviet-era KGB, is the leading secret police organization of the Russian Federation and is officially responsible for the internal security of the Russian state, counterespionage, and the fight against organized crime, terrorism and drug smuggling.

The president addressed a meeting of the FSB collegiate saying that the Federal Security Service should concentrate on solving crimes that pose a clear and present threat to national security, rather than attempt to prove its efficiency by solving petty criminal cases.

"It is important to direct your [FSB] efforts on thorough and comprehensive investigations of crimes that pose an immediate threat to national security," Putin said.

He charged the domestic security service with preventing leaks of classified political and economic information during Russia's integration into the global economy, and demanded that the agency ensure reliable protection for promising scientific developments and technology.

In the past three years, the Russian authorities have accused several prominent scientists of passing state secrets to other countries.

The most publicized case involved Igor Sutyagin, an arms researcher at the foreign policy department of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in April 2004 for passing classified information to U.K.-based Alternative Futures Consulting, which Russia's security service said was front for U.S. intelligence.

Putin said that another important task for the security agency was to defend the Russian economy from corruption and crime.

He urged the FSB not to leave any economic crimes unpunished, because they tend to blemish Russia's reputation in the world as a country with a civilized business climate.

Last year, he said, federal security operatives prevented a large number of crimes that could have deprived the state budget of about 47 billion rubles ($1.8 billion), and opened more than 3,000 business-related criminal cases.

In addition, Putin directed the Federal Security Service to protect Russian citizens against exposure to extremism, nationalism, and religious intolerance.

"It is important not only to enforce law and order, but also to protect society against attempts to impose ideologies of extremism, nationalism or religious hatred," he said, adding that State Duma elections are due later this year.

A surge in race hate violence last year has prompted Russian and foreign human rights groups to raise concerns over the alarming spread of racist and xenophobic attitudes in the country.

The president also called on the agency to close loopholes used by international terrorists to enter Russia.

"A priority task here, as last year, is securing difficult sections of the North Caucasus border," Putin said.

Although the active phase of the North Caucasus antiterrorism campaign officially ended in 2001, periodic bombings and clashes between gunmen and federal troops still disrupt Chechnya and nearby regions, including Daghestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachayevo-Circassia.

Putin praised the efforts of the domestic security agency in 2006, especially in eliminating illegal armed groups and notorious warlords, including Shamil Basayev, Abdul Khalim Saidullayev and Arab mercenary Abu Havs.

FSB head Nikolai Patrushev said in December of last year that the agency exposed 27 foreign intelligence officers and 89 Russian nationals working for foreign handlers in 2006, foiled more than 300 terrorist attacks, and eliminated more than 100 terrorists.

"Society, the country and the people of Russia have waited a long time for these results," the president said.

Recognizing the importance and hardships of FSB operatives' work, Putin said the wages of Federal Security Service's officers will grow in 2007 two times as fast as average wages in Russia.

"The wages of [FSB] staff will be increased by almost a quarter," Putin said, adding that in 2006 budget spending on the FSB grew by 27%.