Friday, 19 October 2007

News-Putin Backs New Russian Intelligence Chief

Source:Reuters UK

President Vladimir Putin described the foreign spy service on Friday as one of Russia's key institutions and said the appointment of ex-Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov as its head could only enhance its authority.

Putin, himself a former KGB spy, is seen by some as a strongman who is strengthening both the military and intelligence services. Critics see this as further attempts to undermine democracy in Russia and maintaining control after he steps down next year.

"Fradkov's appointment as the director of the SVR (foreign intelligence service) underscores the important place foreign intelligence plays in the system of Russia's state institutions," Putin said.

"The SVR is one of the most professional and effective special services, which should continue defending Russia from outside threats,"

U.S. intelligence officials said earlier this year, that Russian spying in the United States had returned to Cold War levels. British intelligence has made similar statements. Putin, has done much to revive the security services as a privileged force not seen since the days of the KGB

Speaking to top intelligence officals on Friday, Putin said lack of spying experience was not a problem for Fradkov -- whose previous jobs were mainly connected with the economy. Putin said he wanted the SVR to help fight terrorism, but also expected Fradkov to build up efforts in economic espionage.

"The SVR should quickly and comprehensively analyze changes in the international economic environment, calculate the consequences for the national economy and of course protect more actively the interests of our companies abroad," he said.

Western analysts say installing personal allies in top positions is part of Putin's plan to maintain control over the country after he quits in May next year.

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