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Russian intelligence chief extols covert operatives as cream of the crop

Information on a number of successful operations carried out by Soviet and Russian covert intelligence services has remained top-secret to date, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service chief says
Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergei Naryshkin  Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service press office
Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergei Naryshkin
© Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service press office

MOSCOW, June 27. /TASS/. MOSCOW, June 27. /TASS/. Covert operatives are assets to the intelligence service though the identities of most of them will remain under lock and key, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Director Sergey Naryshkin said in an interview with TASS ahead of the SVR’s 95th anniversary.

"Clandestine agents act independently, they have no one to go to for advice or share their feelings with. The key to their success is their professional qualities and the coordination between them and their handlers, who must also be extremely professional," the SVR director added. "These are the people who created the motto for the illegal intelligence service which goes as follows: ‘Claim no glory for yourself, work for the glory of the state’," Naryshkin quoted.

"To get results, a great number of covert agents embark on painstaking efforts and often take great risks. They are unique professionals who understand their assignments well. By using specific means, they make a significant contribution to ensuring the security of our country," the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service stressed.

"Given the current climate, the activities of clandestine operatives are still pertinent," Naryshkin said. "Moreover, their significance has been on the rise because of the increasingly complex situation in many countries and regions throughout the world," he resumed.

"I would like to emphasize that intelligence reports… contain reliable information which allows the country’s authorities to make the necessary political, economic, military and other decisions," Naryshkin pointed out.

Top secret

"Tsarist Russia had no professional covert intelligence, placing emphasis on recruiting intelligence assets through officers operating under legally-sanctioned, official cover," Naryshkin noted. "The covert intelligence service had actually to be created from scratch, since the Soviet Union’s very first ‘covert’ intelligence officers had no such experience."

According to Naryshkin, the pinnacles in the history of the Soviet Union’s covert intelligence service included its activities prior to and during the USSR’s Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany. In the postwar period, it contributed to efforts in achieving nuclear parity between the great powers and foiled Western plots to carry out a preemptive strike against the Soviet Union and its allies.

"Cases of heroic efforts by undercover agents are extensively recounted in books, depicted in feature films and documentaries. Their names are well-known - Nikolay Ivanovich Kuznetsov, Alexey Nikolayevich Botyan, Gevork Andreyevich Vartanian, Goar Levonovna Vartanyan, Alexey Mikhailovich Kozlov and many others," Naryshkin stressed.

"It is still too early to talk about certain operations that were just as successful. They have not been declassified yet," he emphasized.

Russia’s clandestine foreign intelligence service will mark its 95th anniversary since its founding, on June 28. Several of its personnel are due to receive awards from the service and the state. "However, I cannot announce the names of those to be awarded," the SVR chief said.

The SVR chief went on to say that 95 years ago, "the clandestine intelligence service was created from scratch." "In 1922, the young Soviet state found itself in a hostile environment, once it had been isolated on internationally," Naryshkin noted. "In those years, when the very existence of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic was at stake, the political and military authorities needed to gain information about their enemies’ plans in advance, so the need arose to expand the tools that our secret services used," he added.

On June 28, 1922, the Enactment on the Foreign Division of the Foreign Affairs Department was adopted, which laid out the responsibilities of the Foreign Affairs Department and its operational methods. The document particularly stipulated that the intelligence service could take advantage of illegal activities in order to achieve its goals. Thus, the history of the Russian illegal intelligence service began.