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Russia turns to blackmail, big money in effort to recruit German spies, Berlin officials say

by Chris York and The Kyiv Independent news desk June 18, 2024 8:17 PM 2 min read
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends talks between Russia and Belarus at the Kremlin in Moscow on April 6, 2023. Photo for illustrative purposes. (Getty Images)
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Russia is "working hard" to counter the expulsion of diplomats from Germany by turning to blackmail and the lure of big payouts to recruit spies, Berlin officials said on June 18.

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) faced disruption after intelligence reports underestimated Ukraine's defense capacity, with Russian President Vladimir Putin placing many top officials under house arrest.

Europe then expelled hundreds of diplomats suspected of espionage, severely hampering Moscow's intelligence gathering operations.

Speaking on June 18, German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) chief, Thomas Haldenwang, said several recent cases showed Russia was investing large sums of money to recruit new spies as well as employing blackmail techniques.

"Russia is working hard to compensate for the German government's reduction in the number of Russian agents in Germany," he said in comments reported by Reuters.

A new report from the BFV highlighted a case in which two Germans charged last year with spying for Russia had been paid $428,560.

"The agent fees show that Russia's services continue to have enormous financial resources with which to pursue their intelligence goal," the report said.

It also said German diplomats were vulnerable to blackmail and that "as soon as they have compromising information about their targets, these services are not shy about employing aggressive recruitment techniques."

Numerous European nations have raised the alarm about an increase in Russian spy operations in recent months.

European officials say that Putin's decision to leave Russia's borders open following the February invasion allowed FSB spies to join the thousands of Russians who fled the country to avoid mobilization.

At the same time, the FSB's Third Directorate for Military Counterintelligence (DKVR) — which spies on the Russian military and prevents defections — has become the agency's largest division, security analysts say.

Alleged Russian spy rings have been discovered in countries including Ukraine, the U.K., and Slovenia.

The U.K.'s domestic counter-intelligence and security agency Mi5 has reportedly been ordered to prioritize targeting spies over terrorists due to a significant recruitment drive by Russia, China, and Iran.

In May, it was revealed that Russia is recruiting violent right-wing extremists to carry out sabotage attacks in Europe and the U.K., raising concerns among intelligence chiefs.

Ukraine’s 3rd Assault Brigade warns of Russian attempt to capture Borova in Kharkiv Oblast
Russian troops are intensifying attacks in the border areas of Luhansk Oblast with the aim of capturing the village of Borova in neighboring Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine’s 3rd Assault Brigade said on June 18.

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