Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that his security service in 2018 had uncovered almost 600 operatives and agents from foreign intelligence agencies, which he charged were stepping up their efforts to steal Russian secrets.
“We see that foreign intelligence services are seeking to bolster their efforts on the Russian front, doing everything they can to obtain access to political, economic, scientific and technological information,” he said, according to the Russian state-owned news agency TASS. “Just like before, and now probably even harder, (foreign intelligence services) are trying to influence events in our country.”
Speaking Wednesday at a board meeting for the Federal Security Service (FSB), Putin said Russia’s special services had uncovered 129 officers and 465 agents of foreign intelligence agencies last year. Agents are people who are recruited to work on behalf of an intelligence agency.
He did not elaborate.
Without singling out any country by name, Putin said the foreign services seek to “step up” their activities toward Russia.
“They have been making every possible effort to get access to political, economic, scientific and technological information,” the Russian president said. He said Russia’s intelligence efforts to counter it “must be efficient, conducted daily and based on modern methods of work.”
Last year, the security service arrested Paul Whelan, an American citizen, on charges of suspicion of espionage. The Russians claimed that he was caught accepted classified material in Moscow.
Whelan, a resident of Michigan and a former Marine, was denied bail at a pretrial hearing and is being held at the notorious Lefortovo detention center in Moscow.
For its part, U.S.Special Counsel Robert Mueller alone has indicted 12 Russian military intelligence officers specifically on charges of hacking of Democratic party emails.
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