Kilimnik was also reportedly “investigated in Ukraine on suspicion of ties to Russian spy agencies” in 2016 but was not officially charged with any crimes. Central Intelligence Service [CSR] The involvement of all three Russian intelligence agencies in the Kremlin’s 2016 influence campaign speaks to the high value placed by the Kremlin on the operation to undermine and devalue U.S. democratic institutions. Subsequent indictments and investigative reporting have since fleshed out the intelligence community’s findings, revealing a sprawling campaign of political warfare involving all three of Russia’s intelligence agencies: the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). (This apparatus is often referred to as Russian security services or intelligence services; herein they will be referred to as intelligence agencies.) The GRU, which dates back to the Soviet era, is the Russian military intelligence agency. But observers also wonder why the Russian intelligence agency would run an operation that potentially conflicts with Russia's own stated goals to … The heads of the SVR and the FSB sit on the president’s Security Council, while the GRU reports to the General Staff of the armed forces. Most recently, the March 2018 sanctions aimed at countering Russian interference in U.S. elections stated that the GRU “was directly involved in interfering in the 2016 U.S. election through cyber-enabled activities.” The sanctions specifically named six top-ranking GRU officials, including Korobov and another individual who had been previously sanctioned in 2016. The SVR is also mentioned in the Steele dossier. He would talk about it.” Separately, Alexander van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer involved in Manafort’s Ukrainian work, reportedly informed the FBI that Manafort’s longtime deputy Rick Gates told van der Zwaan that Kilimnik was a former GRU officer. The FBI began monitoring his communications under a FISA warrant beginning in October 2016.

These hacks include an attack on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in apparent retaliation for the ban on Russian athletes at the 2016 Olympics, and an attempt to hack the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which confirmed the use of the Russian nerve agent in the Skripal attack. Although the Director of FSO is not classified as a member of the Russian Security Council, he is invited to join in the meetings when ordered by the President.[2][3]. Understanding how the three agencies operate, interact, and compete is vital to fully comprehending the Kremlin’s political interference in the United States and abroad. The GRU is headed by Igor Korobov, who took over after the sudden death of its previous head Igor Sergun in 2016.

The FBI reportedly kept tabs on Page after the SVR attempted to recruit him, including after Page joined the Trump campaign as a foreign policy advisor in March 2016. The FSB also plays a central role in the Steele dossier. Investigative journalists have traced the passports that GRU officers use overseas, combing through records to identify the individual officers believed to have been involved in the Skripal poisonings. In July 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted twelve GRU agents and included detailed descriptions of the GRU’s efforts to undermine and influence the 2016 election. In the Soviet Union, the KGB handled “everything from foreign espionage to domestic security” and prioritized the survival of the Soviet regime above all else. Additionally, it provides military intelligence for the Russian government and oversees Russian special forces (Spetsnaz). Along with the FSB, the SVR also devotes resources to supporting pro-Russian movements in Europe. The GRU began these operations in March 2016, using personas and cut-outs including Guccifer 2.0,, and WikiLeaks “to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations,” most notably emails illegally obtained from Podesta and the DNC. The most notable example of the SVR’s connection to the Trump campaign involves Carter Page, who served as one of Trump’s foreign policy advisors. Although it remains unclear exactly which Russian agency is behind the Cozy Bear group, SVR involvement in Russian hacking efforts leading up to the 2016 election certainly cannot be ruled out. Established in 1995, the FSB handles domestic security, cyber security, information operations, and counterterrorism efforts, and, according to a report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, is the most powerful Russian intelligence agency.

The Obama administration sanctioned the FSB as one of several entities involved in “malicious cyber-enabled activities” in December 2016 in response to election interference. Russia’s increasingly aggressive intelligence operations in the U.S. and Europe, including most recently the poisoning of former GRU agent Sergei Skripal, have brought previously obscure agencies to the front pages of major newspapers. The FSB is known for employing kompromat, or compromising material (either real or fabricated), for blackmail, often to destroy the reputation of political opponents or other individuals who pose a threat to the Russian government. Just as Putin has encouraged competition among his loyal oligarchs, he has also done so with current and former intelligence officials, who constantly compete for his approval through actions such as destabilizing democracies abroad and thwarting opponents at home. Despite their shared priorities, however, the FSB, the GRU, and the SVR are known to be fiercely competitive, with regular turf wars and repeated attempts “to outperform and embarrass rivals.” One striking example of inter-agency rivalry is an alleged “shadow intelligence network, consisting of a clan close to Putin, from the FSB [and] the SVR.” According to The Daily Beast, this intelligence network was reportedly threatened by the GRU, who in turn “had its own channel of information on corruption and money-laundering by the Russian elite.”. The GRU’s reputation rebounded after Sergun was named as its chief in 2011, in part because of his capable handling of GRU operations in Ukraine, which the Kremlin viewed more favorably. In concert with its civilian counterpart, the SVR, the GRU handles external intelligence gathering and operates human intelligence officers. As the intelligence community’s January 2017 assessment noted, “For decades, Russian and Soviet intelligence services have sought to collect insider information from U.S. political parties that could help Russian leaders understand a new U.S. administration’s plans and priorities.” In the 1970s, the Committee for State Security (KGB) recruited a Democratic activist to report on Jimmy Carter’s campaign.


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