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Ministry of Security (MB)

Within Russia the largest KGB successor agency was the Ministry of Security (Ministerstvo bezopasnosti--MB), which numbered some 137,000 employees and was designated a counterintelligence agency. The Ministry of Security inherited the tasks of several KGB directorates and chief directorates: the Second Chief Directorate (counterintelligence against foreigners), the Third Chief Directorate (military counterintelligence), the Fourth Directorate (transportation security), the Fifth Chief Directorate (domestic political security), the Sixth Directorate (activities against economic crime and official corruption), and the Seventh Directorate (surveillance activities).

In July 1992, Yeltsin signed--and Russia's Supreme Soviet (parliament) ratified--a law concerning the governance of the Ministry of Security. The law gave Yeltsin sweeping authority over security operations and aroused concern among Russian democrats. They worried because the new law so closely resembled the one on the KGB that had been enacted by the Soviet government just fourteen months earlier. The law conferred essentially the same mission and powers on the Ministry of Security that the earlier law had granted to the KGB, in some cases almost verbatim. The main difference was that in the past the KGB had been controlled by the leadership of the CPSU, whereas the 1992 law gave Yeltsin, as president, control of the Ministry of Security. The Russian parliament was granted some theoretical oversight functions, but they never were exercised in practice.

Yeltsin's first minister of security, former MVD chief Viktor Barannikov, left most of the organization's former KGB officials in place. In the spring of 1993, when an uneasy truce between Yeltsin and the Russian parliament was broken and the Supreme Soviet voted to deprive Yeltsin of his extraordinary presidential powers, Yeltsin called upon Barannikov and the Ministry of Security for support as the president declared the imposition of "special rule" giving him veto power over parliamentary legislation until new elections were held. However, Barannikov declined to involve his ministry in the political confrontation between the executive and legislative branches, urging that a compromise be found. When the Ministry of Defense also failed to support his position, Yeltsin backed down from his confrontational stance.

The split between Yeltsin and Barannikov was exacerbated by Barannikov's response to the government corruption issue in 1992-93. Bribe taking and behind-the-scenes deals, which had been accepted practices for Soviet officials, were traditions that died hard, especially in the absence of laws and regulations prohibiting officials from abusing their positions. When privatization of state property began, the scale of corruption increased dramatically. The overlap between government-controlled economic enterprises and private entrepreneurial ventures created vast opportunities for illegal economic activity at the highest levels.

Beginning in 1992, the Ministry of Security became involved in the war against organized crime and official corruption. Before long, however, the campaign turned into an exchange of accusations of corruption among Russia's political leaders, with the Ministry of Security in the middle. Yeltsin wanted to use the corruption campaign as a political weapon in fighting his opponents, but his own entourage was soon hit with charges of covering up crimes--a tactic of Yeltsin's enemies to which Barannikov lent at least passive support. Barannikov's failures to support Yeltsin led to the security minister's dismissal in mid-1993.

Barannikov's replacement, Nikolay Golushko, did not last long in his job. After Yeltsin's threat to dissolve the Russian parliament in September 1993, which ended in bloodshed on the streets of Moscow, the president realized that Golushko was also unwilling to use the forces of the Ministry of Security to back up the president. In this case, Yeltsin not only dismissed his minister of security but also disbanded the ministry and replaced it with a new agency, the Federal Counterintelligence Service (Federal'naya sluzhba kontrarazvedki--FSK).

Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK)

The law creating the FSK, signed in January 1994, gave the president sole control of the agency, eliminating the theoretical monitoring role granted to the parliament and the judiciary in the 1992 law on the Ministry of Security. The original outline of the FSK's powers eliminated the criminal investigative powers of the Ministry of Security, retaining only powers of inquiry. But the final statute was ambiguous on this issue, assigning to the FSK the task of "carrying out technical-operational measures, [and] criminological and other expert assessments and investigations." The statute also stipulated that the FSK was to "develop and implement measures to combat smuggling and corruption." Such language apparently assigned a key role to the successor of the Ministry of Security in the intensifying struggle against economic crime and official corruption.

According to its enabling statute, the FSK had eighteen directorates, or departments, plus a secretariat and a public relations center. Because some of the Ministry of Security's functions were dispersed to other security agencies, the initial FSK staff numbered about 75,000, a substantial reduction from the 135,000 people who had been working for the Ministry of Security in 1992. The reduction process began to reverse itself within a few months, however, as the FSK regained the criminal investigation functions of the Ministry of Security. By July 1994, the FSK reported a staff of 100,000.

Golushko's replacement as minister of security was his former first deputy, Sergey Stepashin, who had served as head of the Parliamentary Commission on Defense and Security during 1992-93. Stepashin's arrival coincided with the establishment of a new economic counterintelligence directorate in the FSK and development of new laws to improve the FSK's ability to fight corruption. Stepashin announced measures against underground markets and "shadow capital," phenomena of the transition period that had been defended as stimuli for the national economy. He also defended the FSK against critics who accused the agency of persecuting private entrepreneurs.

In addition to fighting crime and corruption, the FSK played a prominent role in dealing with ethnic problems. One worry for the agency was the possibility of terrorist acts by dissident non-Russian nationalities within the Russian Federation. Approximately 20 percent of Russia's population is non-Russian, including more than 100 nationalities concentrated in Russia's thirty-two ethnically designated territorial units. Tension over unresolved ethnic and economic issues had been mounting steadily since 1990, as non-Russian minorities became increasingly belligerent in their demands for autonomy from Moscow (see Ethnic Composition, ch. 4). The FSK was responsible for cooperating with other agencies of the Yeltsin government in monitoring ethnic issues, suppressing separatist unrest, and preventing violent conflict or terrorism. In keeping with this mandate, FSK troops joined MVD forces in backing Russian regular armed forces in the occupation of Chechnya (see Security Operations in Chechnya, this ch.). Russian security elements also have been active in Georgia, where they have assisted regular forces in containing the independence drive of Abkhazian troops and policing a two-year cease-fire that showed no sign of evolving into a permanent settlement as of mid-1996.

Data as of July 1996

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