Putin says he will strengthen Russia’s security service

Putin says he will strengthen Russia’s security service
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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday pledged to strengthen Moscow’s Federal Security Service, or FSB.

Putin emphasized the need for the security service to focus on counterterrorism and safeguarding state secrets from foreign intelligence operations during remarks at an annual meeting of the FSB board.

“We will continue to bolster the FSB’s central and regional branches and ensure you have the most advanced arms and equipment,” Putin said, according to remarks published by the Kremlin. “We will also continue to give attention to social provisions for FSB personnel and their family members.” 

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Putin said that the FSB faces “greater demands” in counterintelligence, claiming that agents thwarted intelligence operations by 53 foreign intelligence officers and 386 agents in 2016. He also said that cyberattacks on Moscow’s official information databases tripled last year over 2015.  

“Each agency must develop its segment of the state system for detecting and preventing cyberattacks on information resources and eliminating their consequences,” Putin said.

The FSB replaced the Soviet-era KGB following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Last year, Russia’s Kommersant daily newspaper reported on Russia’s plans to effectively revive the KGB through a massive reorganization of its security services.

Putin’s plan to strengthen the FSB follows Russia’s arrest of three FSB officials and an executive at cybersecurity company Kaspersky Labs on treason charges. The arrests are rumored to be tied to Moscow’s cyberattacks against Democratic organizations and individuals in an effort to influence the U.S. presidential election.

The U.S. intelligence community has accused Russia of waging a cyber and disinformation campaign aimed at the presidential election, which Moscow has denied.

On Thursday, Putin indicated a willingness to “restore dialogue” with U.S. intelligence services and NATO member states to confront terrorism, but he absolved Russia of blame for the breakdown in relations between Moscow and the West.

President  Trump, who has been skeptical of the intelligence community’s conclusions about Russian hacking, has indicated that he would like to pursue better relations with Moscow and deepen counterterrorism cooperation. 

Trump has been dogged by concerns about his potential connections to Russia, in the wake of a New York Times report that his campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence officials.

Michael Flynn was also forced to resign from his post as national security adviser this week, following reports that he discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the United States ahead of the inauguration despite the administration publicly denying it.