Putin Sends Warning To Enemies

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned unidentified enemies on Friday against trying to destabilize Russia during the economic crisis.

While Putin did not specify who might pose a threat, he has in the past blamed Western security services for trying to destabilize the country through opposition groups and nongovernmental organizations.

"Any attempts to weaken or destabilize Russia or harm the interests of the country will be toughly suppressed," Putin told an annual meeting of top spies and security officers ahead of their professional holiday, Interfax reported.

The Day of Security Officers is marked annually on Dec. 20, a day when in 1917 Bolshevik rulers created the Cheka secret police to suppress their foes.

After a string of transformations, the Cheka became the KGB. The Federal Security Service is the main successor agency to the KGB, and Putin, a former KGB agent in East Germany, served as its director before becoming president in 2000.

Critics say that under Putin, the security services have become excessively influential and have expressed fears Russia could one day become a police state.

Analysts say the role of the security services is likely to grow even further as Russia plunges into an economic crisis marked by rising unemployment and financial woes that threaten the popularity of the government. Avoiding civil unrest and maintaining political stability is viewed by the government as a top priority.

As president, Putin always personally attended the holiday meetings of security officials.

President Dmitry Medvedev, a former corporate lawyer with no security background, stayed away Friday and sent his chief of staff, Sergei Naryshkin, to deliver his greetings.

Medvedev said security concerns remained paramount.

"In the past 20 years the world has changed but has not become a quieter place," Naryshkin said, reading out Medvedev's letter.