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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Security Service Stopped 28 Foreign Agents in '97

Russia's spy-catching agency halted the activities of 28 foreign agents last year and sent several foreign spies to prison, the Federal Security Service said Wednesday.

The agency's director, Nikolai Kovalyov, disclosed the details of the spy catches at a closed-door agency review of its 1997 activities attended by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and top Russian security officials.

"In particular he noted that foreign secret services have significantly stepped up their activities on the territory of Russia, including those who were not working in Russia before," a Federal Security Service statement said, quoting Kovalyov.

"Attempts by 18 citizens of Russia, who were seeking profit, to pass on important secret information were broken up," the statement said.

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, the largest of several successor bodies to the notorious Soviet KGB secret service, also gave family names of two people jailed for spying on behalf of the United States, as well as one for Germany and another for Britain.

Russian officials have hailed the expulsion last year of an Iranian diplomat accused of trying to steal missile plans as a success for spy-catchers.

The FSB said Chernomyrdin at the meeting expressed his satisfaction with the agency's work for the year.

The agency statement quoted Kovalyov as saying the FSB had also prevented 130 "terrorist acts" and broken up 34 illegal armed groups. A total of 32 drug dealers had been arrested, 13 of them foreign.

But the performance of the FSB was called into question late last year when a lone gunman seized a Swedish diplomat outside his embassy in Moscow.

The FSB convinced the gunman to swap the diplomat for an FSB commando. But the commando suffered a heart attack and was then riddled with bullets when the FSB stormed the car. Both the commando and gunman died in the incident.

In an Itar-Tass interview Tuesday, the deputy head of the FSB, Colonel-General Alexander Tsarenko, said Russia faced a military and industrial espionage threat from countries such as Iran, China and North Korea.

He said it also had to fend off activity from its traditional Cold War rivals, mainly the United States, Britain and France.

The agency report Wednesday said they had received more than 900 calls on a special hot line, about 50 of which were of direct interest to the FSB.

In a listing of goals for 1998, Kovolyov noted the need to fight financial crime, including in foreign economic dealings, as well as attract and protect foreign investment in the Russian economy.