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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FSB Claims Western Spies Thwarted

The Federal Security Service claims to have disrupted the activities of dozens of spies in Russia last year in what officers say reflects growing Western interest in defense industry know-how.

FSB director Nikolai Patrushev told a meeting of his agency's top brass Wednesday that the activities of 65 professional foreign spies were disrupted and 30 Russian citizens were prevented from passing over secrets to foreign services in 1999. In comparison, the FSB foiled the activities of 11 professional spies all over Russia in 1998 and caught 19 Russians trying to sell classified information to foreign secret services.

Neither Patrushev nor other FSB officers would disclose how many of these people were arrested or deported.

One FSB officer said last year's increase showed that Western espionage activities have become more active. "Their activities are, of course, not as intensive as they were during the Cold War, but I can say that attempts of industrial espionage were on the rise last year," said the officer, who asked not to be named.

Some cases were reported. For instance, a second secretary of the U.S. Embassy, Cheri Leberknight, was detained in Moscow in November and accused of receiving information from a Defense Ministry serviceman. She was told to leave the country.

In July, the FSB said Justine Hamilton, who coordinated a student exchange program in Voronezh, had collected "secret environmental maps" for the CIA in the central Russian city. Hamilton had returned to the United States by July, but was denied an entry visa when she tried to come back to Russia.

In addition to exposing suspected foreign spies, the FSB was busy trying to nab Russian citizens, including environmental researchers, suspected of spying for foreign secret services.

Russian regions that have large defense companies and military facilities on their soil attracted most of the foreign secret services' attention last year, one officer at a regional FSB branch said.

Svetlana Korneva, spokeswoman for the FSB's Saratov area branch, said her colleagues detected 24 suspected professional spies visiting the Volga region last year. She said all of them were employees of foreign companies and organizations and were careful not to try "anything illegal."

The 24 were followed until they left the region, which has the Balakovskaya atomic station, a base of long-range bombers, the NIIKhIT rocket battery plant and one Yakovlev aircraft production plant on its soil. While failing to net any foreign spies last year, the Saratov FSB branch detained local resident Yury Bibikov on allegations he contacted the CIA to try to sell sensitive information on Russia's relations with Iraq.

The neighboring region of Samara also has seen at least 20 suspected foreign agents in the past two years, according to the local FSB branch. The TsSKB-Progress company, which manufactures Soyuz space rockets and Soyuz-TM escape vehicles, is located in Samara.

Alexander Pikayev of the Moscow Carnegie Center, speaking Thursday in a telephone interview, said it was all but impossible to know whether Western secret services have become more active because Russia lacks effective civilian control over its secret services.