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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FSB Says Spies Want to Break Up Russia

Federal Security Service chief Nikolai Patrushev said Western spies were working to weaken and break up the country and singled out British agents as the most intrusive, according to an interview published Wednesday.

Patrushev also claimed that foreign spies were working to foment discontent in Russia in the run-up to December's parliamentary elections and the presidential vote next spring.

Patrushev is a longtime ally of President Vladimir Putin, and his comments reflect deeply entrenched suspicions of Western intentions in the Kremlin's inner circle amid a cold spell in Russia's relations with the West.

"Politicians thinking in the categories of the Cold War still retain their influence in a number of Western nations," Patrushev told the weekly Argumenty i Fakty. "They have claimed credit for the collapse of the Soviet Union, and they are hatching plans aimed at dismembering Russia. They are viewing special services and their organizations as an efficient instrument for their implementation."

Patrushev said foreign spies were focusing their efforts on gathering information related to the country's elections. "They are trying to influence protest feelings and demonstrations in Russia."

He singled out Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, saying its agents "aren't only gathering intelligence in all areas, but they are also trying to influence the development of the domestic political situation in our country."

Patrushev said his agency had learned how to counter British intelligence. "We know both its strong and weak points," he said. "Since the times of Elizabeth I, [MI6] agents have been guided by the principle of the ways justifying the means. Money, bribery, blackmail, exemption from punishment for crimes committed are their main recruitment methods."

Patrushev claimed that British intelligence had relied on people who fled abroad to avoid criminal charges in Russia -- an apparent hint at Kremlin critics living in Britain, such as tycoon Boris Berezovsky and Chechen rebel envoy Akhmed Zakayev. Prosecutors have unsuccessfully sought their extradition.

Patrushev also said foreign spies were using nongovernmental organizations "both for gathering intelligence information and as an instrument for having a hidden influence over political processes." He pointed at the revolutions that ousted unpopular governments in the former Yugoslavia, Ukraine and Georgia as a product of such activities.

"There is a danger of foreign NGOs being used to finance activities to undermine Russia," he said.

He said some NGOs were also being used by international terror groups to support militants in the North Caucasus.

Patrushev said the CIA and MI6 were actively relying on the special services of Poland, Georgia and the Baltic states to spy on Russia. He said his agency had uncovered 270 foreign intelligence officers and 70 agents they had recruited, including 35 Russian citizens, since 2003.

While fuming at the West, Patrushev said his agency would continue to cooperate with its Western counterparts in combating international terrorism.