Putin purges 150 FSB officers

The Russian army’s failures resulted in the purge of about 150 officers of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) which targets Ukraine, informed the investigative journalism group Bellingcat. Among them is the former head of the FSB, General Sergei Beseda.

“The former head of the 5th service of FSB, general Sergei Beseda, has been arrested. His phone has been disconnected for two weeks. About 150 officers have been removed from FSB as part of a purge – the majority of them have definitely been fired, if not arrested,” head of Bellingcat, Christo Grozev, told the independent Popular Politics channel.

According to Grozev, the officers have been punished for reporting unreliable, overly optimistic information concerning Ukraine, which has led to military failures. He explained that such methods were nothing new in Russia, as during the fighting over Mariupol in January 2015 the political authorities had been receiving fabricated reports from the army, hiding various errors, such as the shelling of Russia’s own positions or attacking civilian targets.

“Based on the intercepted conversations we’ve been able to establish that, at least on a tactical level, Russian commanders are giving their subordinates orders to attack civilians and treat them like military targets. Emotions and the law of armed conflict cannot ‘get in the way’ of following orders,” added Grozev.

The 5th Service of FSB – the Service of Operational Information and International Relations – is in charge of the relations between FSB and its foreign partners. Subordinate to this structure is the Department of Operational Information (DOI), which deals with foreign intelligence. Functionaries of DOI allegedly provided President Vladimir Putin with false information concerning Ukraine’s military potential and morale, as well as the Ukrainian society’s attitude towards Russia. Various analysts, including Grozev, see this as one of the main reasons behind the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent military failures of the invaders.

Christo Grozev was awarded the European Press Prize Investigative Reporting Award in 2019 for his publications on the involvement of the Russian security services in the attempted poisoning of the former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in Great Britain.