Beware of leaks, Medvedev warns Russian spies

15th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday warned Russia's spies over the risk of secrets being exposed by a WikiLeaks-style scandal as he paid a rare visit to the headquarters of foreign intelligence.

Medvedev said in a speech at the top secret headquarters of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) outside Moscow that now "no-one is insured" against the risk of damaging information leaks.

The SVR, which was created out of the Soviet KGB, marks this month the 90th anniversary of Moscow's foreign intelligence operations, a birthday already marred by an embarrassing US spy scandal earlier this year.

Medvedev said the exposure of secrets, like the US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, was in some ways good as it gave the intelligence service "additional analytical possibilities".

"But this also creates problems as clearly no-one is insured against such problems today and this needs to be taken account of in current work," he said in the address on state television.

Television pictures showed Medvedev speaking against a background of dark curtains. His audience was not shown.

Leaked US diplomatic cables have called Russia a "mafia state" and described Medvedev as playing the role of Robin to the Batman of powerful premier Vladimir Putin.

But Russian officials have insisted they do not expect ties to be harmed by the disclosures.

The SVR proudly traces its history back to the establishment of the "Foreign Department" of the early Soviet intelligence agency, the NKVD, in 1920.

But its birthday was marred by the disclosure and expulsion by the United States this summer of 10 "sleeper" spies whose spycraft was dismissed as shoddy and archaic by former intelligence professionals.

Medvedev, a civilian lawyer by background unlike his KGB predecessor Putin, acknowledged that the 2010 jubilee year had "not been simple" for the Service.

"But nevertheless, I think that our Service has all the possibilities to solve problems effectively," he said, handing an award to the SVR's chief Mikhail Fradkov.

© 2010 AFP

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