Russia 'traitor' revelation due to spy turf war: report
The shock revelation that a Russian double agent exposed 10 spies working for Moscow in the United States was a leak due to a turf war between Russia's secret services, a report said on Monday.
The Kommersant daily said last week that the 10 Russian spies, who included the glamorous "femme fatale" Anna Chapman, had been betrayed by a top Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) agent named as Colonel Shcherbakov.
Unusually, given the sensitive nature of the information, the revelation was top news on Russian state television and was later even confirmed by President Dmitry Medvedev.
Pavel Felgenhauer, the expert of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta on defence and intelligence issues, said that the leak was due to a turf war between the SVR and the Federal Security Service (FSB) which looks after domestic security.
Both the SVR and the FSB emerged from the Soviet-era secret service the KGB after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Felgenhauer said the FSB was seeking to impose its influence over foreign intelligence.
"Under the [2000-2008] presidency of Vladimir Putin, the FSB regained control of the border guards and government communications," Felgenhauer wrote in the Novaya Gazeta.
"The huge failure, arrest and expulsion of the 10 sleeper agents in the United States is a chance for the FSB to launch a campaign to subdue the SVR," he said.
He said that according to the Novaya Gazeta's sources, "it is precisely the FSB, who is leading the enquiry over this failure, that has become the main source of leaked information about the treason of a certain Colonel Shcherbakov".
The aim of the leaks was to speed up decisions about a reorganisation of the SVR, either by merging it with the FSB or replacing its current leadership, Felgenhauer added.
Kommersant said that Shcherbakov fled Russia for the United States just days before the announcement of the arrests of 10 Russian spies in June and was already the target of a specially-assigned Moscow revenge hit squad.
But adding to the mystery, the Interfax news agency quoted security sources as saying the traitor was not called Shcherbakov but was another top SVR agent named as Colonel Poteyev.
Interfax's source said that Shcherbakov was also a traitor "but he had gone over several years ago" and had worked in counter-intelligence rather than operations planting illegals abroad.
© 2010 AFP