Thursday, June 18, 2020

Another Reason There are No Ex-KGB Officers – the FSB Won’t Let Them Quit

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 15 – Captain Aleksandr Nikitin,  who exposed Soviet nuclear dumping in the Arctic three decades ago, said in 2000 when someone described Vladimir Putin as a former KGB officer that “there are no former KGB officers just as there are no former German shepherds” because they are a separate species whose members cannot change their spots.

            But now there appears to be an additional reason why there are so few former officers of the FSB, as the KGB is now called, and it is this: Some currently employed by that organization would like to quit but are denied the possibility to do so, according to journalist Dima Shvets in an article for Zona.Media (

            Two young FSB officers turned to Shvets to describe why they were unhappy with their service in the organs and what happened to them when they tried to leave. Speaking anonymously to avoid reprisals, they said that the work they were required to do was boring and offensive and the conditions of work were hellish, even “slave-like.” 

            According to the two, many others who work for the FSB would like to leave but don’t try because they have concluded that they will be punished if they try to and will, like these two, be blocked in their attempts by bosses who don’t want to look bad in the eyes of their superiors and who are content to continue things as they are.

            What the two stress is that in all things, Russian law is irrelevant both to what they are required to do as agents and also to their chances of protecting themselves from abuse at work and from exercising their right to resign. Formally, they have certain rights; but in practice, they don’t have any.

            The two also suggested that the FSB’s work was often badly organized, involving the monitoring of people and the collecting of information no one really needs; and they said that the contempt for law meant that during elections, FSB officers often voted “two or three times” for the candidate supported by the powers even if they wanted to vote otherwise.

            Having experienced this, both tried to leave but were met with threats if they continued and promises of preferment if they remained.  They were told that prosecutors would ignore any complaints they made because the FSB would ensure that their applications for review were ignored.   

                And they concluded that the only way out was to violate the rules of the FSB or to suffer some physical problem or to die. Otherwise, they would remain not just secret servants but indentured ones.

            It is impossible to say just how widespread such feeling are, but the comments of these two suggest they are more common than the public image of the FSB as a totally united organization is – and that could mean that in a crisis, it might prove less totally reliable than the Kremlin – and even its opponents – typically assume. 

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