Restructuring Security in Russia: Return of the KGB?

With world attention on Iraq, just days before war, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin announced the most dramatic reorganisation of Russian security forces since the KGB was broken up into separate agencies by his predecessor Boris Yeltsin in the early 1990s. Putin explained his move as streamlining and updating responses to security threats. Critics questioned the legality of the changes and expressed fears that still more forces were coming under the wing of the KGB’s main successor.

The World Today Published 1 May 2003 Updated 21 October 2020 4 minute READ

Edwin Bacon

Reader in Comparative Politics, Birkbeck College, University of London

Bettina Renz

Professor at the School of Politics, University of Nottingham

The Federal Security Service (FSB) is the main descendant of the Soviet KGB, and its strengthening by presidential decree immediately led to claims of the resurrection of the much-criticised intelligence agency, sponsored by agent-now-president Putin. Structurally speaking, there can be no doubt that the new forces are more like the KGB than those in existence before.

However, it is too far to jump from this to the assumption – voiced by a number of critics – that the decrees amount to a return of Soviet-era human rights abuses and authoritarianism.

The decrees announced the abolition of three Russian forces – the Federal Tax Police, the Federal Agency for Government Information (FAPSI) and the Federal Border Guard. The tax police will now fall under the control of the Russian interior ministry, and FAPSI’s work was divided between the Ministry of Defence and the FSB.

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