Kommersant Reports That the Russian Spies Collared by the FBI Were Exposed by Colonel Shcherbakov of the SVR
UPDATE: Why Is Kommersant Attacking Russia's Foreign Intelligence?
The Russian business daily Kommersant (11-11-10) is reporting that a colonel who served in the Russian foreign intelligence service Служба Внешней Разведки (Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki or SVR) named Shcherbakov betrayed the "bumbling" Russian spies arrested last June by the FBI.
Some observers characterize Kommersant as a "respected business daily," but I have noticed that Kommersant published Andrei Illarionov's global warming denialist propaganda. I would take what Kommersant reports based on its annonymous official sources with a grain of salt.
The daily spells its name "Коммерсантъ" with a final "hard sign," ("Ъ") as it was spelled prior to the Soviet era. The hard sign is an archaic letter that was dropped after the Bolshevik Revolution. In the Kommersant article, I think that the paper refers to itself simply as as "Ъ." If you use the Google translation tool, this will be rendered as a small "b." Perhaps Kommersant is alluding to its pre-revolutionary, capitalist roots by using this archaic letter.
Russia's official press agency RIA Novosti (11-11-10), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (11-11-10), and various media are picking up the Kommersant story about Shcherbakov's betrayal.
Based on what I could glean from the Kommersant story, this scandal may be used as a justification to put the SVR back under the roof of a unitary state security organization like the Soviet-era KGB. Kommersant claims that the authorities are going to investigate the circumstances of the mysterious Col. Shcherbakov's betrayal and decide what should be done with the SVR. The Director of the SVR is appointed by and reports directly to the President of Russia, so it is possible that returning the SVR to the control of the domestic Federal Security Service (FSB) signals a diminution of President Medvedev's powers. It's hard to say.
The L.A. Times (11-11-10) also suggests that the Kommersant article may herald the reunification of the Foreign Intelligence Service with the Federal Security Service:
Some Russian experts said the story of betrayal may be another attempt by the government to present the spy mission as a heroic effort — President Dmitry Medvedev also honored the group in October — rather than a shameful failure, as many Russians see it.
"It is aimed at a significant part of the Russian public that is still skeptical over the whole spy affair despite the fact that both Putin, a former KGB agent, and Medvedev heartily welcomed the spies," Alexei Kondaurov, a retired KGB counterintelligence general, said in an interview.
Konstantin Preobrazhensky, a former KGB officer who now lives in Boston, said in an interview that the story may signal the government's desire to address intelligence issues, to prepare the public for the planned reunification of the Foreign Intelligence Service with the Federal Security Service. The agencies were separated by then- President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s in an effort to prevent the re-creation of the dreaded KGB and to bring the secret services more under presidential control.
"A mysterious Col. Shcherbakov is a red herring concocted by the Russian special services together with the Kremlin," Preobrazhensky said. "They are little by little re-creating the Soviet Union institutions ... including the KGB." [See full text.]
An unnamed Kremlin official reportedly quoted in Kommersant boasts that a hit squad has "already" been dispatched to the United States to murder the Russian traitor, who is allegedly the former head of the U.S. department of "Directorate S," the SVR's “illegal” spying operations.
The New York Daily News (11-11-10) reports the highlights from Kommersant:
"We know who he is and where he is," a Kremlin official told Kommersant.
"Do not doubt that a Mercader has been sent after him already," the official told the paper, referring to Russian agent Ramon Mercader, who murdered exiled Bolshevik Leon Trotsky with an ice axe in 1940 in Mexico.
The newspaper reported that Shcherbakov had been spirited out of Moscow to the United States just days before the FBI announced its spy ring sting in late June.