Sunday 18 March 2018

Russia to 'bring back KGB' as Putin's party wins landslide victory

President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Reuters
President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Reuters

Marc Bennetts

The KGB is to be revived under a massive shake-up of Russia's security forces, a respected business daily newspaper has reported, after Vladimir Putin's party secured a landslide win in Russia's parliamentary elections.

A State Security Ministry, or MGB, would be created from the current FSB, the Federal Security Service, and would incorporate the SVR foreign intelligence service and the FSO state guard service, under the plans.

It would be handed all-encompassing powers once possessed by the Soviet-era secret police, 'Kommersant' newspaper said.

It would also oversee the prosecution of Kremlin critics, a task currently undertaken by the Investigative Committee. The Kremlin has not commented.

The MGB is expected to be created before the 2018 presidential election, at which Mr Putin could secure a fourth term.

Mr Putin served as a KGB officer in East Germany and is also thought to have been responsible for keeping tabs on dissidents in Leningrad, now St Petersburg.

He headed the FSB from July 1998 to August 1999, before becoming prime minister, and has often joked that there is no such thing as a former KGB officer.

Sergei Goncharov, who served in Russia's now disbanded Alpha counter-terror unit in the 1990s, told state media that the creation of the MGB would provide Russia with a "strong fist".

Kremlin critics were horrified by the possible return of an institution synonymous with political oppression.

The MGB was the name of the state security apparatus for eight years of Joseph Stalin's bloody rule.

It was renamed the KGB after Stalin's death and disbanded in 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The report came less than 24 hours after Mr Putin's ruling United Russia party strengthened its grip on the Duma, the lower house of parliament, taking three-quarters of its 450 seats in Sunday's elections. The two anti-Putin parties on the ballot - Parnas and Yabloko - failed to overcome the 5pc threshold to enter parliament.

The election was marred by apathy and allegations of vote-rigging. Turnout in Moscow was just 35pc, the lowest since Mr Putin came to power in 2000.

"A record low turnout. Democrats get less than 3pc. The MGB is to be recreated. Welcome to the brave new world," said Vladimir Kara-Murza, the deputy leader of Parnas.

Not everything went Mr Putin's way, though. Near-complete results showed the overall turnout was about 48pc, down from nearly 60pc in 2011, suggesting apathy among some Russians and a softening of enthusiasm for the ruling elite.

Mr Putin's aides are likely to use the result as a springboard for his own re-election campaign, though he has not yet confirmed that he will seek another term.

There were some reports of voting irregularities. Reuters reporters at one polling station in the Mordovia region of central Russia witnessed several people casting their ballot, then coming back later and voting again. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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