An interview with FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev

In our country, the terrorist threat level has been reduced substantially thanks to the state’s system for countering terrorism, established on the initiative and under the direct leadership of President Putin. The number of terrorist attacks in Russia dropped from 257 in 2005 to 112 in 2006.

The 22nd meeting of the CIS Council of Directors of Security Agencies and Special Services (CDSASS) is taking place in St. Petersburg on May 22-23, marking the tenth anniversary of its formation. On the eve of this event, we interviewed Nikolai Platonovich Patrushev, director of the Federal Security Services (FSB) and CDSASS chairman.

Question: Some details, please, about the composition of the CDSASS and its activity directions.

Nikolai Patrushev: In 1995, the FSB proposed organizing joint activities within the CIS Conference of Directors of Security Agencies and Special Services – and in 1997, this was converted to a Council with the same title.

CDSASS members are the heads of security agencies and special services in ten CIS countries, with the representatives of Turkmanistan and Uzbekistan participating as observers.

The CDSASS, now assembling for the 22nd time, is considered one of the most effective CIS bodies, with countering international terrorism as its main focus of activity. Other CDSASS objectives include countering smuggling of arms and ammunition, radioactive materials, explosives, and toxins; ensuring information security; and preventing illegal trafficking in narcotics and psychotropic substances.

All the same, our capabilities within the CIS format aren’t always sufficient. So we have decided to invite the special services of certain other countries to participate in the CDSASS as well. Since the 19th meeting, special service representatives from Germany, Spain, Italy, and France have attended as observers.

Moreover, CDSASS members play an active role in the annual Conference of Directors of Special Services, Security Agencies, and Law Enforcement Bodies on Countering Terrorism, organized on the FSB’s initiative. Its fifth meeting, held in June 2006 in Kazan, was attended by 75 delegations from 50 countries. This year’s Conference will be held in September in Khabarovsk.

Question: And what are the major terrorist threats worldwide and in Russia at present? What do they stem from?

Nikolai Patrushev: Analysis of the global situation shows that the danger of terrorist attacks will increase. According to various estimates, over 11,000 acts of terror were committed worldwide in 2005, and over 14,000 in 2006.

In our country, the terrorist threat level has been reduced substantially thanks to the state’s system for countering terrorism, established on the initiative and under the direct leadership of President Vladimir Putin. The number of terrorist attacks in Russia dropped from 257 in 2005 to 112 in 2006. Over 300 acts of terror were prevented, and 546 members of the bandit underground and their accomplices laid down their arms and returned to a life of peace. Undoubtedly, an important organizing role in this was played by the National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAC), established last year, which is taking deliberate measures to prevent terrorism.

Question: How is the FSB cooperating with its foreign partners, and what can you tell us about the results and prospects of this cooperation?

Nikolai Patrushev: The FSB is cooperating actively with 136 security agencies, special services, and border guard agencies. Cooperation includes substantial attention to exposing and preventing the funding of international terrorism.

In recent years, terrorists have made deliberate efforts to gain access to technologies that may be used to produce weapons of mass destruction. This is a threat to the whole world, and it’s another area where we are working together with our partners.

Question: What does cooperation mean in practice?

Nikolai Patrushev: In practice, the basic forms of cooperation are information exchange, carrying out each other’s requests, carrying out coordinated operations or searches, establishing joint groups of experts, and training personnel. Inter-state and inter-agency programs and plans are carried out on a multilateral basis.

The institution of official representatives plays an important role in reinforcing contacts. Ninety representatives of foreign law enforcement agencies and special services are accredited with the FSB. We have representatives in 34 countries: all CIS countries and 23 countries outside the CIS. We intend to continue strengthening this area of activity.

In the process of information exchange, we are guided by the need to ensure confidentiality and security not only for our own information, but also for the secrets of our partners.

Question: Energy export stability – this is more than an economic issue for Russia. To what extent do efforts to counter international terrorism include protection for fuel and energy sector infrastructure?

Nikolai Patrushev: We have experience in successfully investigating such crimes – including the gas pipeline explosion in the Kirov region. The FSB is currently working with the relevant federal executive branch bodies to develop some proposals for expanding cooperation with other countries in the area of anti-terrorist and counter-sabotage security for fuel and energy sector infrastructure. We intend to invite our partners to establish a specialized database within the CIS Anti-Terrorist Center.

Question: The role of the CIS in the former Soviet Union is changing – some new international organizations are being established. Are these processes affecting cooperation between the special services of CIS countries?

Nikolai Patrushev: We are accumulating experience in various forms of cooperation, necessitated by new threats or specific regional circumstances. For example, there are the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), the CIS Anti-Terrorist Center, and the Conference of Directors of Special Services, Security Agencies, and Law Enforcement Bodies – the FSB’s partners from other countries.

Question: Russia is chairing the RATS in 2007. What is the nature of cooperation within this structure?

Nikolai Patrushev: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization may be described as one of the most rapidly developing structures out of all the international regional organizations joined by Russia. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s RATS was established in Tashkent in 2004.

With the active involvement of the FSB, Russia has established a legislative foundation for RATS activities, facilitating effective implementation of decisions. We are actively expanding cooperation within RATS on preventing drug trafficking from Afghanistan. The RATS database is almost ready – it will start functioning from late 2007.

Question: Are any foreign special services assisting Russia with the counter-terrorist operation in the North Caucasus?

Nikolai Patrushev: Yes, they are. We have carried out joint operations with our partners from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. They have resulted in the arrest and extradition of the individuals responsible for a terrorist attack in Volgodonsk and the Kirov region gas pipeline explosion, as well as members of armed gangs operating on the territory of Chechnya, and so on.

We have worked with our foreign colleagues to put a stop to the activities of structures that support terrorists in the North Caucasus – for example, we have shut down their information center in Azerbaijan.

On our part, we are providing assistance to our partners. Citizens of Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan who fled to Russia after committing crimes have been extradited to their countries of origin.

We have worked with our Kyrgyzstan partners to expose and stop the activities of a terrorist group operating in Russia and Kyrgyzstan. Headed by Sadykov, a citizen of Uzbekistan, this group was involved in the Tashkent bombings of spring 2004 and a number of other attacks.

There is a strong emphasis on working together to stop the activities of emissaries and accomplices of international terrorist organizations like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Hizb ut-Tahrir – exposing their links to terrorists in the North Caucasus and other terrorist organizations.

Cooperation with our partners in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan between 2005 and 2007 has stopped the activities of around 70 terrorist emissaries and functionaries in Russia, with over 30 criminal cases opened and 29 active members of international terrorist organizations extradited.

Criminals are also extradited from Western countries to Russia. Isayev, involved in the attack on Buinaksk in 1995, was extradited to Russia from Sweden in 2005. Belgium agreed to extradite Stekhnovsky, involved in the act of terror that killed Duma member Galina Starovoitova.

In the process of cooperating with our foreign partners, we have received repeated confirmation that there are established channels for transferring terrorists to the North Caucasus, and well-organized routes for moving gunmen from that region to other hotspots. Work on detecting and blocking terrorist movement channels is an important area of cooperation with our foreign colleagues.

All the same, we cannot say that we are completely satisfied with the level and quality of cooperation with some of our partners. We are seriously concerned about a number of countries – incuding some that are members of the Anti-Terrorist Coalition – offering asylum, or even political refugee status, to bandidts who fought in the North Caucasus. We believe that measures should be taken to find and compile a body of evidence for the criminal activities of these individuals.