Less than 24 hours after an election saw Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party increase its hold over the lower house of Russian parliament, plans have surfaced for a new, consolidated intelligence service reminiscent of the KGB. The news comes via a report in the Kommersant newspaper, a respected Russian business outlet.
The new agency, expected to be called the MGB (or State Security Ministry), would be formed from the existing Federal Security Service (known as the FSB), by folding in the existing foreign intelligence service (SVR) and the FSO, a state police service. According to security sources familiar with the plans, the new MGB would have the sort of unilateral power the KGB once enjoyed.
The new service would likely oversee the prosecution of those critical of Putin’s government. That duty currently falls to Alexander Bastrykin, a longtime friend of the president’s who serves as head of the country’s Investigative Committee. The Kremlin has not yet commented on the report.
During the Soviet era, Putin was himself a KGB officer stationed in the former East Germany and in his hometown of St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad).
The MGB name was used previously to refer to a security organization active during Joseph Stalin’s rule. Following Stalin’s death, it was renamed the KGB, which it remained until its demise following the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1991. The new incarnation is reportedly slated to launch before the 2018 elections, in which Putin is expected to seek a fourth term.
On Sunday, the Russian president offered a cautiously worded endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — though he declined to mention the candidate by name. “We are carefully watching what is happening in the United States,” Putin said in a televised briefing. “We, of course, view with sympathy those who publicly state that it is necessary to build a relationship with Russia, on basis of equality.”