War within Russia's secret services over bogus intelligence

War within Russia’s secret services over bogus intelligence that led to invasion: Blame game erupts over ‘worthless’ info that meant ‘Putin was the most uninformed person to decide about the war’

  • FSB’s 5th Service accused of gathering ‘worthless’ information that misled Putin
  • It’s charged with intelligence and political subversion in former Soviet republics 
  • Sources accuse ‘unprofessional’ service of ‘selling air’ and ‘making things up’
  • Head of the 5th Service allegedly arrested in April over embezzling funds 
  • A bitter new blame game has erupted in Russia’s secret services over the bogus intelligence that led Putin to believing his troops would be welcomed in Ukraine with open arms.

    Much of the blame is being pointed at the door of the FSB’s 5th Service for gathering ‘worthless’ information that misled Russian President Vladimir Putin and left him ‘the most uninformed person to decide about the war’.

    Disputed reports in April stated that Col-General Sergei Beseda, 68, head of the 5th Service, and his deputy, Anatoly Bolyukh, had been detained in April either under house arrest or under pre-trial detention for leaking plans and embezzling funds.

    The 5th Service is known as the foreign spying arm of the FSB, charged primarily with intelligence and political subversion in former Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

    It is also reportedly in charge of the Kremlin’s ‘kill list’ of Ukrainian senior officials and other dissidents who live in Ukraine.

    Sources have told IStories, a media outlet linked to Russia’s top investigative journalists, that ‘the level of professionalism there is worthless.’

    Pictured: Colonel General Sergei Beseda, 68, head of the 5th Service of Russian Federal Security Service. Disputed reports in April stated that he had been detained either under house arrest or under pre-trial detention over furnishing Putin with dud information that led him to setting a target of taking Kyiv in five days, and Mariupol in three

    Pictured: Colonel General Sergei Beseda, 68, head of the 5th Service of Russian Federal Security Service. Disputed reports in April stated that he had been detained either under house arrest or under pre-trial detention over furnishing Putin with dud information that led him to setting a target of taking Kyiv in five days, and Mariupol in three

    Much of the blame within Russian secret services is being pointed at the door of the FSB's 5th Service for gathering 'worthless' information that misled Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) and left him 'the most uninformed person to decide about the war'

    Much of the blame within Russian secret services is being pointed at the door of the FSB’s 5th Service for gathering ‘worthless’ information that misled Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) and left him ‘the most uninformed person to decide about the war’

    A woman walks in front of the headquarters of Russia's Federal Security Services (FSB) in central Moscow

    A woman walks in front of the headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Services (FSB) in central Moscow

    Pictured: Destroyed Russian tanks outside Kyiv. Putin was forced to abort his plan to grab Kyiv, and has only gained control of a devastated and unrecognisable Mariupol after almost three months of fighting, contrary to intelligence he had received prior to the invasion

    Pictured: Destroyed Russian tanks outside Kyiv. Putin was forced to abort his plan to grab Kyiv, and has only gained control of a devastated and unrecognisable Mariupol after almost three months of fighting, contrary to intelligence he had received prior to the invasion

    Pictured: A Ukrainian man walks past a destroyed Russian tank in a damaged field as Russian attacks continue in Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine on May 12

    Pictured: A Ukrainian man walks past a destroyed Russian tank in a damaged field as Russian attacks continue in Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine on May 12

    In fact, Putin was forced to abort his plan to grab the capital, and has only gained control of a devastated and unrecognisable Mariupol after almost three months of fighting.

    Beseda’s agents were ‘selling air’ instead of providing hard and reliable data, according to IStories.

    ‘They would over or misinterpret information, sometimes they would make up things completely,’ said a former FSB officer.

    ‘The senior executives used to believe all of this nonsense.

    ‘For instance, they would report that the regions of Ukraine did not have any real connection with the Kyiv government and would run towards Russia should they have a chance to do so.’

    This led Putin to setting a target to take Kyiv in five days, and Mariupol in three, according to IStories. 

    Another FSB staffer still serving said of the 5th service: ‘It was full of people who had no clue how the job is done.

    ‘Many people would refuse to join the department, it is something of a swamp really.’

    A key problem was that the spies Putin relied on were gathering intelligence from discredited and fugitive members of the Ukrainian government overthrown in 2014.

    These people had an axe to grind and fed false or misleading information to the 5th Service that painted a far rosier picture of a prospective invasion.

    Anatoly Bolyukh, deputy head of the 5th Service of the Federal Security Service, head of the operational information department, was reportedly dismissed from his post in April

    Anatoly Bolyukh, deputy head of the 5th Service of the Federal Security Service, head of the operational information department, was reportedly dismissed from his post in April

    A charred Russian tank and captured tanks are seen, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Sumy region, Ukraine, March 7

    A charred Russian tank and captured tanks are seen, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in the Sumy region, Ukraine, March 7

    Leading security expert and journalist Andrei Soldatov

    Colonel General Sergei Beseda

    Sources were speaking to respected investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov and Russian media outlet IStories

    Another ex-FSB agent told journalists: ‘They would feed Beseda with their made-up fantasies to seem worthwhile and receive financial aid.

    ‘They were also dreaming about returning to Ukraine.

    ‘They would even plan out what positions they would take in the future. This way they adapted their stories to create a favourable picture.’

    Both Beseda and Bolyukh were reported to have been arrested over reports that they had simply embezzled much of the billions earmarked for subversion and ‘fifth column’ operations in Ukraine that would undermine the country’s ability to resist Russia’s invasion from within.

    These accounts are now disputed by at least four sources despite stark new evidence of the incompetent intelligence reaching Putin, according to IStories. 

    ‘Beseda is untouchable,’ one source told IStories, a media outlet linked to Russia’s top investigative journalists.

    ‘People like him don’t get jailed.’

    Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of Russia's Security Council in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 21 February, the day before the invasion of Ukraine

    Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of Russia’s Security Council in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 21 February, the day before the invasion of Ukraine

    It is unclear if he is still in post or currently advising Putin but the report stated: ‘At the start of the war many media even reported Beseda and colleagues were arrested for the fact their information about Ukraine was false.

    A member of a Russian special-purpose unit – referring to Putin – told IStories: ‘However funny it may sound, the decision about the war was taken by the most uninformed person that could possibly have taken it. The president.’

    The report said that while Beseda may not have been arrested, there is a mood for recriminations.

    ‘No-one hides that inside FSB that there are big questions over the work of the 5th service,’ said the report.

    ‘Moreover, many fellow FSB are thirsty for the blood of their colleagues from that service, and wait for criminal cases to start against them.’

    Novaya Gazeta – an independent Russian investigative news outlet now in exile – wrote: ‘Putin relied upon the information provided by incompetent FSB officers when he planned his invasion into Ukraine.’

    Other accounts, especially from leading security expert and journalist Andrei Soldatov, have insisted that Beseda was detained as part of a sweep up of dozens of FSB operatives seen as having given Putin dud data over Ukraine.

    He was being held in Lefortovo under a pseudonym, it was claimed.

    ‘Right now the military is blaming the FSB for many things,’ Soldatov told Radio Free Europe

    ‘[It’s] not only about the decision to go to war [and how they did it], but also about how the war is being conducted and all the mistakes that are being made. 

    ‘Of course, we are not talking about the [Russian] military thinking that it was better to not get into the war. 

    ‘Unfortunately, I don’t see that as a big sentiment in the military. They’re quite pro-war, actually — aggressively pro-war, I’d say. 

    ‘They’re just not happy with the way it has been conducted.’