“Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, as you well know, after the start of a special military operation, the countries of the European Union succumbed to the influence of their overseas masters and declared a diplomatic war on our country. Many intelligence officers who performed demanding and often risky service in the diplomatic missions of the Russian Federation were forced to leave European countries,” GRU members complain in a letter sent to Putin. The Russian portal The Insider obtained it from a source in the presidential office.
“For many families of officers, the unexpected departure from diplomatic missions became a personal tragedy and caused a number of problems. We were told to be patient and that everything would be resolved in the near future,” the ex-spies continue. “Many of the wives, almost all of whom have college degrees, have found their own jobs, but decent work and pay simply aren’t available.”
One signatory complained that his wife had been offered an “offensive” delivery of pizzas if she wanted to earn some money. One GRU employee told Insider on condition of anonymity that it is the wives who force their husbands to write angry letters to the head of the Kremlin.
After the invasion of Ukraine, Western countries expelled almost 700 Russian diplomats. Russian embassies have long faced suspicions that they are breeding grounds for Russian spies. It is estimated that agents of the Russian secret services made up almost half of the expelled personnel, in addition to the GRU and the domestic security service FSB or SVR intelligence.
Expelled employees looked for positions in Russian embassies in Africa, Asia, South America and the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which unites nine of the fifteen former republics of the USSR. But a number of positions are already filled, and Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov is said to be “strongly opposed” to expanding the embassy’s staff or firing existing ministry staff.
The Kremlin must rely on domestic spies
Without a diplomatic cover, the Kremlin had to resort to other methods of obtaining intelligence useful information. Western countries encounter cases where their own citizens spy for the Russians, or so-called “illegals” – deeply secret agents who, as part of creating a cover and a false identity, seemingly live a normal life in the given country for decades.
“Many Russian diplomats, spies were expelled. Their human resources have shrunk enormously,” the Deputy Director of Research and Analysis of the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats explained to Euronews. “So now they have to rely on ordinary Russians abroad or maybe people from other countries like Bulgaria who can be forced to talk to someone or gather information from their workplace, maybe somewhere in the technology field.”
GRU members highlight the merits of the service in the letter. They claim that thanks to their efforts, the Russian military learned about the positions, strength and equipment of many units of the Ukrainian army before the start of the “special military operation” or war in Ukraine.
The Insider notes that the GRU warned Putin that Ukrainians would not welcome Russian soldiers with flowers. But the president decided to listen to pro-Russian Ukrainians connected to Moscow and trust the ability of the FSB to create a fifth column in the neighboring country. According to observers, there is a permanent rivalry between the Russian security services, which manifests itself in an effort to please the leadership as much as possible, and the content of the intelligence documents also adapts to this.
The signatories of the letter also criticize the “amateur media” for not sufficiently and properly writing about the “heroic deeds” of the GRU units at the front. However, according to Insider, some Russian media and military bloggers are reporting on the GRU’s combat actions. But the Russian Ministry of Defense is hiding the real losses in Ukraine, and some journalists and bloggers are facing criminal charges for spreading “fake news” about the Russian military.