Online Open Source Investigation lifts the cover of Russian Clandestine Service
On June 21st the the 314th group of the FSB class of 2016 celebrated their graduation by taking a 3 hour joyride through central Moscow. They rented 28 blacked out Mercedes-Benz ‘Geliki’ Gelandewagen SUVs and a videographer to document their excursion, stopping at MGU and the Academy of Sciences to take photos and toast champagne before getting back on the road. The entourage broke traffic laws and blocked multiple lanes with their parade while hanging out of the sunroofs and windows, but police let them ride without consequence. The video, originally uploaded the day after, features a catchy techno beat and egregious closeups of the vehicle’s detailing, making sure the audience is aware of the excess on which $2000+ was spent for this stunt.
This flamboyant show of extravagance and disregard by the FSB class may be distasteful, but it is not surprising when examined in the context of the political and economic corruption that has plagued the Russian Federation since its conception. Super-rich ‘oligarchs’ have held immense power in the Russian economy since Gorbachev and Yeltsin’s privatization of the economy.
These elites have been integrated into Putin’s government as an attempt to control their influence by allowing them to retain their wealth and financial capabilities in exchange for supporting Putin’s regime. The obscenely extravagant lifestyles and spending habits of these oligarchs have been scrutinized and criticized, but still the kleptocrats only continue to prosper. The conduct of these young FSB graduates is characteristic of the same kind of mentality held by financial elites: that the state bureaucracy is a means to advance your own power and wealth while insulating yourself from problems that affect the rest of your country.
“These graduates represent the first generation that has grown up in the Russian Federation, and are entirely products of post-soviet Russian society.”
The oligarchs gained their wealth by taking advantage of the economic chaos in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. While using a nation’s period of turmoil for personal gain is abhorrent in itself, perpetuation of the corrupt system is equally as bad. The young men in this FSB class were born in the early-mid nineties, at the same time the new nation was forming and the oligarchs were accumulating their financial power.
These graduates represent the first generation that has grown up in the Russian Federation, and are entirely products of post-soviet Russian society. Learning from many of their superiors before them, they see a role in government as a way to serve themselves, not their country and its people. And the fact that they not only bragged about the celebration on social media, but had a video produced by a professional shows that they either have no shame for their actions or that they truly believe that this is how official state employees are supposed to behave. If their behavior is indicative of the kind of civil servants Russia is producing, ones that compromise the careers their citizens have paid to prepare them for, ones that drink and joyride across town while blocking traffic on public roads, and ones that celebrate in excess after completing base-level achievements, Russia’s problems with corruption and politico-economic cronyism are certain to remain in its system.
As this is such a blatant blunder by new agents who just spent four years preparing for careers in clandestine operations, the authenticity of the video has to be questioned. It is possible that this video could be a decoy PR stunt, that the men pictured are not actually FSB agents but perhaps decoys meant to confuse foreign intelligence as to who the real FSB agents are. If this is the case, this would be one of the most sophisticated attempts at deception and distraction on social media by the Russian government or FSB as of yet. Withstanding whether or not it is an farce attempting to mislead foreign intelligence, it surely sends a message to Russian people that they are financing state salaries that afford government peons enough disposable income that they can waste it on one afternoon.