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Putin to spy service: Defend Russian elections from foreign foes

Russia President Vladimir Putin makes a statement in Moscow region, Russia, February 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Friday he had seen specific intelligence suggesting Russia’s foreign enemies were preparing for parliamentary elections later this year and ordered the security service to head off any external interference.

Putin, addressing the country’s FSB security service, said foreign intelligence agencies had become much more active in 2015 and that the activities of more than 400 foreign spies had been thwarted with 23 of them charged with criminal offences.

He singled out parliamentary elections in September - which will be held at a time when Russia is navigating an economic crisis fueled by low oil prices, Western sanctions, and a weak rouble - as a particular threat to the Kremlin.

“We need to head off any external attempts to interfere in the elections, in our domestic political life,” said Putin. “You know that certain kinds of (political) technologies exist and have already been used in many countries.”

Referring to what he said was a direct threat to Russia’s sovereignty, he said the FSB had supplied him with specific intelligence that “foreign enemies” were preparing for the elections.

“Everyone should know that we will assiduously work to defend our interests.”

Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Dmitry Solovyov