Putin orders FSB to step up surveillance of Russians and borders

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a ceremony to award Gold Star medals to Heroes of Russia on the eve of Heroes of the Fatherland Day, at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia December 8, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS

Dec 19 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered the Federal Security Services to step up surveillance of Russian society and the country's borders to prevent risks from abroad and traitors at home.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's Security Services Day - widely celebrated in Russia - Putin said the "emergence of new threats" increases the need for greater intelligence activity.

"Work must be intensified through the border services and the Federal Security Service (FSB)," Putin said.

"Any attempts to violate it (the border) must be thwarted quickly and effectively using whatever forces and means we have at our disposal, including mobile action units and special forces."

Putin instructed the FSB to maximise their "use of the operational, technical and personnel potential" to tighten control of the society.

The FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, has already been operating in Russia as an expansive surveillance and censorship apparatus and Moscow's invasion in Ukraine has involved a large swathe of the security services.

"Maximum composure, concentration of forces is now required from counterintelligence agencies, including military intelligence," Putin said, according to transcript of his speech provided by the Kremlin and translated by Reuters.

"It is necessary to severely suppress the actions of foreign special services, quickly identify traitors, spies and saboteurs."

The FSB, headed by Putin ally Alexander Bortnikov, will also increase oversight of mass gatherings, strategic facilities and energy infrastructure.

Since the start of the war, demonstrations and dissent have been swiftly quelled in Russia, with more than 1,300 detained in September at protests denouncing Putin's military mobilisation of 300,000.

In a rare admission of the invasion of Ukraine not going smoothly, Putin said that the situation in Ukraine's regions that Moscow moved to annex in September is "extremely difficult" and ordered the FSB to ensure the "safety" of people living there.

"It is your duty to do everything necessary to ensure their security to the maximum, respect for their rights and freedoms," Putin said, promising them more "modern equipment and weapons."

There is no end in sight to Russia's invasion in Ukraine, now in its 10th month. The conflict, Europe's largest since World War Two, has killed tens of thousands of people, driven millions from their homes, and reduced cities to ruins.

Moscow calls its invasion a "special operation" to denazify and demilitarise its neighbour. Kyiv and its allies in the West call it an unprovoked war of aggression to grab land.

Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Mark Porter, Jonathan Oatis & Shri Navaratnam

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