Keep Us Strong WikiLeaks logo

Currently released so far... 2497 / 251,287

Articles

Browse latest releases

Browse by creation date

Browse by origin

A B C D F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z

Browse by tag

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
QA
YE YM YI

Browse by classification

Community resources

courage is contagious

Viewing cable 09MOSCOW226, PROVOCATIONS FROM RUSSIAN SECURITY SERVICES

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Understanding cables
Every cable message consists of three parts:
  • The top box shows each cables unique reference number, when and by whom it originally was sent, and what its initial classification was.
  • The middle box contains the header information that is associated with the cable. It includes information about the receiver(s) as well as a general subject.
  • The bottom box presents the body of the cable. The opening can contain a more specific subject, references to other cables (browse by origin to find them) or additional comment. This is followed by the main contents of the cable: a summary, a collection of specific topics and a comment section.
To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.

Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #09MOSCOW226.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MOSCOW226 2009-01-30 15:03 2010-12-01 21:09 SECRET Embassy Moscow
VZCZCXYZ0007
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #0226/01 0301525
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 301525Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1706
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
SS E C R E T MOSCOW 000226 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/30/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR RS SOCI
SUBJECT: PROVOCATIONS FROM RUSSIAN SECURITY SERVICES 

REF: MOSCOW 00202 

Classified By: Ambassador John Beyrle. Reason: 1.4 (d). 

1. (S) Summary. With their usual light touch and unique sense 
of timing, the security services appear to be tightening the 
screws on what they see as Russia's internal and foreign 
enemies along three fronts. First was a confidential letter 
from the Federal Security Service (FSB) demanding that USAID 
stop funding NGOs in the North Caucasus. Second, the Interior 
Ministry has brought pressure on the liberal Higher School of 
Economics to expel students who took part in anti-government 
demonstrations in December. Third, and most disturbing, we 
believe the FSB is behind a personal smear attack
XXXXXXXXXXXX the National Democratic Institute's Moscow
office (NDI) that was emailed to NDI and USAID staff this week.
The second provocation has become a public issue, with 
critical articles even in the popular tabloid, Moskovskiy 
Komsomolets, on Ren TV, and commentary on prominent blog 
sites. Taken together, we assess that hard-line silovik 
elements are testing the political waters at home and 
potentially making waves at a time of otherwise positive 
signals of interest in improving US-Russian relations. End 
Summary. 

Warning to USAID 
---------------- 
2. (S) A January 17 letter from the FSB, sent through liaison 
channels, explicitly warned against continued USAID funding 
for NGOs in the North Caucasus. Citing a November trip by a 
named USAID officer, the FSB alleged that US funding to the 
region was "incompetent" and that USAID was not in a position 
to guarantee that funds provided for humanitarian programs 
did not fall into the hands of illegal armed groups. Given 
the tensions in South Ossetia, as well as the conflict in the 
Middle East, the FSB gave notice that "it is necessary to 
refrain from financing any NGO in the North Caucasus, 
regardless of USAID's goals." The letter closed with an 
ominous admonition that unless USAID stops its "incompetent 
actions," the FSB would implement strict preventative 
measures, including the denial of visas. 

3. (S) The FSB letter attempted to justify its position by 
highlighting the complexity of nationalities and religions in 
the North Caucasus, the prevalence of extremist movements, 
and the predominant role played by family loyalties as 
factors that made funding of NGOs in the region dangerous. 
The FSB made implicit threats that information about US 
funding of illegal groups would likely be made public through 
the media, damaging US-Russian counterterrorism efforts. 
Further, the letter noted that "incompetent actions" on the 
part of the "Embassy sections, like USAID" could escalate 
tensions in regions beyond the borders of the North Caucasus 
to the detriment of US and Russian interests. When the 
Ambassador protested this FSB salvo, Deputy Foreign Minister 
Ryabkov claimed (credibly) that the security service 
complaints had not been coordinated with the MFA. 

Warning to Students 
------------------- 

4. (SBU) In mid-January, the Moscow branch of the MVD issued 
a letter to the Higher School of Economics, raising the issue 
of four students (possibly six) who participated in December 
opposition marches with the veiled recommendation that they 
be expelled. According to press reports, the letter warned 
"implementation of un-sanctioned mass acts was one of the 
forms of extremist activity, carrying a high level of 
societal danger, and demands adequate reactive measures on 
the part of the law enforcement organs." The MVD called on 
the institute to look into the circumstance of the students' 
participation in the opposition protests and to consider the 
efficacy of continuing their education. Further, the letter 
sought comments from the heads of the Politics and Economics 
departments about extremism, as well as personal statements 
from the four students. MVD sources told the newspaper 
Moskovskiy Komsomolets (MK) that they were "legally required" 
to inform the place of employment or school of any citizens 
violating social stability. 

5. (C) The institute will hold a meeting on February 4 to 
consider its response, but public comments by the director 
and rector suggest that the school considers such political 
activity to be a "personal" decision, beyond the scope of 
institute censure. XXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXX
"no way" that the institute would adhere to the 
recommendations of the MVD and underscored the unanimity
of  the faculty and student body on this issue. Nezavisimaya 
Gazeta criticized the letter, seeing it as a demonstration of 
the government's "panic" after the anti-tariff protests and 
highlighting the "Soviet" aspect of going after politically 
"unreliable" students. Besides the usual lineup of opposition 
newspapers and websites, the MK article ensures that a 
broader swath of society will learn about this incident -- 
already it has spawned a sharp reaction of support for the 
students and condemnation of the MVD in Russia's blogosphere. 

6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said that XXXXXXXXXXXX
was sure that other institutes and universities had received
similar letters, but had chosen not to make the silovik
demands public or had quietly capitulated. Our consulate
in St. Petersburg noted last year's closing of the European
University, ostensibly for "fire safety" issues, because of
the Political Science department had taken a grant to do
research on electoral politics in Russia. 

Getting Ugly and Personal with NDI 
---------------------------------- 

7. (C) On January 29, USAID FSNs received an email from 
XXXXXXXXXXXX with a photoshopped image of 
XXXXXXXXXXXX reclining with an underage 
child. The picture was attached to a message, ostensibly from 
a Russian citizen, which accused XXXXXXXXXXXX of raping
her  9-year old daughter. This latest provocation falls on the 
heels of a scandal in Murmansk alleging NDI interference in 
local elections and harassment of NDI staff XXXXXXXXXXXX. 
The Ambassador met with representatives from NDI on January 
30 on harassment of the NGO, reported septel. 

Panic or Provocation 
-------------------- 

8. (C) Emboldened by the economic crisis, the silovik forces 
have taken the initiative to stir the waters of Russian 
politics, not only with those letters, but also with the 
proposed revision of the law on treason, on jury trials, and 
the heavy-handed response to the protests in Vladivostok. 
Some of those initiatives have been blunted directly, such as 
Medvedev's decision to revise the proposed law on treason, 
others by publicizing the issue (the letter to the Higher 
School of Economics, for example, received coverage in the 
popular tabloid MK and on Ren TV) -- suggesting an 
intensification of inter-elite conflict. 

9. (C) Comment. We cannot rule out that those provocations 
may in part be directed at complicating efforts to improve 
US-Russian relations. At a time when both Putin and Medvedev 
have indicated the potential for starting with a clean slate 
in relations with the new Obama administration, those within 
the security services who see value (including to their 
budgets) from continued tensions or whose world view is 
predicated on US-Russia conflict are likely under pressure to 
play a spoiler role. Ambassador plans to raise all of those 
incidents forcefully in high-level meetings next week to send 
a message back flagging the risks inherent in allowing rogue 
elements to run amok in the relationship. End Comment. 
BEYRLE