Ex-KGB Fill Russia's Elite

MOSCOW, Russia (Reuters) -- President Vladimir Putin has never hidden his KGB spy past and over three-quarters of Russia's political elite have tell-tale signs of a background in the security services or military, a new study says.
"Our research has shown that ... 78 percent of the Russian elite have signs of being siloviki," Olga Kryshtanovskaya, who has studied the Russian elite since 1989, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Putin served as a lieutenant-colonel in the KGB during the Cold War. Under his government the number of siloviki, as former military or security service officials are known, has increased dramatically and their influence has spread beyond government.
"Before in the Soviet Union there was a politburo which was not a KGB organization so there was a brake, a balance on the KGB," Kryshtanovskaya said.
"Now there is also a 'politburo' but it is made up exclusively of siloviki so there is no brake on the hawks," she said.
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Putin's deputy chief of staff Igor Sechin, FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev and drugs tsar Viktor Cherkesov are among the best known siloviki but the new study turned up surprises too.
"I was very shocked when I looked at the boards of major companies and realized there were lots of people who had completely unknown names, people who were not public but who were definitely, obvious siloviki", Kryshtanovskaya said.
For the study, her Moscow center for the study of the elite examined 1,061 top officials from the Kremlin, the government, top companies, the regions and parliament looking for gaps in their resumes indicating a past as a member of the security or career military services or related institutions.
Special institutes
"People who worked in the KGB used to be recruited either in the army or in universities and then were sent to study in special institutes," Khryshtanovskaya explained.
"In the biographies of those who went to these institutes there is usually what is known as a hole and this hole means they could have studied in one of these institutes."
Khryshtanovskaya also looked for other tell-tale signs, such as service in areas which are historically close to the KGB, such as human resources departments of Russian corporations and foreign branches of Russian banks and news organizations.
She said she was reluctant to be drawn on certain names for fear of reprisals.
Foreign experts on Russia have named Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, Gazprom Deputy CEO Valery Golubyev, Rosoboronexport chief Sergei Chemezov and Aeroflot chairman Viktor Ivanov as figures with a siloviki background.
During the 1990s rule of former president Boris Yeltsin, Russia's security services dramatically lost influence. The KGB was broken up into smaller parts, budgets were cut and thousands of staff left.
But Putin has presided over a big revival of security service power and prestige.
"This rise of the KGB in high state positions is in some senses a social recovery," Khryshtanovskaya commented.
In the latest sign of the growing clout of Russia's spies, Putin last month flew in by helicopter to inspect the $350 million new headquarters of Russian military intelligence.
He toured the futuristic, glass-clad building, posing James Bond-style as he shot a pistol in the firing range.
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