Home SECRET SERVICES GRU – Russian Military Intelligence
GRU – Russian Military Intelligence
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GRU – Russian Military Intelligence

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Main Intelligence Agency (Russian: Гла́вное разве́дывательное управле́ние, tr. Glavnoye razvedyvatel’noye upravleniye; IPA: [ˈglavnəjə rɐzˈvʲɛdɨvətʲɪlʲnəjə ʊprɐˈvlʲenʲɪjə]), abbreviated GRU (Russian: ГРУ; IPA: [geeˈru]), is the foreign military intelligence main agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (formerly the Soviet Army General Staff of the Soviet Union). The official full name is Main Intelligence Agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (Russian:Гла́вное разве́дывательное управле́ние Генера́льного шта́ба Вооружённых Сил Росси́йской Федера́ции). It is also known as GRU GSh (Russian: ГРУ ГШ; abbreviation of ГРУ Генера́льного шта́ба, tr. GRU Generalnovo Shtaba (English: GRU of the General Staff)).

The GRU is Russia’s largest foreign intelligence agency.[1] In 1997 it deployed six times as many agents in foreign countries as the SVR, the successor of the KGB‘s foreign operations directorate. It also commanded 25,000 Spetsnaz troops in 1997.

History

GRU Official emblem (until 2009) with motto engraved: “Greatness of the Motherland in your glorious deeds”

Its first predecessor in Russia was created on October 21, 1918 under the sponsorship of Leon Trotsky, who was then the civilian leader of the Red Army;[3] it was originally known as the Registration Agency (Registrupravlenie, or RU). Simon Aralov was its first head. In his history of the early years of the GRU, Raymond W. Leonard writes:

As originally established, the Registration Department was not directly subordinate to the General Staff (at the time called the Red Army Field Staff – Polevoi Shtab). Administratively, it was the Third Department of the Field Staff’s Operations Directorate. In July 1920, the RU was made the second of four main departments in the Operations Directorate. Until 1921, it was usually called the Registrupr (Registration Department). That year, following the Soviet–Polish War, it was elevated in status to become the Second (Intelligence) Directorate of the Red Army Staff, and was thereafter known as the Razvedupr. This probably resulted from its new primary peacetime responsibilities as the main source of foreign intelligence for the Soviet leadership. As part of a major re-organization of the Red Army, sometime in 1925 or 1926 the RU (then Razvedyvatelnoe Upravlenye) became the Fourth (Intelligence) Directorate of the Red Army Staff, and was thereafter also known simply as the “Fourth Department.” Throughout most of the interwar period, the men and women who worked for Red Army Intelligence called it either the Fourth Department, the Intelligence Service, the Razvedupr, or the RU. […] As a result of the re-organization [in 1926], carried out in part to break up Trotsky’s hold on the army, the Fourth Department seems to have been placed directly under the control of the State Defense Council (Gosudarstvennaia komissiia oborony, or GKO), the successor of the RVSR. Thereafter its analysis and reports went directly to the GKO and the Politburo, apparently even bypassing the Red Army Staff.[4]

It was given the task of handling all military intelligence, particularly the collection of intelligence of military or political significance from sources outside the Soviet Union. The GRU operated residencies all over the world, along with the SIGINT (signals intelligence) station in Lourdes, Cuba, and throughout the former Soviet-bloc countries, especially in Lithuania, Latvia, andEstonia.

The first head of the 4th Directorate was Janis Karlovich Berzin, a Latvian Communist and former member of the Cheka, who remained in the post until 28 November 1937, when he was arrested and subsequently liquidated during Joseph Stalin‘s Great Purge.

The GRU was known in the Soviet government for its fierce independence from the rival “internal intelligence organizations“, such as NKVD and KGB. At the time of the GRU’s creation, Lenin infuriated the Cheka (predecessor of the KGB) by ordering it not to interfere with the GRU’s operations.

Nonetheless, the Cheka infiltrated the GRU in 1919. That worsened a fierce rivalry between the two agencies, which were both engaged in espionage and was even more intense than the rivalry between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency in the US.

The existence of the GRU was not publicized during the Soviet era, but documents concerning it became available in the West in the late 1920s, and it was mentioned in the 1931 memoirs of the first OGPU defector, Georges Agabekov, and described in detail in the 1939 autobiography (I Was Stalin’s Agent) of Walter Krivitsky, the most senior Red Army intelligence officer ever to defect.[5] It became widely known in Russia, and the West outside the narrow confines of the intelligence community, during perestroika, in part thanks to the writings of “Viktor Suvorov” (Vladimir Rezun), a GRU officer who defected to Great Britain in 1978, and wrote about his experiences in the Soviet military and intelligence services. According to Suvorov, even the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to enter GRU headquarters, needed to go through a security screening.

The GRU is still a very important part of the Russian Federation’s intelligence services, especially since it was never split up, unlike the KGB.[6] The KGB was dissolved after aiding a failed coup in 1991 against the then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. It has since been divided into the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Activities

According to the Federation of American Scientists: “Though sometimes compared to the US Defense Intelligence Agency, [the GRU’s] activities encompass those performed by nearly all joint US military intelligence agencies as well as other national US organizations. The GRU gathers human intelligence through military attaches and foreign agents. It also maintains significant signals intelligence (SIGINT) and imagery reconnaissance (IMINT) and satellite imagery capabilities.”[7] GRU Space Intelligence Directorate has put more than 130 SIGINT satellites into orbit. GRU and KGB SIGINT network employed about 350,000 specialists.[8]

According to GRU defector Kalanbe,[citation needed] “Though most Americans do not realize it, America is penetrated by Russian military intelligence to the extent that arms caches lie in wait for use by Russian special forces.” He also described a possibility that compact tactical nuclear weapons known as “suitcase bombs” are hidden in the US[9][10] and noted that “the most sensitive activity of the GRU is gathering intelligence on American leaders, and there is only one purpose for this intelligence: targeting information for spetsnaz (special forces) assassination squads [in the event of war].” The American leaders will be easily assassinated using the “suitcase bombs,” according to Lunev.[9] GRU is “one of the primary instructors of terrorists worldwide” according to Lunev.[9] Terrorist Shamil Basayev reportedly worked for this organization.[11][12][13]

US Congressman Curt Weldon supported claims by Lunev but noted that Lunev had “exaggerated things” according to the FBI.[14] Searches of the areas identified by Lunev – who admits he never planted any weapons in the US – have been conducted, “but law-enforcement officials have never found such weapons caches, with or without portable nuclear weapons.”[15]

During the 2006 Georgian–Russian espionage controversy, four officers working for the GRU Alexander Savva, Dmitry Kazantsev, Aleksey Zavgorodny and Alexander Baranov were arrested by the Counter-Intelligence Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia and were accused of espionage and sabotage. This spy network was managed from Armenia by GRU Colonel Anatoly Sinitsin. A few days later the arrested officers were handed over to Russia through the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).[16][17]

GRU detachments from Chechnya were transferred to Lebanon independently of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon after the 2006 Lebanon War “to improve Russia’s image in the Arab world”, according to Sergei Ivanov.[18] Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was assassinated by two GRU officers. GRU officers have also been accused of creating criminal death squads.[19]

The GRU has significant part in Russia’s involvement in Syrian civil war.

Miscellaneous

Chechnya

Dmitry Kozak and Vladislav Surkov, members of the Vladimir Putin administration, reportedly served in GRU. Two Chechen former warlords Said-Magomed Kakiev and Sulim Yamadayev are commanders of Special Battalions Vostok and Zapad (“East” and “West”) that are controlled by the GRU. The battalions each included close to a thousand fighters[20] until their disbandment in 2008.

Baranov

In 2002, Bill Powell, former Moscow bureau chief at Newsweek, wrote Treason, an account of the experiences of former GRU colonel Vyacheslav Baranov, who had betrayed GRU for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and agreed to spy for it. He was exposed to the Russians by a mole in either the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the CIA and spent five years in prison before he was released. The identity of the mole remains unknown to this day, but speculation has mounted that it could have been Robert Hanssen.[21]

Agents

21st century

Historical “illegals”

Naval agents

Defectors

Chairmen

The Head of the Russian Military Intelligence is a military officer and is the highest ranking intelligence officer in Russia. He is the primary military intelligence adviser to the Russian Minister of Defense and to the Chief of Staffand also answers to the President of Russia.

Head of USSR’s GRU

Since 1991

# Head Term President(s) served under
1 Yevgeny Timokhin November 1991 – August 1992 Boris Yeltsin
2 Fyodor Ladygin August 1992 – May 1997 Boris Yeltsin
3 Valentin Korabelnikov May 1997 – April 2009 Boris Yeltsin
Vladimir Putin
Dmitry Medvedev
4 Alexander Shlyakhturov April 2009 – December 2011 Dmitry Medvedev
5 Igor Sergun December 2011 – January 2016 Dmitry Medvedev
Vladimir Putin
vacant position January 3 – February 1, 2016 Vladimir Putin
6 Igor Korobov (Коробов, Игорь Валентинович (ru)) Since February 2, 2016 Vladimir Putin

Fictional uses

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