MOSCOW— -- President Vladimir Putin is planning a major restructuring of the country’s security services that would effectively mean a rebirth of the KGB, according to a report in the Russian media.
Respected business paper Kommersant quoted anonymous officials as saying that a new body called the “Ministry for State Security” would be established before Russia’s 2018 presidential elections that, in its powers and roles, appears to closely resemble the Soviet-era KGB.
The new body would be known by the acronym “MGB.”
The reforms would restore most of the KGB’s functions to its successor service, the FSB, while also returning the foreign intelligence gathering to the same body, according to the newspaper.
The result would be a single powerful security structure, sitting at the heart of the state's enforcement machinery, much as the KGB once did in the Soviet Union.
Significantly, the changes would grant the new ministry powers not only to conduct criminal investigations but also give it procedural oversight over cases run by Russia’s other law enforcement bodies. At the same time, Russia’s top investigative bodies that now oversee political trials would see their powers sharply reduced and transferred to the MGB. The measures would make the body the most powerful security structure in the country.
“If before we were just providing support to investigation, then now we’re being tasked with managing their progress from the moment that criminal charges are brought to their transfer to court,” an anonymous FSB operative told Kommersant.
The Kremlin has yet to comment on the report. Officials in the agencies that would see their powers curtailed told Kommersant they were not aware of the proposals.
The plan was conceived some months ago and ought to be fulfilled in time for the 2018 elections, according to Kommersant’s sources. But the chief obstacles now were finding the budget to afford the reforms, which would require huge redundancy payments, as well the need to pass laws authorizing them, the sources said.
Parliamentary elections on Sunday delivered Putin's ruling party a decisive majority, meaning the legislative body is unlikely to offer much opposition to the project.
The KGB, or the “Committee for State Security,” was disbanded in 1991 after the Soviet Union fell, and replaced by the FSB, a greatly reduced body with many of the KGB’s responsibilities dispersed among different agencies.
The KGB remains synonymous with spying and political repression. It administered the U.S.S.R’s police state, operating mass surveillance and persecuting dissidents, but also overseeing many of the country’s key institutions. Putin himself worked as an spy for the KGB in East Germany, and later headed the FSB before becoming president
When the U.S.S.R. fell, much of the popular anger against it was directed specifically against the KGB as the keystone of Soviet oppression. The suggestion that the Kremlin is planning to restore it, almost in name, will prompt alarm among some that Putin is working to re-establish the core architecture of the Soviet authoritarian state.