Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly arresting top Russian intelligence and military officials as his invasion of Ukraine remains stalled outside of some major cities, most notably the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
Russian authorities have reportedly detained two top intelligence officials and at least eight military leaders since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in late February, according to the U.K. publication The Times. Reports of the crackdown comes as the war in Ukraine stretches into its third week with the Russian military stalled outside of a number of major Ukrainian cities.
Authorities have arrested Sergey Beseda, who heads the foreign intelligence division of the FSB, a successor to the Soviet Union’s KGB. Anatoly Bolyukh, Beseda’s deputy, was also arrested, reported Andrei Soldatov, co-founder and editor of the investigative outlet Agentura.
Putin appears to be truly unhappy with the FSB in Ukraine: he attacked the 5 Service SOiMS (FSB's foreign Intelligence branch). Sergei Beseda, head of the Service, and his deputy Bolukh, head of the DOI, placed under house arrest, according to my sources inside.
— Andrei Soldatov (@AndreiSoldatov) March 11, 2022
Sources made similar claims to Meduza, an independent news outlet based in Latvia. The outlet reported last week that “General Beseda and his deputy have been placed under house arrest — for reasons including the alleged misuse of funds allocated for operations, as well as for providing bad intelligence.”
The Institute for the Study of War said in a March 11 analysis of the Russia-Ukraine conflict that Putin appeared to be cracking down on top intelligence and military officials to either “save face” or enact retribution for poor intelligence prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:
Putin reportedly fired several generals and arrested Federal Security Service (FSB) intelligence officers in an internal purge. Ukrainian Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov stated on March 9 that the Kremlin has replaced eight generals due to their failures in Ukraine, though ISW cannot independently verify this information. Putin additionally detained several personnel from the FSB’s 5th Service, which is responsible for informing Putin about the political situation in Ukraine. The Federal Protective Service and 9th Directorate of the FSB (its internal security department) reportedly raided the 5th Service and over 20 other locations on March 11. Several media outlets reported that 5th Service Head Sergey Beseda and his deputy Anatoly Bolyukh are under house arrest on March 11. Independent Russian media outlet Meduza claimed the 5th Service might have provided Putin with false information about the political situation in Ukraine ahead of his invasion out of fear of contradicting Putin‘s desired prognosis that a war in Ukraine would be a smooth undertaking. Putin is likely carrying out an internal purge of general officers and intelligence personnel. He may be doing so either to save face after failing to consider their assessments in his own pre-invasion decision-making or in retaliation for faulty intelligence he may believe they provided him.
Vladimir Osechkin, an exiled Russian human rights activist, told The Times that in addition to detaining Beseda and Bolyukh, Russia authorities have also searched at least 20 addresses belonging to intelligence officials suspected of talking with reporters.
“The formal basis for conducting these searches is the accusation of the embezzlement of funds earmarked for subversive activities in Ukraine,” Osechkin said. “The real reason is unreliable, incomplete and partially false information about the political situation in Ukraine.”