OSC Media Aid: Profile of Russian Security Services Commentator Andrey Soldatov
Russia -- OSC Media Aid
Tuesday, November 25, 2008 T15:47:04Z
Journal Code: 9241 Language: ENGLISH Record Type: FULLTEXT
Document Type: OSC Media Aid
Word Count: 1,350
Profile of Prominent Russian Security Services Commentator Andrey SoldatovOver the past decade, journalist Andrey Alekseyevich Soldatov has established himself as a prominent commentator on Russian security and intelligence services. In 2000, Soldatov co-founded the security-focused website Agentura.ru and he continues to serve as the site's editor-in-chief. On several occasions Soldatov was questioned by the Federal Security Service (FSB) concerning the content of his reporting, but he has otherwise operated with relative freedom. This may be due to his father's (Aleksey Anatolyovich Soldatov) ties to the Russian security services. In addition to his work with Agentura.ru, Soldatov is a featured columnist for the independent papers Novaya Gazeta and The Moscow Times, and appears regularly as a security consultant on the outspoken radio station Ekho Moskvy.
Andrey Soldatov began writing about the Russian security and intelligence services in the late 1990s while working as a technology correspondent. By 2000, he began focusing specifically on the organization and operation of Russian special services. Since then, Soldatov has regularly highlighted the increasing influence of the special services in Russian government, reported on the security services' efforts to limit journalistic freedoms, followed spy cases, interviewed defectors, and chronicled personnel appointments and reorganizations of the special services.
Soldatov has worked primarily for media outlets claiming some independence from Russian state control and, therefore, more frequently read by Western observers.
Early in his career Soldatov wrote for the now defunct daily Segodnya, owned by anti-Kremlin oligarch Vladimir Gusinskiy (Kommersant, 18 April 2001). He also wrote for the sensationalist weekly Versiya (now Nasha Versiya), which has been accused of publishing state secrets and which frequently has been critical of the security and intelligence agencies (NTV International, 17 November 2000; Segodnya, 18 November 2000). Soldatov presently writes for independent weekly Novaya Gazeta and is a regular commentator on the radio station Ekho Moskvy, both of which routinely criticize the Kremlin and its policies.
In 2000 he and several other journalists set up Agentura.ru, a self-described "Russian internet source dedicated to covering the special services, intelligence services, and the war on terrorism."
In addition to articles about the special services, the site also features detailed organizational charts of each of the Russian security and intelligence agencies. Soldatov and other contributors also monitor and write about American, British, and other Western security and intelligence agencies. Since 2006, Agentura.ru has listed the anti-government paper Novaya Gazeta as its primary media partner.
Critic of the FSB
As a journalist "monitoring" highly secretive agencies and individuals, Soldatov has occasionally run afoul of the FSB. On at least two occasions Soldatov was summoned by the FSB to answer questions concerning articles he has published, but in both cases was not arrested.
In November 2002, while he was working for the sensationalist weekly Versiya, the FSB brought criminal charges against him and Versiya for revealing state secrets after Soldatov published an article questioning the FSB version of the October 2002 storming of the Nord-Ost Theater, which had been seized by Chechen terrorists in October 2002. Although he was questioned for weeks, the charges were dropped in December 2002. Soldatov was again questioned by the FSB following his 4 February 2008 interview with defector and former Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Colonel Sergey Tretyakov (Novaya Gazeta).
Despite being questioned and charged by the FSB on several occasions, Soldatov has continued to cover hot-button issues such as corruption, security service defectors, and the increasing role the special services in limiting free speech in Russia.
In addition to covering the defector Tretykov, Soldatov wrote extensively on the defection and subsequent murder of ex-KGB officer Aleksandr Litvinenko. Most recently he covered the flight from Russia of Aleksandr Novikov, who claimed that for two years he was an "FSB agent under cover in the United Civil Front" (Novaya Gazeta, 20 March). Soldatov regularly highlighted openly known instances of corruption among members of the security services, but has noted that there is "virtually no data published on crimes by operations personnel and investigators - yet they are the ones who have the right to conduct investigative and intelligence activities, which gives them far more opportunities than army officers have" (Moskovskiye Novosti, 4 Feb 2005). In February 2008, Soldatov signed a petition of journalists demanding the FSB and Russian authorities release The New Times correspondent Natalya Morar who was detained and refused entrance into Russia, because of her reports exposing high-level corruption. The open letter asserted that "by responding to journalistic investigations with such measures the Russian government represented by the FSB and Vladimir Putin personally are effectively admitting all the instances of corruption set forth in Morar's articles" (Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal, 29 February).
Most recently, Soldatov has focused on the role of the FSB under President Vladimir Putin and now under new Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev. He has repeatedly emphasized the autonomous nature of the security services and argued that they have shifted from ensuring domestic stability to protecting big business.
According to Soldatov, Putin's influence over the secret services is limited, because they are "first and foremost impenetrable...not only to the press and deputies but to the executive as well." As evidence, Soldatov cited Putin's 2005 reported tasking of FSB Major General Yuriy Gorbunov to purge the FSB of certain generals. However, once dismissed, the "generals simply refused to leave their offices" (Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal, 4 May). Soldatov contended that "Medvedev's main task as president" was to "define the relationship between the special services and big business" (Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal, 13 May).
To those following the increasingly hostile environment for journalists in Russia, Soldatov's career is a curiosity. In an era where journalists are regularly threatened or even killed for their reporting, Soldatov has highlighted the increasing role of former KGB personnel in key government positions. He has covered corruption and spy scandals, interviewed defectors, and exposed operations of the special services with relatively few consequences.
Perhaps Soldatov has enjoyed protection because of his father's position and ties to the security services. Soldatov's father, Aleksey (Anatolyovich Soldatov) is widely known for his pioneering efforts bringing the Internet to Russia and for his expertise in telecommunications. Since 1991 the senior Soldatov has presided over the technology firm Relkom and consulted with the Russian government and security services on technology and security issues. Additionally, from 2000 to June 2006, Aleksey Soldatov's company Relkom served as the primary hosting for his son Andrey Soldatov's Agentura.ru.
In June 2008, Vladimir Putin appointed Aleksey Soldatov as the deputy communications minister (CNews, 30 June). The senior Soldatov currently serves as an expert advisor for the Duma's security committee (CNews, 30 June). From 1995 through 1997 Aleksey Soldatov served as a special adviser to the general director of the Federal Agency of Government Communications and Information (FAPSI), which in March 2003 was merged into the FSB (Vedomosti, 12 March 2003).
Born in 1975, Soldatov graduated from Moscow State University's School of Journalism before beginning his career in 1996 with the newspaper Segodnya. Soldatov has since written for the business journal Kompaniya, the popular daily Izvestiya, and the sensationalist-weekly Versiya. After founding Agentura.ru in 2000, Soldatov has been a featured columnist with Novaya Gazeta and has covered intelligence issues for Vedomosti, Ekho Moskvy, Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal, and most recently the English-language daily The Moscow Times. In 2005, with Agentura.ru contributor Irina Borogan, Soldatov co-authored the book in Russian entitled: Novyye Igry Patriotov: Spetsluzhby Menyayut Kozhu 1991-2004 (New Patriot Games. How Secret Services Have Been Changing Their Skin 1991-2004 ).
This OSC product is based exclusively on the content and behavior of selected media and has not been coordinated with other US Government components.