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Spy Agency Told to Help Companies

The Foreign Intelligence Service must work harder to protect the interests of Russian companies abroad, President Vladimir Putin said Friday, introducing former Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov as head of the spy agency. 

"Fradkov's appointment as the director of the SVR underscores the important place foreign intelligence plays in the system of Russia's state institutions," Putin said in televised remarks as he presented Fradkov to his staff. 

Analysts say the appointment proves that Fradkov, who had been prime minister since 2004, has a background in intelligence. Putin did not confirm this Friday, but he did say that Fradkov was the right man for the job. "I think the man who headed the government for more than three years does not need any extra recommendation," he said. "Because of his previous jobs, Fradkov knows how intelligence works, knows in person its leading figures." 

Putin said he wanted the SVR to help fight terrorism, but also expected Fradkov to build up efforts in economic espionage. The agency "must be able to swiftly and adequately evaluate changes in the international economic situation, understand their consequences for the domestic economy and, of course, it's necessary to more actively protect the economic interest of our companies abroad," Putin said.
Russia, whose economic growth has made it increasingly active in world markets, complains that its companies are discriminated against in Europe and the United States when they try to make acquisitions in politically sensitive sectors. Russia, in turn, has blocked foreigners from investing in areas it deems strategic. 

U.S. intelligence officials said earlier this year that Russian spying in the United States had returned to Cold War levels. British intelligence has made similar statements. 

Putin, a longtime KGB officer and former head of the Federal Security Service, has brought many former colleagues into the country's leadership. 

Fradkov replaced Sergei Lebedev, who was chosen earlier this month as executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose grouping of 12 former Soviet republics.


(The Moscow Times 22.x.07)

 
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