U.S. hires KGB-linked com­pany to guard em­bassy

San Francisco Chronicle - - WORLD - By An­drew Hig­gins An­drew Hig­gins is a New York Times writer.

MOSCOW — When Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in July or­dered U.S. diplo­matic mis­sions in Rus­sia to slash their staff by 755 em­ploy­ees, the State De­part­ment said it would need time to as­sess the “im­pact of such a lim­i­ta­tion and how we will re­spond to it.”

Part of that re­sponse has now be­come clear: To make up for the loss of se­cu­rity guards axed in the Rus­sian-man­dated staff cuts, Wash­ing­ton has hired a pri­vate Rus­sian com­pany that grew out of a se­cu­rity busi­ness co-founded by Putin’s for­mer KGB boss, an 82-year-old veteran spy who spent 25 years plant­ing agents in West­ern se­cu­rity ser­vices and hunt­ing down their op­er­a­tives.

Un­der a $2.8 mil­lion no-bid con­tract awarded by the Of­fice of Ac­qui­si­tions in Wash­ing­ton, se­cu­rity guards at the U.S. Em­bassy in Moscow and at con­sulates in St. Petersburg, Yeka­ter­in­burg and Vladi­vos­tok will be pro­vided by Elite Se­cu­rity Hold­ings, a com­pany closely linked to the for­mer top KGB fig­ure, Vik­tor Bu­danov, a re­tired gen­eral who be­came head of Soviet coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence.

A State De­part­ment of­fi­cial in Wash­ing­ton, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity in ac­cor­dance with the de­part­ment’s rules, said that Elite Se­cu­rity and in­di­vid­u­als as­so­ci­ated with it had been “vet­ted” with “rel­e­vant na­tional and lo­cal agen­cies” and would not in­crease the threat risk.

Rus­sian com­pany records show that Bu­danov is a for­mer mi­nor­ity owner of at least three of Elite’s branches. Records in­di­cate that he no longer holds any own­er­ship stake, but Kom­m­er­sant, a Rus­sian busi­ness news­pa­per, has re­ported that the com­pany’s head of­fice in Moscow is run by his son, Dim­itri.

Marines will con­tinue to guard U.S. diplo­matic mis­sions, but tasks pre­vi­ously han­dled by lo­cal guards hired di­rectly by the em­bassy in Moscow, like screen­ing vis­i­tors, will be taken over by Elite Se­cu­rity.

Lo­cal guards are mostly re­stricted to the perime­ter of diplo­matic com­pounds and do not gen­er­ally have ac­cess to se­cure ar­eas.

“This is very good for us,” said Mikhail Lyu­bi­mov, a for­mer KGB spy who knew Bu­danov from their time to­gether in the Soviet in­tel­li­gence ser­vice. “If I were the chief there, I would never do this for a very clear rea­son,” he said, adding that the Rus­sian Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton would not put se­cu­rity in the hands of a U.S. com­pany known to have ties to the CIA.

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