Legacy of fear Key Putin ally commands force of 13,000
Russia’s SVR traces its roots to the foundation of the Soviet Union’s NKVD Foreign Department in 1920.
The NKVD became the KGB and left a legacy of targeted killings to undermine foreign governments and practised mokroye delo, “wet affairs”, the spilling of blood, to take out “traitors” who had fled abroad.
The SVR split from the KGB – now the FSB – at the end of the Cold War and is seen as being in competition with the military intelligence service, the GRU. SVR spies are trained in Moscow at an academy known as The Institute. Its most famous graduate is Vladimir Putin who served as an agent in East Germany and was chairman of the SVR for a decade.
Its head is key Putin ally Sergei Naryshkin, 64, who served as his chief of staff and chairman of the Russian parliament.
Mr Naryshkin, born in St Petersburg, is the subject of financial sanctions by the UK, the EU and the US. European diplomats say he commands a force of 13,000 staff and officers around the world.