The Kremlin’s power apparatus is becoming increasingly tense. This is evidenced by internal information obtained by ARD and DW journalists during a conversation with a woman who worked for the Russian secret service FSB and who is speaking publicly for the first time.
Maria Dmitrieva (31) managed to escape from Russia – via North Africa to the transit zone at the airport in Paris, where she applied for political asylum. She says she can no longer bear what is happening in her homeland:
“I want the dying to stop.” I don’t want more people to die in Ukraine, and I don’t want more Russians to die.”
She is a doctor by profession and says that since 2016 she has worked for three Russian security agencies – the last being the FSB state security service. But the war in Ukraine, she says, forced her to break ties with the state. She spoke with the journalist team of the ARD political magazine “Kontraste” on the coast in southern France.
Dmitrieva is neither an oppositionist nor a liberal. She herself was part of Putin’s system until recently, working for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Defense and the FSB secret service. She is speaking for the public for the first time.
Many think the war is lost
Many in the FSB think the war is lost, she says. As a doctor, she repeatedly treated disgruntled employees who wanted to quit:
“They said they were tired, but the FSB is not abandoned just like that.” It is a highly valued job that is very hard to come by. And when three young employees quit in a month, it means they don’t agree with the system.”
Dmitrieva thinks secret service officers fear that one day they will have to answer for crimes in Russia’s war of aggression.
Her statements cannot be independently verified. Dmitrieva shows the journalists documents that confirm that she worked in the Russian security services, and based on the plane tickets, it can be seen when she arrived in France.
Gerhard Mangot, a political scientist and expert on Russia from the University of Innsbruck, believes that Dmitrieva’s assessment is fundamentally credible:
“I have already heard from my sources that questions are being raised in the leadership of the FSB, how much they are willing to pay for victory in Ukraine.” And that there is an increasing number of those who worry that Russia could lose this war.”
Security forces believe that Putin has betrayed them with this war
Vladimir Osechkin speaks similarly. The Russian human rights activist and founder of gulagu.net, an NGO that exposes abuses in Russian prisons, has good contacts with critical secret service officials. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, under the motto “wind of change”, he has published numerous reports of a Russian agent on the Internet, which, according to the Kontraste magazine, Western services believe to be authentic.
“Judging by sources from the system there, many believe that what Putin started on February 24 is leading to an abyss, to a disaster, that it is Putin’s biggest mistake as a politician and head of state,” says Osechkin, who also lives in France.
“Many in the system even see it as a betrayal.” Because for 20 years the entire system of security agencies helped Putin stay in power.”
Now they fear that Putin will threaten their standard of living and security.
The French authorities are concerned about Osechkin’s safety – he is under round-the-clock surveillance. In the interview, he says that he was attacked just a few weeks ago. It was recently learned that he was under investigation in Russia for allegedly spreading false information about the Russian military.
Putin panics about the coup d’état
Oseshkin says growing resentment is why Putin promoted Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to lieutenant general. Kadyrov is seen as particularly loyal and brutal. The influence of the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner private mercenary army, also increased.
This is one of Putin’s tactics to protect himself from coup attempts, Osechkin believes:
“Putin panics because of that.” This creates a large number of different departments and units that can turn against each other.”
This is a strategy recognized by Mangot: “Putin is someone who likes to have many actors around him who are in conflict with each other, who are rivals.” It allows him to make a decision, a judgment at a certain moment, to be the last mediator and decision-maker.”
But this is precisely what causes increasing tension in the power apparatus, Dmitrieva says:
“Employees in the security services are afraid that even more radical forces will come to power in the future, bandits like Kadyrov, whom they will then have to serve.”
Kadir’s soldiers on the front already have better salaries and more modern equipment than regular Russian troops.
Regardless of the lives of civilians
Dmitrieva believes that the war will continue to escalate. She learned from two FSB sources what was discussed at the meeting of the Russian Security Council on October 10.
“They talked about how the situation in Ukraine can be brought under control.” At the same time, it did not matter at all by what means that goal would be achieved and how many civilians would die.”
The systematic bombing of civilian targets in Ukraine began on the same day.
This doctor turned her back on her previous life and left behind numerous friends and acquaintances. She hopes that even more of her colleagues from the security services in Russia will openly turn against Putin. /DW