How to contact the FSB
WARNING: If you are not a citizen of Russia (and even then only if you know exactly what you are doing), then you should not attempt to follow the instructions in this article unless you are an extremely senior and competent expert in Russian intelligence structures and activities. There are very few of these.
We regret the oversight in not making this as plainly obvious in the first version of this article. We assumed it was obvious. Anyway the matter now stands corrected.
If you have a problem relating to your activities in Russia, your likely activities in Russia should you go there, problems that the Russian Services are causing you or that they might be interested in or in respect of which you seek their cooperation, the way to go is to contact FSB headquarters. You should do this by telephone, alternatively by email.
It is not possible to contact the GRU; the Kremlin is a merry-go-round so you never know who you will be contacting or who is responsible for what. The Kremlin is extremely confusing and you should not attempt to contact it. If the President of Russia wants to speak to you, don't worry; he will contact you.
The FSB are undoubtedly the most professional and functional part of the Russian bureaucracy. However they have only limited authorities, which may be boiled down to: (a) matters of internal security within the territory of the Russian Federation (which now includes the four newly annexed regions of Ukraine - according to them); and the activities of Russians or Russian agents outside Russia. In this they outflank the SVR, who it is almost never a good idea to contact because they are as a rule incompetent and indeed it is not even clear who runs them. The FSB has a wide mandate within Russia, stretching as far as drug dealers, subversive political activities and the monitoring and harassment (where appropriate) of the activities of foreigners in Russia including Russian diplomats. Their hierarchy and authorities are clearly defined, they are seldom corrupt save where this is authorised; their hierarchies are robust; and their work is split efficiently into divisions and departments that do not engage in excessive bureaucratic infighting with one-another (by Russian standards).
If you have an issue you wish to discuss with the Russian government, contact your usual FSB contact and he will direct you to the appropriate department. If you do not have such a contact (and ensure they are actually FSB officers, not SVR agents - the FSB run no foreign agents; it is an exclusively professional service), then go to www.fsb.ru for their 24-hour telephone contact details and email address.
Then you call their hotline, and ask to be put through to an English-speaking telephone receptionist. They have these available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You need then to explain your problem quicky and concisely and consistently with their internal bureaucratic divisions. So not say 'I have an issue of international intelligence' because it is not obvious that this should come within their mandate. Instead say who you are (honestly), and give a category of problem that is obviously within their mandate as described above.
You will then be directed to an English speaker in the appropriate department; or told to call back at a specific time when an English speaker will be available.
It is our opinion that is much better to call them in English than in Russian. The latter can cause confusion; and the English speakers tend to be higher quality officers.
Once you are on the phone with the right person, explain first who you are. e.g. ' I am a member of X country's intelligence agencies working in Y place doing Z work'. Remember of course the entire conversation will be recorded, so be careful what you say. The Russians understand discreet and confusing language. Then outline your problem and why you think it is in the Russian national interest to cooperate with you. (The FSB do not do people favours; they want to know specifically what it is that is in their national interest about the issue you are taking to them.) Do not say e.g. 'please stop following me round' because that is their jobs. Of course they are not going to stop doing that. Say something that is in the interests of both you or your country and theirs.
Speak slowly, cautiously and directly, and without excess words. Pre-script the conversation.
The first question you are asked is highly likely to be 'do you want to defect?'. If you say yes, you will be transferred to the appropriate department for that. Do not do this; although we have never tried it we imagine it will cause you all sorts of problems. Instead say 'no' and reinforce the case for mutually beneficial cooperation.
Be succinct - Russians do not like extended telephone conversations - and be sure to to make a persuasive case for mutually beneficial cooperation. If what you are proposing is not mutually beneficial, they will not believe you. You have to present something that looks rational - according to their concepts of what is rational. And do not lie. Do not lie! The Russians hate it. If you can't tell them something, just say 'I cannot tell you about that.' They will understand. They are mostly very professional.
Do not ask them to break the law other than in coded language (e.g. I am wondering whether there is a mutually acceptable final resolution of this problem). They will get the point.
They may ask your questions. Answer them directly and honestly. Or tell them that you will not.
Then they will tell you they are transferring you to another department and you may be put on hold for several minutes or longer. Wait. Eventually some manager will come back to you if you wait on the line. Od they will cut you off, in which case they have decided not to proceed with your enquiry.
Obviously don't ask for anyone's names. That will make you look ridiculous.
The manager may say:
We do not think we can assist you on this occasion (which means 'no but you are welcome to call us again'). Ask for a direct line.
We cannot give you any advice about this matter. This means they are going to look into it.
This matter lies beyond our authority. This means it is a matter for senior FSB management or for the President of Russia.
Call the FSB from an open line so that they have your number and can trace you. They will check that you are who you say you are, unless they conclude you are a time waster.
Feel free to ask 'how shall we continue this conversation?' You will be told one of the following:
'We will contact you if there is any need to do so' (this means 'we will not contact you again about this matter and instead we will just act unilaterally of at all; thank you for the information)
'Please call back tomorrow' etc (this means 'we're not interested in you at all')
'Please call us at this time and on this date' (this means 'we will have made a decision by then) - ask them for a direct line (they may or may not give it) and call exactly when they say
'We will call you' (this means 'we are extremely interested by this and we need to discuss it with all sorts of people and put you through a full intelligence check)
Feel free to initiate the discussion by email at email@example.com (again in English) but it will lead to a telephone call - you will be asked at best to call a switchboard at a certain time / date if they consider the matter important and you credible.)
Finally, if you have a visa enquiry (I.e. 'will I get a Russian visa?), do not use this method. Instead use one of the various global FSB visa invitation units that provide introduction letters for travel to Russia. Just like all other FSB officials, these people appreciate candour and you should write to them being absolutely honest and direct about why you want to travel to Russia. (If they later discover you have been lying, they may kill you or send you to a Russian penal colony, which is a very bad outcome). You may receive an honest and constructive reply. These FSB visa agencies are really quite professional. An honest visa application (e.g. 'I wish to travel to Russia to observe the activities of the government of the People's Republic of Donetsk) - an entirely natural thing for a foreign agent to want to do in the Russian system of Services logic - will buy you kudos and will not result in an adverse mark against you in future visa applications, even if they turn you down with reasons (as they did this author recently - they even gave him a full refund).
The Russian government can be confusing; but it is not so bad when you know the rules and you obey them. They consider it quite normal for foreign agents to be in their country digging around. It's what their agents do. Just tell the truth about your intentions, in that logical and honest way typical only of Russians.