Who is running the SVR?
The SVR is Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, principally responsible within the Russian intelligence architecture for harassing and blackmailing important foreigners outside the borders of Russia; and recruiting foreigners to join the Russian side.
You might wonder who runs the SVR. If you look at official documents or websites, it is Sergey Narishkin, the following gentleman:
The problem with this facile hypothesis however is that Sergey Narishkin has disappeared, and in all probability is dead, murdered on the orders of the Russian President. It's just that nobody has bothered to update the SVR's official materials to reflect this fact. Hence Narishkin is just a photograph. He has been disappeared. Someone else is now running the SVR, and that person is (of course) the President of the Russian Federation.
If this strikes you as rather odd, let us explain. The best place to start in understanding this curious course of events is this video:
This is a video of the Russian President, sitting behind a huge wooden desk, interviewing Mr Narishkin who appears to be standing in what looks like a defendant's box in a courtroom. The interview took place in March 2022 (exact date unclear), as Russia's invasion of Ukraine progressed in its early days..
It is important to capture the entire dialogue, so we have prepared a full transcript (in English). It appears here (editing / translation undertaken by this author):
I think we must, in the current situation, act in a way
I would like to agree with the words of Nikolai Platonovich
Then we can give our western partners one last chance
Presenting them with the choice, in the shortest time
To force Kiev to choose and to implement the Minsk Agreement
In the worst case, we have to make the decision we are considering today
What do you mean by 'in the worst case'?
Are you recommending we start negotiations?
Erm no I erm
Or recognise sovereignty?
I ... I will
Speak plainly. Speak plainly
I would support the suggestion of recognition
'I would support, or I am supporting?'
Speak plainly Sergey
I support the proposal of the entry
Then say it like that, yes or no
I support the proposal on the entry of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics into the Russian Federation
We're not talking about that, we're not discussing that
We're talking about recognising their independence or not. Yes or no
Yes. I support the proposal to recognise their independence
Thank you. You can take your seat
Things said by Narishkin or Putin that have been highlighted on a green background reveal Narishkin as a traitor who had been undertaking peace negotiations with Ukraine behind Putin's back.
Things said by Putin that are in green text indicate that Putin is about to order his murder (or has already done so).
There are several other important things to note about this 'interview':
Placing senior intelligence officials (or anyone else) in a defendant's box while the President of Russia interrogates then on television is not standard practice in the operation of the government of the Russian Federation.
All the President's other senior foreign policy officials, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, had to sit on white formica uncomfortable plastic chairs in the vicinity, while this event was underway. They had neither desks in front of them, nor did they hold any papers.
We are told that this was a meeting of Russia's Security Council (the country's top body for security, defence and foreign policy decisions). These are not typical seating or logistical arrangements for the Russian President's senior foreign policy circle to meet in the Security Council, to put things mildly. Indeed nothing was regular about this at all.
The frequency with which meetings of the Security Council are recorded or parts of them publicised is unclear; but when experts from Security Council meetings are recorded they typically involve everyone sitting along a Russian-style long wooden desk. The Russian President does all the talking and everyone else looks studiously at their notes.
Now here is something very strange. This is a Kremlin document, published in English by the Kremlin.
It calls itself a 'transcript' of a meeting of Vladimir Putin with Sergey Narishkin on 8 April 2022, although it is not really a transcript of anything as opposed to a lot of nonsense, virtually incomprejensible, presumably drawn up by a Kremlin propagandist. It is worth reading in full:
Excerpts from Transcript of Meeting with the Government Cabinet
April 8, 2008 21:01
The Kremlin, Moscow
Deputy Prime Minister and Government Chief of Staff Sergei Naryshkin on a meeting of the CIS Economic Council
Sergei Naryshkin: The meeting examined measures to expand economic integration. The main task is to draft the CIS economic strategy through to 2020. This is one of the main items on the work programme for implementing the CIS development concept adopted by the presidents last October.
The meeting also looked at foreign trade protection measures for the CIS countries and at removing obstacles for mutual trade within the CIS.
A number of documents were examined and approved, in particular, on border cooperation between the CIS countries, and on the main currency regulation and currency control policy principles. These matters will all now come before the Council of Heads of Government, which will meet in the second half of May in Moscow.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin on strategic financial planning
Alexei Kudrin: The Presidential Address [to the Federal Assembly] gave the instruction to carry out financial planning for the next 10–15 years.
We discussed the main principles for this kind of planning today at a Finance Ministry meeting. The financial plan should guarantee that we have balanced resources for carrying out our social and economic development programme through to 2020. All the ministries will therefore need to carry out this work, using the new planning and modelling instruments. By August 1, we will be ready to present the first such financial planning model, which will take into account all of the different factors that could affect the Russian economy and its finances over the coming 15 years.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: We agreed to hold a series of meetings with me, on the pension system, on healthcare, and on investment activity.
Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive office Sergei Sobyanin: The first of these meetings will take place on Thursday.
Healthcare and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova on a visit to Chelyabinsk Region
Tatyana Golikova: The visit had two main purposes.
Together with the Governor of Chelyabinsk Region, I looked at how work is progressing on building a cardiology centre in Chelyabinsk. The work is running ahead of schedule and construction should be complete in October.
The second issue was a matter raised by a number of civic organisations and by the local people, namely, passing a law on benefits for victims of the radiation accident in Chelyabinsk Region in 1957. The problem is that these people receive lesser benefits than those who suffered as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear power station accident.
Vladimir Putin: You mean the accident at Mayak?
Tatyana Golikova: Yes, the accident at the Mayak plant. A working group has been set up that includes federal and local representatives, and the regional administration has already prepared a first draft of the law.
Vladimir Putin: This is clearly an unfair situation and it needs to be dealt with, so I ask you to speed up this work.
Regional Development Minister Dmitry Kozak on the social and economic situation in the Russian regions
Dmitry Kozak: Over the last two years the Government has heard reports on this matter from the governors of 22 of the country’s regions. The next step is to turn our primary attention to the problem regions that need urgent federal intervention. In accordance with the method based on the corresponding Presidential Decree, 12 most problematic regions have already been selected. I think that this regional policy instrument – examination at Government meetings – will bring practical results.
Vladimir Putin: This is correct. Let’s not forget, though, about the other side of the coin, namely, evaluating the work of the Russian Federation Government itself. Criteria for such evaluation have also been drawn up and we now need to set about the practical implementation of all we have agreed on.
Published in section: Transcripts
Publication date: April 8, 2008, 21:01
The reader will observe a clear problem with this document; Mr Narishkin is described as holding a series of government positions he has never actually been appointed to; whereas there is no description of him being the head of the SVR, his actual ostensible job.
In particular, Narishkin is described as Deputy Prime Minister; but he has never held that position. A man by the name of. Andrey Belousov has held that position since January 2020.
Moreover in subsequent meetings of the Russian Security Council, Mr Narishkin appears to have disappeared altogether.
We invite the reader to conclude that the meeting on 8 April 2022 never actually took place. What had happened instead was that Mr Narishkin had been disappeared between his March 'interview' and his 8 April 2022 'meeting' with the Russian President; and the purpose of the 'transcript' of the 8 April 2022 meeting is to convey to everyone that he is no more.
Mr Narishkin has not been seen or heard of since.
The one thing the Russian President doesn't like, above all else, is treachery. Negotiating with an enemy country with whom Russia is at war, behind his back, is treachery. Hence we may imagine that Mr Narishkin paid the ultimate penalty.
So who now is running the SVR? We have no clue. Whoever it is, they are not being announced to the public. It may well be that Mr Putin has taken this organisation under his own wing, with intentions to merge it with the FSB of which he was an officer. Mr Putin never thought much of the SVR - he (rightly) regarded then as amateurish - and this may be his opportunity to purge their management and to discard their more useless foreign agents. Hence we see SVR 'belt-tightening' across the board, as the SVR is assimilated into the FSB.
In the words of the sometime pop band Boney M,
Oh those Russians.