By Andrew Osborn
LONDON (Reuters) – The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has released a slickly produced Russian-language video to try to persuade Russian intelligence employees to switch sides and work as double agents for Washington.
CIA Director William Burns said in July that disaffection among some Russians over the war in Ukraine was creating a rare opportunity to recruit spies, and that the CIA was not letting it pass.
The video, released on the CIA’s official channel on X, tries to appeal to what it suggests are patriotic Russians working in the intelligence community who may feel betrayed by what it called corruption in elite circles and the poor way the Russian armed forces are equipped and supplied.
“Those around you may not want to hear the truth. But we do. You are not powerless,” says the video, the latest in a series of recruitment videos targeting Russia, before detailing ways to contact the CIA.
Accompanied by melancholy classical music, the video’s main, fictional character is an unnamed 35-year-old male employee of Russia’s military intelligence agency who casts himself as a patriot who loves Russia and once served as a paratrooper.
“Do I have enough courage to confront this betrayal?” the video shows him saying, before he says he has realised the real enemy is inside Russia in the form of a corrupt leadership and elite.
“The top leadership has sold the country out for palaces and yachts at a time when our soldiers are chewing rotten potatoes and firing from prehistoric weapons. Our people are forced to give bribes to simply find work,” the man says as video clips of a bleak Russian winter are spliced with images of high-end official limousines and wealthy Russians giving toasts.
The fictional character says his patriotism has spurred him to act and work with the CIA, and the video’s final shot depicts a well-dressed man contacting the CIA by mobile phone from a snowy courtyard.
KREMLIN SHRUGS OFF VIDEO
The Kremlin says everything is done to ensure the Russian military has the equipment it needs to be successful in what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
It has rejected as false various corruption allegations, and shrugged off the video.
“You know, this practice is quite common, intelligence agencies around the world very often use the media and social networks to recruit new employees. And they do it all the time, the CIA does it every year,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.
Peskov suggested the CIA had made a mistake by circulating the video on X, formerly known as Twitter, which is banned in Russia and can be accessed only by using a virtual private network, many of which are also banned.
“Somebody needs to tell the CIA that in our country (Russian social network) VKontakte is much more popular than the banned X. And that VKontakte’s audience is much larger,” Peskov said.
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn, Editing by Timothy Heritage)