- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mysterious GRU drowning

Last month’s drowning death of a senior Russian military intelligence official in Syria has sparked speculation among intelligence officials that the spymaster was killed as part of an effort by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to centralize Russian intelligence power and return to the era of the all-powerful KGB communist political police.

Mr. Putin is a former KGB officer who has spoken openly of returning Russia to its communist Soviet empire days.

Russian military newspaper Red Star triggered the interest of U.S. and other foreign intelligence agencies after a terse statement last month announcing the death of Maj. Gen. Yury Yevgenyevich Ivanov, deputy chief of the Russian military’s Main Intelligence Directorate, whose acronym is GRU. The newspaper stated only that Gen. Ivanov “died tragically.”

Turkish news reports said Gen. Ivanov disappeared Aug. 6 while swimming in the Mediterranean near the Syrian port of Latakia and that Turkish villagers discovered his body two days later on the shore of the Turkish coastal province of Hatay.

U.S. intelligence sources said the general’s death was reported amid signs that Mr. Putin is taking steps to set up a new KGB-like spy service by placing the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, known as SVR, under the control of the domestic Federal Security Service for the first time since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

After the collapse, the KGB’s domestic security unit was renamed the FSB, and its foreign spy unit became a separate agency renamed SVR.

The GRU remained separate from the KGB and was a traditional rival for power with the KGB in the Soviet hierarchy.

A CIA spokesman had no comment. A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.

Kenneth deGraffenreid, a former deputy national counterintelligence executive, said Russia has been conducting for some time what he called an “ominous” reconsolidation of the elements of the old Soviet KGB under the Russian FSB.

“This past summer’s uncovering of the Russian ‘illegals’ network suggests that the practices of the powerful Russian secret police apparatus haven’t changed much since the days of Felix Dzerzhinsky’s Cheka,” he said, referring to the Bolsheviks’ secret police chief.

“These developments add more speculation that the recent mysterious death of Gen. Ivanov may be ‘no accident,’ as the old Soviets were fond of saying.”

Gay Afghans

As if Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, did not have enough to worry about waging counterinsurgency warfare, an anthropological study commissioned by the U.S. military concluded that the United States‘ tribal Pashtun allies in southern Afghanistan prefer boys.

The study, “Pashtun Sexuality,” was completed by the Human Terrain Team, a group of anthropologists that work with the U.S. military, according to reporter Eli Lake, who obtained a copy of the report.

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