WASHINGTONÂ â€” The indictments of 12 Russian agents accused off hacking into Democratic computers put a spotlight on theÂ GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency.
Here’s a guide to deciphering GRU and the alphabet-soup of other major Russian spy and defense agencies:
In English, the name of this agency is the Main Intelligence Directorate. It is Russia’s largest military intelligence agency and is tasked with spying on other nations on behalf of the government.
Twelve officials from the agency were indicted as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. The agents were accused of participatingÂ in a far-reaching cyber attack that targetedÂ the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Unless the Russian agents set foot on U.S. soil, they are unlikely to ever stand trial for the cyberÂ attacks. The GRU’s role under Putin has been growing, according to the Journal of Defense Management.
Russia’s External Intelligence Service is essentially the latest incarnation of the Soviet-era KGB. It is a civilian spy agency that works in parallel with GRU’s military intelligence officers. It employs an estimated 13,000 spies, has its own training academyÂ and has operated an extensive spy ring in the U.S.
In 2010, the FBI arrested 10 people on accusations of serving as sleeper agents of the SVR inside the U.S. for years. Their goal was to penetrate the U.S. government to learn more about U.S. nuclear weapons, the CIA, Congress and American politics. They pleaded guilty and were sent back to Russia in exchange for Western spies. The hit FX Networks series “The Americans” was inspired by this Russian spy ring.
The Committee for State Security â€“ better known as the KGB â€“ was the Soviet-era counterpart to America’s CIA. The spy agency was a notorious symbol of the Cold War and became the focus of a slew of U.S. spy novels and movies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is a former KGB spy who rose to political power with the help of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. He served in the spy agency from 1975 to 1991. The KGB was split apart after the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and its functions were taken over by SVR and other spy agencies.
The Federal Security Service was created in 1994 as one of the successors to the KGB. While the SVR spies on foreign nations, the FSB performsÂ internal surveillance inside Russia to gather intelligence on possible terrorist activity, uncover foreign spies, and crack down on criminal activity.
However, human rights groups contend that the FSB, much like the former KGB, also arrests dissidents on false chargesÂ to try to squelch criticism of the Kremlin and threatens people to get them to join the agency. Putin served as director of the FSB under former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
The Federal Protective Service guards the Kremlin and protects the underground train system that connects government offices in Moscow.