Russia marking security-service operative day

Russia's state-security divisions were established 86 years ago.

On December 20, 1917 the Council of People's Commissars, i.e. the then Soviet Russian government, passed its resolution on establishing the All-Russian Special Commission for Fighting Counter-Revolution and Sabotage (Russian acronym, VChK). This event was celebrated as Cheka Operative Day until 1995.

The Security-Service Operative Day is being marked as an official professional holiday since 1995 in line with a decree by Russia's first president Boris Yeltsin. As of today, Russia has several secret services, including the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the Federal Body Guards Service (FSO), as well as the main presidential special-programs department. All these secret services used to be part and parcel of the Soviet KGB (State Security Committee), boasting main-department status.

On March 11, 2003 President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation signed his decree aiming to streamline state administration in the field of exposing, preventing and thwarting tax-related crimes and violations, preventing illegal drug and psychotropic-substance sales and purchases, protecting, defending and guarding the state border, as well as ensuring the safety of special contacts and data-exchange operations. Russian law-enforcement ministries and departments were overhauled in line with this presidential decree.

Among other things, the Russian Interior Ministry's state committee for preventing illegal sales and purchases of drugs and psychotropic substances was reorganized as the Russian Federation's state committee for controlling drug and psychotropic-substance sales and purchases. This country's Federal Frontier Service (FPS), as well as the Russian President's Federal Government Communications and Information Agency (FAPSI), were also abolished. The FPS remained virtually unchanged, becoming a component part of the FSB. Meanwhile the FSB, the Federal Body Guards Service and the national Defense Ministry obtained specific FAPSI functions.

The first Russian secret services were established centuries ago. Chronicles dating to the reign of tsar Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) imply that a special unit was established in order to guard the Russian ruler. However, a system for guarding Russian princes, grand dukes and tsars was based on tradition and precedents until the mid-17th century, rather than a solid normative-legal base.

The normative-legal base of Russia's secret services was first formalized in tsar Alexei Mikhailovich's 1649 code of laws. (Alexei Mikhailovich ascended the Russian throne in 1645 - Ed.) The Russian empire's state security was subsequently ensured by the Preobrazhensky prikaz (department), Peter the Great's Secret Office, as well as the Third Imperial Office Department under emperors Nicholas I and Alexander II.

FSB director Nikolai Patrushev met top officials of leading Russian mass-media bodies, naming those FSB officers, who were awarded the title of Hero of Russia posthumously for conducting special operations this year.

The list of awarded operatives includes Maj. Georgy Trofimov, who was killed, while defusing a homemade explosive device on Moscow's First Tverskaya-Yamskaya street; that bomb was planted by a female terrorist, who tried to blow up a local cafe.

Lt.-Col. Igor Fursa also received this high title posthumously. Fursa was traveling with a federal convoy in Chechnya. That convoy was subsequently blasted by terrorists; Fursa stayed behind to cover the retreat of his group's main forces and other wounded people, saving them at the cost of his life.

Patrushev also spoke about the heroic feat of Maj. Vadim Gordeyev, who was mortally wounded during a hostage-release operation. Gordeyev prevented a dangerous criminal, who had seized the hostages, from exploding a hand-grenade. Other human lives were saved as a result.

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