Kremlin’s FSB Has Thoroughly Penetrated Russian Opposition Movement – OpEd


Mikhail Sokolov, a former senior activist in the Navalny movement who now lives in the Netherlands, says that he served as a secret informant to the FSB while working with Navalny and that the Russian intelligence agencies have thoroughly penetrated the Russian opposition.

According to Sokolov, the FSB has “’a multitude’” of people working for it in the Navalny organization and other opposition groups. As far as Navalny’s people are concerned, he says he believes that there is “one agent of the FSB for every Navalny staff (

He and the others were charged with letting the Russian agencies know where and when Navalny activists planned demonstrations, even if they were actions by single figures. Armed with this information, the FSB could sometimes intimidate people into not taking part or be ready to arrest those who do. 

Sokolov says he worked as an informant for the FSB throughout his entire time as a Navalny activist. He was singled out by the organs both because he was known to be an opposition figure himself even before that time and because he was far more afraid of serving in the army than being arrested.

According to the émigré, his reputation made him valuable to the FSB; and his fear of military service allowed the FSB to recruit him. When the FSB learned he was going to work for Navalny, they had his military commissariat, the equivalent of a draft board, call him in. The FSB told him that only by working for him could he avoid military service.

When Sokolov rose in the Navalny organization to the point that he was paid 30,000 rubles (500 US dollars) a month, the FSB decided it had to pay him something; but the best the organs could come up with was a third of that amount. The former activist said he tried to avoid giving the FSB damaging information and twice tried to escape its tentacles.

First, he tried to get out of Russia by going to Poland through Belarus but the Poles blocked him. Then, he went to Georgia on an FSB-paid flight because the organs assumed he would continue to work for them. But after the invasion of Ukraine, he refused and tried unsuccessfully to go to Ukraine to fight against Moscow.

Finally, he emigrated from Georgia to the Netherlands. But even then the FSB approached him, although he rebuffed their efforts and they have in recent months ignored him. (For a broader discussion of this kind of penetration activity, see

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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