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Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) marks its 85th jubilee on Tuesday
Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) marks its 85th jubilee on Tuesday. It was founded on December 20, 1920, when a foreign affairs department was set up within the VChK (Russian acronym for the All-Russia Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counterrevolution and Sabotage). Since then, the intelligence service has changed its name almost 20 times, including twice in 1991, when the First Main Directorate of the KGB (State Security Committee) of the Soviet Union spun off as an independent organization -- the Central Intelligence Service of the USSR and later assumed the current name. Yakov Davydov was the first foreign intelligence chief from 1920 to 1921. The SVR is currently headed by General of the Army Sergei Lebedev. "SVR agents are serving in many conflict areas," Lebedev noted. The composition of the service is international, as it includes representatives of almost all peoples of the former Soviet Union, Gen. Lebedev said. He emphasized that Russia does not gather intelligence in former Soviet republics. Moscow has agreements with all members of the Commonwealth of Independent States on interaction and not spying against each other, he said. Lebedev recommended SVR personnel not to play "spy games" and seek victories in intellectual confrontation. Russia does not aim to inflict damage on any country; it is not the objective of foreign intelligence or Russian secret services on the whole. The objective is to know events and the policy of this or that state with respect to Russia. Lebedev underscored the importance of intelligence officers' knowing the customs of the country they work in. SVR has trained specialists in many countries. Those who work in the Orient, know local languages, the Koran, and Muslim traditions. Lebedev noted "a quality selection of SVR candidates, who must have analytical mind."
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