- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
One might think this would be a good time for Russian cyber intelligence officials, credited as they are with hacking and leaking Democratic emails that may have altered the course of the U.S. presidential election.
One would be wrong.
On Friday, Kommersant reported that Andrei Gerasimov, who has been head of the FSB’s Information Security Center, responsible for the FSB’s cybersecurity, since 2009, may soon be dismissed, according to an unnamed source at the bureau.
Kommersant speculated that this may signal that information security companies need to “rebuild” their relationship with the state. And, indeed, the center is being investigated over its relationship with certain commercial companies.
But charges of corruption in Russia do not necessarily mean corruption was the cause of a dismissal. For example, in November, Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev was put on trial for allegedly attempting to extract a $2 million bribe in a deal involving state-owned oil company Rosneft. Many a Kremlin watcher was incredulous that Ulyukayev, or indeed anyone, would try to get a bribe from Rosneft-chief Igor Sechin, especially after the deal was given the political green light. Ulyukayev’s house arrest, the real reason for which is still not entirely clear, was extended on Tuesday.
And so, speculation as to the true cause of Gerasimov’s imminent dismissal has already begun.
Gerasimov’s work dealt with internal Russian cybersecurity (that is, his center was not credited by American officials for electoral meddling). Nevertheless, the Kommersant report comes on the heels of the publication of a dossier that alleges that various senior Russian officials had compromising material on Donald Trump, and worked to get him elected, that he might do their Russian-friendly bidding.
Dmitry Zaks, a reporter for Agence France-Presse, wondered on Twitter whether this was retaliation for the revelation of the dossier. And, with Moscow nervous that the unverified but salacious leaked document could mean Russia loses Trump, he is likely not the only one.
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