Behind-the-scenes maneuvering signals continuing battles for power among the Russian security forces, the siloviki.

Vladimir Putin has removed Russia’s biggest intelligence agency, the FSB, from its role as the primary spy agency for the war in Ukraine and handed responsibility to a heavily militarized branch of military intelligence, the GRU, write Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov in Europe’s Edge.

The new lead officer, Vladimir Alekseyev, the first deputy head of the GRU, is heavily implicated in several of Putin’s most serious attacks on the West over the past decade. He is accused by the UK and the European Union of overseeing the chemical weapons attack in Salisbury in 2018. An experienced special forces officer, he is also sanctioned by the US for direct cyber interference in the US 2016 election.

The public signal of the switch came last week, when the pro-Kremlin Tsargrad TV channel ran a story entitled, “Generals of victory: who is in charge of the Russian special operation?” The item suggested that these men would ensure the Russian military finally achieved its objectives in Ukraine.

Some of those named —like Gen. Alexander Dvornikov who was given overall command of the operation last month — were familiar to viewers, as were the heads of several military districts and major units. But there was one name that stuck out. Alekseyev was identified for the first time as the top general for intelligence on Ukraine.

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