Did Ukraine infiltrate its own James Bond into Putin’s inner circle?
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Last Thursday, Ukraine’s head of intelligence Kyrylo Budanov claimed in an interview with Ukrainian Pravda that members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle are now working as spies for Ukraine, having betrayed their boss. However, the claim is unlikely to be true. Rather, the Ukrainian spy agency is more likely looking to dislodge Putin psychologically and cause him to chase phantoms and self-sabotage.
While it is plausible that Ukrainians have infiltrated spies into the Russian government, those double agents are likely removed from Putin. It is extremely difficult to recruit an intelligence asset, a spy, who is close to Putin. His inner circle is very small, and its members are under heavy surveillance. Russia’s domestic counterintelligence agency, the FSB, employs a technical surveillance system SORM that intercepts phone calls, monitors text messages and emails, and tracks all internet communications of Russians who hold sensitive positions. Foreigners, especially U.S. and Western diplomats, intelligence officers and businessmen are also constantly monitored.
Travel abroad is significantly restricted for Putin’s close allies due to economic sanctions placed on them by the U.S. and European countries, making recruitment even harder. Furthermore, the ubiquitous presence of technology nowadays has