Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West by Catherine Belton

In December 1999 Vladimir Putin, a gaunt-looking former KGB operative soon to be Russia’s president, took the podium at an annual celebration of the country’s secret police. “The group of FSB operatives assigned to work undercover in the government have successfully accomplished the first stage of their task,” he told his old colleagues with a barely disguised smirk.

Few people in Russia or the West paid much attention at the time to this KGB-style joke; Russia was still staggering towards a western-like market economy and Putin, handpicked by Boris Yeltsin as prime minister to protect his legacy, was there to give it new momentum. Nobody — not even Putin, probably — could imagine that 20 years later this “group of FSB operatives” would control much of the economy, would have invaded neighbouring countries and would be conducting subversive operations against the West across half the globe.

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