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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spies Still Everywhere, GRU Says

More than a decade after the collapse of the Soviet superpower, Russia's military intelligence continues to maintain a presence in all corners of the world, a top espionage official said in a rare interview.

"I cannot say we have abandoned far-flung locations on the globe," General Valentin Korabelnikov, the chief of the General Staff's Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, was quoted as saying in Izvestia on Wednesday.

Korabelnikov, speaking in the first interview he has granted to the press since his appointment in 1997, denied allegations that the GRU has all but lost its networks of agents in the years since the Soviet collapse. "In short, this doesn't correspond with reality," he said.

In a clear sign that the Russian intelligence community continues to maintain its global reach, President Vladimir Putin recently praised the GRU and its main rival, the Foreign Intelligence Service, for providing him with a detailed forecast of how the U.S.-led war in Iraq would develop. Their predictions coincided with what actually developed "almost day to day," Putin said June 20.

But Putin, who himself served in foreign intelligence, did deal the GRU a blow in 2001 when he closed down its facility in Cuba, which was used to eavesdrop on U.S. communications.

As in Soviet times, the GRU continues to detect emerging threats to national security and collect information about foreign militaries and defense industries, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye reported in 2001.

In addition to eavesdropping, the GRU operates a fleet of satellites that provide high-precision imagery and other data about foreign countries, according to local media reports. The satellite, eavesdropping and commando departments are fully staffed, while several other departments lack personnel, Korabelnikov said, without elaborating.

GRU commando units operate in the armed forces to provide field intelligence and carry out special operations, such as the penetration and elimination of enemy units. The military actively employs GRU commandoes in Chechnya, where they have proven to be about the most able of all military units. More than 300 commandos, intelligence officers and other GRU personnel have died in fighting in Chechnya, Korabelnikov said.