Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Arrives in Style at Military Spy Base

Itar-TassGRU Chief Valentin Korabelnikov showing President Vladimir Putin a model of the directorate's new headquarters.
In a scene straight from the opening credits of a James Bond movie, President Vladimir Putin landed by helicopter on the roof of the new headquarters of the General Staff of the Armed Forces' Main Intelligence Directorate for a choreographed inspection of the complex -- and the chance to fire off a few pistol rounds at the center's shooting range.

Putin viewed the headquarters' most sensitive sections, including the agency's satellite and conventional reconnaissance facilities and an operational command center, during a 1.5-kilometer tour last Wednesday of the nine-story complex on Khoroshovskoye Shosse.

He also took time out to visit the rest areas and sports courts, and posed for the media as he did some target practice with Stechkin and Makarov pistols.

"No other country can boast of such a state-of-the-art complex," Putin said.

Putin said the new headquarters would enable the Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, to act as the Army's "eyes and ears" around the world.

He was accompanied for part of his tour of the complex by a host of top officials, including deputy prime ministers Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, Federal Security Service director Nikolai Patrushev, Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service Sergei Lebedev, military chief of staff General Yury Baluyevsky and Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

Unlike its predecessor, a drab, redbrick monolith nicknamed the Aquarium, the new GRU complex is a futuristic glass-clad and bulletproof structure that bears more than a passing resemblance to the London headquarters of Britain's MI6, immortalized in the opening sequences of the James Bond film "The World Is Not Enough."

Although the inspiration for the design by Yevgeny Serov, who was also the creative mind behind the Ararat Park Hyatt Hotel, may have come from abroad, Ivanov was keen to point out that the materials used in the building were all sourced within Russia.

The complex, whose construction began in 2003, cost 9.5 billion rubles ($357 million) to build, and incorporates an area of 70,000 square meters.

The headquarters has leisure facilities for GRU employees, including a gym and a pool, said by one inspecting Kremlin official to be superior to any that he has in seen in even the finest fitness centers. Indeed, the building will be completely self-sufficient, Ivanov told a group of hand-picked reporters in a presentation before Putin's arrival.

Dmitry Astakhov / Itar-Tass
Putin eyeing the target as he fits in some practice at the GRU's firing range.
"The building is completely autonomous; people can live, work and rest there without ever having to leave the confines," Ivanov said.

The complex was commissioned Nov. 5 to mark Intelligence Services Day and took the Defense Ministry's engineering division three years to complete.

Particular attention has been paid to making sure the unit is completely secure from any external threats. The complex is composed of a network of interconnected buildings all fully enclosed by a reinforced fence designed to resist even the ram-raid attack of an armored personnel carrier, a GRU official said.

Unsurprisingly, many details about the GRU headquarters remain closely guarded. The communications equipment and computer systems in the complex are highly classified, said Arkady Livshits, director of Spetstekhnika, a company that specializes in producing equipment for the secret services. Meanwhile, the strategic intelligence unit is so secretive that even its location remains unknown.

In fact, the territory within the intelligence headquarters is not even wholly accessible to GRU staff themselves.

"There are certain zones in which only a very small number of GRU employees can enter. Thanks to a system of electronic keys, only a select number of people can gain access to these restricted areas," Ivanov said.

The source of funding for the construction of the GRU headquarters is similarly shrouded in mystery. A Defense Ministry source said non-budget finances were used in funding the construction of the building, Vedomosti reported.

GRU agents were reported to have seized some of the money used for the building work from Chechen militants in the course of military operations, the paper said.

(Vedomosti, MT)

Dmitry Astakhov / Itar-Tass
Putin and Ivanov touring the premises of the GRU's headquarters in Moscow.