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KGB influence still felt in Russia

At all levels of the Russian government, former military and security agents hold key positions, bringing with them authoritarian methods, experts say.

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Olga Kryshtanovskaya is a sociologist who dances with wolves. For more than a decade she's been Russia's premier expert on the political, business, and security elites.

But even Ms. Kryshtanovskaya says she's alarmed by her own recent findings. Since Vladimir Putin came to power four years ago, she's been tracking a dramatic influx into government of siloviki - people from the military, the former Soviet KGB, and other security services - bringing with them statist ideology, authoritarian methods, and a drill-sergeant's contempt for civilian sensibilities.

"Whereas in the past people from security backgrounds generally did jobs connected with state security functions," Kryshtanovskaya says, "you now find them holding high office in just about every ministry and government agency."

While many experts are concerned at the Putin-era invasion of siloviki into the corridors of power, Kryshtanovskaya has generated hard data. By her tally, about 60 percent of the inner circle around Mr. Putin, himself a former KGB officer, are ex-military and security people. About a third of government functionaries are siloviki, as are 70 percent of the staffs working for the Kremlin's seven regional emissaries.

Moreover, Kryshtanovskaya says that security men are deliberately "parachuted" into high government posts in a manner that resembles the Stalinist system of assigning commissars, or party watchdogs, to keep tabs on professional managers whose political loyalties may be suspect. For instance, Justice Minister Yury Chaika has four deputies who are siloviki, Trade and Economic Development Minister German Greff has three, and Communications Minister Leonid Raimon has three. "Even the minister of press, Mikhail Lesin, has an FSB general as his deputy," she says. "Just about every cabinet minister has at least one."

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