Russian military embarrassed as spies continue to blunder
Russia's military leaders have reportedly called its intelligence service "deeply incompetent" after Western investigators accused its agents of being behind the nerve agent poisoning in England and an attempted hack into the global chemical weapons watchdog.
Western investigators found that agents of Russia's military intelligence service — commonly known as the GRU — were behind the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and an attempted hack into the global chemical weapons watchdog's headquarters in 2018.
Both missions ultimately failed, and investigators pointed fingers at GRU agents — Russia's leaders are reportedly not happy.
The country's defense ministry held a secret meeting on Oct. 6, 2018, to discuss the recent reports of GRU blunders, and had some angry words to say, Russia's MBK news site reported on Oct. 8, 2018, citing an unnamed source.
Photographs showing Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Borishov, two men accused of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal.
(London Metropolitan Police)
The GRU was described in the meeting, MBK said, as "deeply incompetent," "infinitely careless," "morons," and people that "would still wear the budenovka" — a phrase that means being outdated. The budenovka was a military hat worn in the late 1910s and early 1920s, shortly after the Russian tsar was deposed.
The defense leaders are also considering a "big sweep" at the GRU and ask some of its generals to leave, MBK said.
MBK was founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a prominent Kremlin critic.
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal buying groceries in Salisbury, England, days before he was poisoned with military-grade nerve agent.
( ITV News)
in September 2018 the UK accused two Russian men of traveling to Salisbury, England, and poisoning Skripal and his daughter with military-grade nerve agent this March, and said they were GRU agents traveling under pseudonyms.
Putin, whose government has long denied having any knowledge of the attack, initially claimed that the two men's names — identified at the time as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov — "mean nothing to us," then said that they were civilians.
The two men also went on national Russian TV to say that they only visited England to visit a cathedral.
Investigative journalism site Bellingcat, however, has since identified Petrov as Dr. Alexander Mishkin, "a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU," and Boshirov as Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, a highly decorated officer with the GRU.
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov told RT's editor-in-chief they had nothing to do with the Skripals' poisoning. Sept. 12, 2018.
In early October 2018, the Netherlands also accused four Russian GRU agents of trying to launch a cyberattack on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world's chemical weapons watchdog. The OPCW was, at the time, investigating the nerve agent attack on Skripal and a reported chemical attack in Douma, Syria, where Russian jets have bombed.
The men — two tech experts and two support agents — were caught red-handed and attempted to destroy some of the equipment to conceal their actions, Dutch authorities said.
The Netherlands then determined that they were agents of the GRU after finding that one of their phones was activated near the GRU building in Moscow, and discovering a receipt for a taxi journey from a street near the GRU to the Moscow airport, the BBC reported.
Mark Urban, a British journalist who recently wrote a book about Skripal, wrote in The Times on Oct. 9, 2018: "It would be surprising if this series of compromised operations did not trigger some realignment in Moscow, a further round of struggle between the spy bosses.
"The mockery of the GRU for its recent upsets, both globally and on Russian social media, must have rankled. Whatever the intentions of the Salisbury operation, they cannot have included opening decorated heroes of the agency up for ridicule," Urban added, referring to Chepiga and Mishkin.
Putin's popularity at home also hit a record low this year when he broke a 13-year-old promise not to hike the country's national retirement age, which could mean that many Russians will miss out on a pension altogether.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.