This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
President Vladimir Putin on November 2 praised the Russian military spy agency that the West this year has blamed for a series of blatant attacks.
At a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the GRU military intelligence agency broadcast on national television, Putin saluted its “daring” operatives.
“I am confident of your professionalism, of your personal daring and decisiveness, and that each of you will do all that is required by Russia and our people,” Putin said.
Britain has accused the GRU of poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal with a nerve agent in the city of Salisbury earlier this year. The Netherlands has accused it of trying to hack the global chemical-weapons watchdog, and U.S. prosecutors have accused it of trying to hack the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Russia denies all those allegations.
Putin said that GRU operatives are ready to sacrifice everything “for the motherland,” and they set an example for a future generation of military spies.
He also thanked the agency for playing a “huge role” in liquidating militants in Syria.
Putin, himself a former KGB officer, makes regular public shows of support for Russia’s spies.
The GRU has been in the spotlight since the two men London blames for the Skripal poisoning admitted on Russian TV they had been in Salisbury on the day of the attack, but said they had only been there to see the city’s famous cathedral.
The GRU was founded in 1918 after the Bolshevik Revolution and is one of Russia’s three main intelligence agencies, alongside the domestic Federal Security Service and the SVR Foreign Intelligence Service.
Putin criticized a recent change in the agency’s name to the Main Directorate (GU) from the GRU, or Main Intelligence Directorate.
“It’s not clear where the word Intelligence went… This should be reinstated,” he said.