MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin boasted Russia had thwarted more than 400 foreign spies last year and on Monday called on the FSB, the domestic intelligence agency, to act to block further foreign attempts to obtain political, economic and military information.
Putin, who polls show should be comfortably re-elected on March 18, made the comments in a speech to FSB employees in Moscow where he also spoke of the need to step up Russia's cyber defenses and strengthen the security of confidential communications systems used by Russian officials.
Putin once ran the FSB himself and his comments played into one of his core narratives which depicts Russia as a fortress besieged by hostile foreign powers and him as its defender-in-chief.
"In recent years, as you know very well, there has been an increase in foreign intelligence agency activity," he said.
"They are working diligently on Russia, using the most modern methods, spy craft and technical espionage means. During the course of last year alone, the activities of 72 career intelligence officers and 397 agents of foreign spy services was thwarted," he said.