Russia Revives Soviet-Era Spy Hunting Squads In Ukraine: Report

SMERSH was created by the 1940s by Joseph Stalin. It is an acronym of Russian words that mean "death to spies".

Russia Revives Soviet-Era Spy Hunting Squads In Ukraine: Report

SMERSH is being used in parts of Ukraine that are under illegal occupation of Russia.

Russia has revived SMERSH, a Soviet-era intelligence organisation, in parts of Ukraine that it illegally annexed in recent years, Newsweek said. The report is based on the remarks made by Andrey Gurulyov, a Russian Parliament (Duma) member and former military commander. An excerpt of Mr Gurulyov's comments, made during an appearance on Russian state television channel Russia-1, were widely circulated on Telegram. SMERSH was created by the 1940s by Joseph Stalin. It is an acronym of Russian words that mean "death to spies".

"We talked about SMERSH, today we created a department that works in approximately the same way in new territories," said Mr Gurulyov, referring to the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

The areas are under illegal occupation of Russia after a 2022 referendum. Many western countries, led by the Unites States, have called the move illegal.

The Russian government has not made any comment so far.

The organisation was originally focussed on combating German spies infiltrating the Soviet military. Newsweek said SMERSH was operational till 1946, and was infamous for the arrest, torture and execution of thousands of people, including any its own agents suspected of sabotage, desertion or disloyalty.

Mr Gurulyov said a similar structure should also operate once again in Russia.

"Today they are trying to interfere with our operations in non-frontline areas. I talked to the Far East, where we have nuclear submarines and where our ships are based. They may also be in danger, so we need to approach protection issues a little differently," the Russian politician said.

The website of Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group said those caught by SMERSH operatives are tortured into providing videoed "confessions and apologies" merely for displaying a Ukrainian flag, other Ukrainian symbols or singing Ukraine's national anthem.

The conflict in Ukraine shows no sign of slowing. Russian and Ukrainian forces continue to fight in Ukraine's east and the south.

On Monday, Ukrainian officials said that Russian forces are assaulting the industrial town of Avdiivka in the east from two new directions, as Moscow expands its bid to capture the almost encircled town.

Moscow has been trying for nearly two months to seize Avdiivka, an industrial town in the eastern Donetsk region that has become the fiercest flashpoint on the sprawling frontline.

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