Memorandum of cooperation with the Federal Security Service (FSB)

Intelligence agents disguised as academics is a common method of Russian security services. You might have thought about sending insiders disguised as academics to existing conferences, indeed, this option is operative but not that much effective. In order to enhance the effect of influence and to avoid affiliation with Russia various artificial academic centers, Russian protégé institutions, funds are being created all around the globe. Their objective is to conduct independent scientific conferences, engage new people and promote cooperation. This is an ideal method of keeping in touch with vetted and recruiting freshmen.

A bystander has a desperately small chance to identify that such organizations are de-facto backed by intelligence and perform its orders. Often prima facie minor academics are well drilled intelligence agents, although their philosophical disguise is imperfect.

«The International Affairs» is among hundreds of the above-mentioned organizations, to be on the safe side, it`s exceptionally riveting and significant corporation. Why? It was established long years ago in 2006 and has an annual meeting place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Germany). The German newspaper «Die Zeit» and the TV magazine called «ARD Kontraste» discovered this Project thirteen years after in 2019, by the way it happened due to organizers` failure. The management of the Organization decided to post publicly the  Memorandum of cooperation, signed on the one hand by Colonel General of the FSB, and on the other by a heavily supported German politician with log lasting business relations with state`s top management. All these detail prompted to bewilderment of journalists and government concerns. People get concerned only thirteen years after the announcement of the annual conferences of this organization in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. German media avoided highlighting the background of this entity as well as achievements of the organized events and its consequences.


The main character in this appealing story is Colonel General Vladislav Petrovich Sherstyuk, born in 1940. Mr. Sherstyuk had graduated from the Physics Department of Moscow State University and had been serving the KGB since 1966, to put it mildly he reached success in career. From 1995 to 1998 Vladislav Petrovich had been heading the Main Directorate of Radio-Electronic Intelligence of Communications of FAPSI. The Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information (FAPSI) is the Russian counterpart to the US National Security Agency, was a post-Soviet successor to the KGB. 

The General Directorate of Radio Electronic Intelligence of Communications (GURRSS) was created in 1991 on the basis of the former 16th department of the KGB of the USSR. Engaged in conducting external intelligence activities in political, economic, military and scientific and technical spheres using radio electronic means. Mr. Sherstyuk served there since 1992. Staring from 1998, Sherstyuk was appointed as the Deputy Director General of FAPSI while he simultaneously headed of the Main Directorate of Electronic Intelligence of Communications.

Throughout 1998-1999, Mr. Sherstyuk was the FAPSI Director General  and a Member of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. Starting from May 1999 and up to May 2004 he was privileged and entrusted with the task to serve as First Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. Finally, he commenced his mission as Assistant Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation in 2004.

Nothing foretold troubles, but in 2004 Mr. Sherstyuk suddenly becomes a scientist. Once you make a choice, you have no choice. At the Moscow State University 2013 was marked with creation of an organization called «the Institute for Information Security Problems (IPIB MGU)», it was later incorporated as a structural unit of the MGU. According to the declaration made in 2019 by Mr. Sherstyuk himself in 1999 it was Vladimir Putin, then the secretary of the Security Council who urged him «to pursue science». As a result, firstly, a department was created at Moscow State University and later the whole new Institute and later events organized at Garmisch-Partenkirchen. In conformity with the official functions of the IPIB stated on the institute’s website, it`s is the leading unit coordinating interdisciplinary academic activities within Moscow University concerning «Security and war on terror».

Worth noting that the term «war on terror», deriving from the Russian media is the competence of the Federal Security Service which operates through various bodies that have appeared in 1990s. e.g. the organization called «Klub Veteranov Organov Gosbezopasnosti» in cooperation with «International Center for Countering Terrorism» run a newspaper with an expressing title «Issues of counter-terrorism. The main issue of the 21st century is Counter-Terrorism». Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation supports the informational development of the media.

The Institute of Information Security Problems is composed of five departments. Overall, 22 experts are the official staff. The institute`s major is researching it provides no educational services for students. It`s management consists of  its director, first deputy director and two deputies.

The Director of the institute is retired Colonel General Vladislav Sherstyuk. First Deputy is Vladislav Yashchenko, he is also a retired commissioned officer, served as the KGB agent since 1971 and received the rank of Colonel.

Deputy Director is a retired Colonel Anstolii Streltsov. His connection to special services is not expressed in his biography, however career speaks for itself: «From 1994 to 2011, he worked in the office of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, he successfully accomplished the career ladder from the consultant to the head of the department of information security problems.»

The other Deputy Director is Vladimir Sokolov, born in 1946. He graduated from the Economics Department of Moscow State University. Deriving from the high posts Mr. Sokolov held at Moscow State University being just a Ph.D. in economics he is also the agent of intelligence. Have a look. From 1996 to 2002 he was the Head of the consular-protocol department of Moscow State University, from 2002 to 2004 he was the Deputy vice-rector of Moscow State University.

Frankly speaking this institution has nothing in common with an academic research unit. The leading unit coordinating interdisciplinary academic activities within Moscow University concerning «Security and war on terror», indeed, resembles the so-called The First Main Directorate of the Committee for State Security under the USSR. They also were liable exclusively for state security. On the list of its members has at least one KGB lieutenant general, Gennadii Emelianov. He was born in 1949 and due to boldness headed the 8th Main Directorate of the KBG responsible for protecting communication and Cryptography. After the UUSR collapsed, he used to Chief the Directorate of  Informational Security of the Federal Agency of Government Communications and Information (FAGCI), later since 1996 he found a room for himself at the Secretariat of the Russian Security Council.

The long list of special «academic clients» of the Research Institute includes the «Administration of President», General Staff of the Russian Federation (meaning the GRU), the FSB, and many other governmentally owned companies like «Gazprom». Surprisingly,  the only foreign organization that turned to Russian Research was the Federal Office for Defense Procurement (Armasuisse) in Switzerland.

Since 2007, the Institute has been appointing annual international forums in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Germany) under the motto «Partnership of the state, business and civil society as leverages of information security and war on terror». Business and civil society are so explicitly mentioned here only for disguise, and the state is represented by top managers of Russian intelligence.

One of nastiest background details is that Garmisch-Partenkirchen is neighboring to an American military base and an American intelligence center Marshall, whose representatives also took part in forums, but stopped in 2014. To be precise, the occupation of the Crimea in 2014 was a red light for Americans not to cross the red line by visiting Russian events.

Among the main conference`s speakers are Russian top ranked military and intelligence officers, representatives of the Security Council of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Moreover, some odd strangers without significant achievements are also granted with a floor.

Andrei Soldatov in his book «The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russian Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries» (2015), expressed a view that the United States used to sent high-ranking representatives to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the hope of reaching an agreement with the Russians, who were outraged by the US role in Internet governance. Americans later acknowledged that they failed to convince Russians that this was a purely technical problem.

It was not even possible to agree on the meaning of the word «Internet».  The negotiations were deadlocked. An American participant commented the 2010 conference in the following manners, «Russians have a completely different understanding of information security … in fact, they mean state security». Since 2010 these conferences have lost their international diplomatic significance, only intelligence-recruiting has remained as an essential tool. It seems that personal motivation of «deployed participants» overlapped with scientific interest once in a blue moon. 

In 2010, the fourth IPIB forum was a ground and «present and voting» mechanism used by the special services to create another organization «to serve the needs of science». It was presented as completely new and academic unit. Officially is was registered under the following title «International Security Research Consortium of Information Security» (MIKIB). In solemn atmosphere, on behalf of Moscow State University, a declaration on its creation was signed by Director of the Institute of Information Security Problems of Moscow State University, V. Sherstyuk, as well as representatives of the Academy of Sciences of Belarus, the Internet community of Bulgaria, the University of New York, the Japanese University of Tokai, the Department of Information Security of the Government of Israel …

The German member of MIKIB is a commercial firm, privately operated think-tank, namely the Institute for Cybercrime Research in Cologne (Cybercrime Research Institute GmbH — Köln). The company was established in 2009, possibly this had something in common with creation of MIKIB. Director of the Institute is Prof. Marco Gercke, he is teaching at the University of Cologne.

Marc Goodman, who signed the declaration on behalf of the aforementioned Institute for Research on Cybercrime, turned out a tricky person to communicate. The Stanford University website has some information about Mark Goodman as the author of the book on cybercrime called «Future Crimes». But there are data regarding his ties with Germany.

Perhaps Marco Gercke and Mark Goodman are the same person. In case the answer is affirmative this fact makes the subject even more fascinating.

China is represented by the «Friendship Society with Foreign Countries», a traditional unit of the special services of socialist countries.

Since then, the IPIB and MIKIB forums have been run jointly. In particular, in April 2016 in Garmisch-Patenkirchen 2 forms were started simultaneously: the 13th Conference of the MIKIB and the 10th IPIB Forum . The gathering of the MIKIB was led by Colonel General Sherstyuk. At the opening, a greeting letter was read out from the Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation S.M. Buravlev. Colonel-General Sergei Buravlev, before being appointed to his current post, since 2005, had been serving as Deputy director of the FSB. Mr. Buravlev has been executing orders of the Federal security service since 1971.

The following officials addressed the crowd during the gathering: The special representative of the Russian President for international cooperation in the field of information security and envoy of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Andrei Krutskikh; Deputy Chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Major General I.N. Dylevsky; Chairman of the Board of the Internet Intiatives Development Fund, A.A. Soldatov; Vice-President of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, M.V. Yakushev;  Vice President, PJSC MMC Norilsk Nickel,

All these people have one feature in common, they are all graduates of Russian special services. Let the fact rule the investigation, Vladislav Ivanovich Gasumyanov, the Vice President of the PJSC MMC Norilsk was born in 1959. He is a graduate of the KGB Higher Courses, in 1982-2001. He served in the KGB, intelligence and FSB. From  2009 to 2012 he held the post of the Deputy Head of the Office of the President of the Russian Federation for Interregional and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries. According to unverified data he holds a military rank of colonel or even the FSB general.

In April 2017, the 11th Forum of the Institute for Information Security Problems was held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The co-chairs of the organizing committee were Sherstyuk and Krutskikh.

Among the three co-chairs of the program committee my attention was mostly grabbed by Rafal Rohozinski. He is a constant participant in the forums, the head of the SecDev Foundation ( a Canadian data risk center) and an employee of the London International Institute for Strategic Studies. Having heard his 2018 interview I may make an objective conclusions that he speaks Russian as a native language.

Each year the forum brings together more than one hundred people, but only the names of the organizers and authors of the reports are published publicly. As the newspaper «Kommersant» indicated, the organizers of the fora opted for this picturesque place because not all foreign delegates would be comfortable or even able to come to Russia. Especially this is applicable to foreign intelligence agents, whose affiliation with Russian Russia may not be received favorably by the constituency. In other words, it`s complicated to find a more convenient place for gatherings of current officers and recruitment of future intelligence agents.

Conferences are traditionally held at the hotel «Atlas Posthotel». In Garmisch-Partenkirchen, there are two more hotels with a fairly similar name, «Atlas Sporthotel» and «Atlas Grandhotel». They all belong to the Munich real estate company approximately since 2009.

What is worth doing at all is worth doing well. Among all sponsors of the conference there is one that differs, namely the Moscow concern «ATLAS». It was created back in 1951 «to serve the needs for new technical means of the special communications service». Among its current clients, in addition to the Presidential Administration and Government of the Russian Federation are all Russian special services and military. Truth is stranger than fiction, but it seems to me that is not accidentally run conferences of such high level of secrecy that are held in a randomly rented hotel in a state in opposition to Russia. Moreover, one of the conference participants mentioned the Russian property of the conference in a private conversation with the author.

In 2018, the organizers tried another method. Out of nowhere, a new unit was created and undertook an obligation to advertise and beckon people to conferences in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. This comparatively new structure is called NAMIB (National Association of International Information Security). National Association of International Security is founded in Russia in response to the growing threat of cyber-attacks and their influence on political and social workflows, according to the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation.

The former president of NAMIB is General Vladislav Sherstyuk. The names of managers in the Secretariat will just recapitulate the already discussed individuals in this Article. The 13th forum in Garmisch-Partenkirchen «Partnership of the state, business and civil society» was held in April 2019 and already under the auspices of NAMIB.

When the author of this article tried to shed the light on the activities of the organization as reports had nothing in common with academic reports one of the participants answered promptly, «Diplomatic activity». There was no longer a need for an additional question, what kind of diplomacy can the senior officers of the Russian special services deal with in the complete absence of real partners for negotiations and surrounded by allies from different countries.

According to available report, more than a hundred participants from 18 countries visited the 2019 Forum.

Better safe than sorry this might have been a golden rule for organizars, but eventually they led to put it mildly to a massive embarrassment. The NAMIB website has published material entitled «Russia and Germany have agreed to cooperate in the field of cybersecurity» with reference to the Russian website, to be precisely a Russian propaganda site in Germany.

The text of the article in explained, «At the Thirteenth Forum on International Information Security, the National Association of International Information Security (NAMIB) and the German Cybersecurity Council agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding». Photographs of signing  ceremony of text of the memorandum were also published. Among other things, it indicated that the parties were ready to facilitate the organization of at least two conferences annualy and, starting in 2020, jointly hold conferences in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The memorandum is effective for the period of three years and is automatically extended at the request of the parties.

In an interview with General Sherstyuk dedicated to the closing of the conference, the next ambiguous phrase was made, «Today, to our delight, our German colleagues have finally joined our working group on this topic. It took us 12 years. We hope that this year they will become an active partner in settling this matter.» The phrase means that so far none of the influential Germans have been recruited and now finally there is come achievement. It is clear from this quote that Sherstyuk considers his German partner a colleague, which is far beyond business.

His German colleague is Hans-Wilhelm Dunn. He is a regional politician for the CDU from Potsdam, the capital of Brandenburg, and president of the NGO, the Cyber-Sicherheitsrat Deutschland e.V., CSRD. The encompasses many large German enterprises, such as «Airbus», «Commerzbank», «Volkswagen».

The publication of the memorandum (obviously not designed for the attention of the German press) caused a shock among journalists and politicians for many reasons.

The name society run by Mr. Dunn is extremely reminiscent of the name of the government body, the National Cybersecurity Council (Nationaler Cybersicherheitsrat). When signing the memorandum, Dunn resisted from using the last two letters of the name of his organization, « e. V.», indicating its social, not governmental nature. 

Gerhard Schindler, the former president of the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND), drew attention to this act of forgery in an interview with the media «Contrasts». Gullible public would indeed consider that  Mr. Sherstyuk signed a memorandum with a trustworthy agency uniting representatives of all federal ministries, and not with a public organization. Based on Schindler`s story, this whole chain of accidental coincidences is extremely similar to the typical strategy of influence used by Russia. It is the mission of the National Cybersecurity Council to take measures and give a response since data security is an essential element of population`s protection.

Another crucial point. Dunne’s predecessor, the Chairman of the German Cybersecurity Council of Germany until 2016 was Arne Schönbohm, now the President of the Federal Office for the Safety of Information Technology. Such business relations of Dunne were a straightforward blinkering green light for Russian intelligence.

As the media found out, other members of the organization headed by Dunne (CSRD) were not notified of the signing of the memorandum on their behalf. This gave rise to the chairman of the Union of Criminal Police Officers (BDK) Sebastian Fiedler to demand the resignation of Dunn from his post under the threat of the BDK leaving the CSRD.

While the demand to resign was processed by Dunn himself it turned out that Dune in March 2018 acted as an observer in the presidential elections in Russia, but not as part of the OSCE mission. He performed functions of an observer at the invitation of the chairman of the State Duma, in the company of representatives of various right-wing pro-Russian European parties, including Alternative for Germany (AfD). Moreover, his reaction to the Russian elections was more than favorable.

Six months later, Dunne was an observer in the presidential election in Zimbabwe, but again not from the European Union, but from the little-known organization AFRIC (Association for Free Research and International Cooperation), with anonymous funding and related, according to the investigation of «Di Zeit» and «Contrasts» , with Russian propaganda specialists.

After mass media spread the story with the memorandum signed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, on June 20th Dunn participated in the International Congress on Cybersecurity in Moscow, where he urged to immediately «begin a dialogue about codification of International Law and cybersecurity».

It is unlikely that Dunn will be useful again to the Russian special services as an agent of influence. They used him too much, so affiliation with Russian intelligence is inevitable.  The Directors and Producers are no longer interested in a prosperous actor. Many a true word is spoken in jest. But the most interesting matter in this story is not Dunn.

The most interesting concern is that for 13 years in a row Russian special services have been organizing «conferences» in the middle of Bavaria, which authentically welcomed FSB officials and agent from all over the world. Only in 2019 the German press drew attention to this subject. Whether the German counterintelligence (Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution) is examining this issue is unknown, but no attempts to hinder the violent activities of the FAPSI and the FSB in Garmisch-Partenkirchen have been observed so far.

Blatantly hazing name of the Institute, headed by General Sherstyuk, and the names of the fora held by him, including information security, is indeed annoying if you know that «… Moscow organizes daily attacks on the computer networks of the Bundestag and other official German departments», as on April 4 2017, was declared by the head of the German Constitutional Defense Office, Hans-Georg Maas`sen.

All things must pass. I genuinely believe that the last conference notorious for Dunn`s failure will complete the round of any socials taking place in Germany.