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Russian foreign intelligence chief says U.S. plans to use exchange program alumni to create ‘fifth column’ in Russia and interfere in election

Source: Meduza

Sergey Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, said the U.S. plans to interfere in Russia’s upcoming presidential election and to “destabilize the situation in the country” with the help of Russians who have participated in U.S. student exchange programs, Russian state media reported on Thursday, citing the agency’s press service.

“As Russia’s presidential election draws nearer, the U.S. authorities are coming up with ever more sophisticated ways to illegally interfere in democratic processes. Washington intends to ramp up its work with Russian alumni of American exchange programs,” Naryshkin said.

The intelligence chief added that according to the U.S. State Department, approximately 80,000 Russians have participated in American educational and cultural programs. “If these students are ‘processed properly,’ in the Americans’ view, they’ll be able to replace the non-systemic opposition that fled en masse to the West and become the linchpin of the fifth column [in Russia],” he said.

Additionally, Naryshkin said that Washington intends to use Russians who took part in U.S. exchange programs to “prepare new mechanisms of pressuring Russia with sanctions” and to enter into a “political fight against the Russian government.”

“A program of this kind is already being prepared. It calls for training sessions in the near abroad. The main emphasis will be on teaching participants methods of stoking interethnic and social discord, interfering in elections, and discrediting Russia’s leadership on social media,” Narsyhkin said.

Narsyhkin said the first seminars involving U.S. intelligence agents will be held in Riga on February 16–18. Russia’s intelligence services, he said, “will not have trouble finding out who the attendees are.”

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