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Putin's Secret Services

How the Kremlin Corralled the FSB

Vladimir Putin working in the Kremlin, May 2018. Reuters

In April, a series of protests hit the Moscow region. They were neither overtly political—citizens were protesting toxic landfills in their neighborhoods—nor very numerous, comprising, at most, a few thousand people in a region of over seven million. At their peak, people took to the streets in nine towns surrounding the city. 

The protests, however, seemed well coordinated, and in some towns, the city authorities supported people and granted them permission to protest. Even for officials, it was difficult to ignore the awful smells emanating from the landfills, or the furious mothers and fathers of poisoned children. One of these cities was Serpukhov, some 60 miles south of Moscow.

One week after the protests started, an official from the Serpukhov district, Alexander Shestun, was invited to the Kremlin. There, he met with Ivan Tkachev, a general from the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s powerful intelligence agency and the

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