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CIA continues online campaign to recruit Russian spies, citing successes

Russia: U.S. is wrong about ending Ukraine war
Russian foreign minister says U.S. is wrong about ending Ukraine war 03:45

The Central Intelligence Agency has released a third video aimed at recruiting Russian officials disaffected with their political leadership and other domestic elites, a virtual effort U.S. intelligence officials say has been effective in helping the American spy agency make contact with potential sources inside Russia.   

Speaking at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., on Monday, CIA Deputy Director David Cohen said the latest video was "basically a pitch to folks in Russia who are dissatisfied with the regime, who see a better future for Russia, one that frankly we can help them achieve if they work for us."  

"One of the questions is how we should go about recruiting Russians," Cohen continued, "so we put out the third in a series of quite successful videos."  

A CIA spokesperson said the videos from the two prior campaigns launched in 2022 and 2023 had been viewed more than 2.1 million times across multiple online platforms, including Telegram, Facebook, Instagram and X.   

"We want people to know about CIA, our mission and our history, but we're also trying to connect directly with sources," the spokesperson said, adding the videos had resulted in "outreach," but declined to provide additional details about the size or credibility of the response, or the resources the videos' production required.  

The latest video, set to swelling instrumental music, is narrated by a fictional Russian official who cites Tolstoy and says he hopes to secure a better future in Russia for his son. It ends with instructions for contacting the CIA securely online.  

The CIA spokesperson said all the videos involved actors and portrayed fictional accounts.  

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday dismissed the effort, saying "intelligence agencies around the world very often use the media and social networks to recruit new employees," according to the state-run TASS agency.      

Peskov also downplayed the effect of putting the videos on major American platforms like X, formerly known as Twitter, which is banned in Russia.   

"Somebody needs to tell the CIA that in our country, VKontakte is much more popular than the banned X and that VKontakte has a much larger audience," Peskov said, referring to a Russian social media network.   

The agency's campaign comes as the war in Ukraine is set to enter its third year, with little meaningful change at the front lines, and as U.S. military aid to Kyiv is stalled amid a political battle in Congress. 

CIA Director William Burns, who has traveled multiple times to Kyiv since the 2022 invasion by Russia, has previously said the conflict had prompted a "once-in-a-generation" recruitment opportunity in Russia, saying at a public appearance overseas last year that the agency was "very much open for business."   

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