It is not that his spies are necessarily incompetent. Vladimir Putin apparently just thinks they are. 

Two members of the FSB, the successor agency to the KGB, who were supposed to have prepped the ground for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are reportedly under house arrest. Colonel-General Sergei Beseda and his deputy apparently dropped the ball. Or are being blamed for an operation that by most accounts is bogged down.

Questions are likely being asked. "Why didn't Ukrainains welcome Russian soldiers? Where did the money earmarked for that operation go? Was it unwisely spent or stolen by those in charge of it?" There were no crowds greeting the invading force with flowers, as some in Russia had anticipated. 


Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Yerevan, Armenia. (Shutterstock)

"It never happened, as we know. And so it's also about misusing the funds spent on probably imaginary networks of agents," Andrei Soldatov of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) tells Fox News.  Soldatov is an expert on Russian security services and explains those under arrest are from the Fifth Service of the FSB.

"They represent the most sensitive department of the FSB department, which is in charge of espionage in Ukraine. And now it looks like Vladimir Putin finally understood that the intelligence he was given before the invasion was not extremely accurate. And he has started looking around trying to find someone to blame."


The Fifth Service, according to Soldatov, is responsible for all former Soviet republics, keeping an eye on them, infiltrating politics to help get pro-Russia people into power or to keep them there.   He also says it is not just the Fifth Service but all intelligence services have been living under pressure for some time. Let's not forget those scenes just before the invasion of Ukraine, when Putin convened his Security Council only to publicly humiliate his head of foreign intelligence, the SVR, who stammered through his performance. The Security Council had been at that point "debating" whether or not to recognize the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics.

Apparently it is not just free-thinkers who have spent recent years living under pressure as screws tightened on freedom of expression.

Ukraine Cars night air raid in the village of Bushiv

Gutted cars following a night air raid in the village of Bushiv, 40 kilometers west of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, March 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

"Russian intelligence agencies have been living in the climate of fear for at least five, six years. Putin started selective repressions back in 2015-2016, and he attacked every section of the Russian society, including the Russian elite, including the FSB. We have governors in jail, we have ministers in jail, but also we have the FSB officers and at least one general in prison. And of course, in this kind of climate, you cannot expect people in the FSB be ready to say something to Putin and he doesn't want to hear," Soldatov said. "He has very strong opinions about Ukraine. He is writing articles. He thinks that he is the best historian on Ukrainian history. And then this kind of climate of fear we already have in our society, even for the FSB people, for the KGB people, it's it became really difficult to tell him something he doesn't want to hear," Soldatov stresses that last point, already made.

Then there was the story of Roman Gavrilov, deputy head of the National Guard. Reportedly he was forced into retirement and may be facing criminal charges.


"He was in charge of special forces of the National Guard, involved in the fighting in Ukraine and the performance of its units they're not extremely impressive," Soldatov tells Fox News. "So probably that is the reason why he was attacked. But what is interesting is that this guy was personally known to Vladimir Putin because before his time in the National Guard, he was part of the personal security detail of Vladimir Putin. So now Putin does not hesitate to attack people he knows personally." 

lviv russia ukraine photo

A cloud of smoke raises after an explosion in Lviv, western Ukraine, Friday, March 18, 2022.  (AP Photo)

Back to the Fifth Service of the FSB. It may be a matter of time before Putin and his deputies start asking them another key question.


"This department of the FSB is a foreign intelligence branch is also officially in charge of maintaining official contacts with Western security and intelligence agencies, including the CIA," Soldatov says. "So now lots of people in Moscow ask themselves, why is the US intelligence was so good before the invasion? And they are trying to find who might be the source."