President Vladimir Putin described the foreign spy service on Friday as one of Russia's key institutions and said the appointment of ex-Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov as its head could only enhance its authority.
Putin, himself a former KGB spy, has put former colleagues in senior government posts. His critics say Russia is run by a hidden network of former and serving secret service operatives.
"Fradkov's appointment as the director of the SVR (foreign intelligence service) underscores the important place foreign intelligence plays in the system of Russia's state institutions," Putin said in televised remarks.
"The SVR is one of the most professional and effective special services, which should continue defending Russia from outside threats," he said as he presented Fradkov to his staff.
U.S. intelligence officials said earlier this year, that Russian spying in the United States had returned to Cold War levels. British intelligence has made similar statements.
Putin, due to step down next year, has done much to revive the security services as a privileged force. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the old monolithic KGB had came under critical scrutiny and was split into domestic and overseas arms, their political influence pruned back.
Under Putin, things have changed for the "Warriors of the Unseen Front". Ex-KGB officers personally loyal to him have occupied many important government positions. Former KGB spy First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov is widely seen as a possible successor to Putin. ( Reuters )