Putin warns of unnamed foreign efforts to destabilize Russia

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting of the Federal Security Service (FSB) board in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his nation's top counterintelligence agency Wednesday to redouble its efforts to address what he described as Western attempts to destabilize Russia.

Speaking at a meeting of top officials of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the main KGB successor agency, Putin pointed at the “so-called policy of containment of Russia,” charging that it includes efforts to “derail our development, slow it down, create problems alongside our borders, provoke internal instability and undermine the values that unite the Russian society.”

The Russian president added that those activities by foreign powers, which he didn't name, are aimed at “weakening Russia and putting it under outside control.”

The United States and its NATO allies have rejected similar previous claims by the Kremlin that they were seeking to undermine Russia.

Russia’s relations with the West plummeted to post-Cold War lows following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The recent arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and a sweeping crackdown on protesters demanding his release has been another source of tension.

Speaking in Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that when U.S. President Joe Biden recently had a call with Putin, he “did not hold back in expressing his concerns about the actions of his government.”

Psaki said that Biden has asked his national security team to look into reports of Russian hacking around the 2020 election, the massive SolarWinds hack, as well as information that Russia had offered bounties to the Taliban for killing American troops in Afghanistan. "It will be weeks not months before it’s concluded and we have more details about our response,” she said.

Russia has denied involvement in any of those activities.