Putin says Russia stopped nearly 600 spies last year

Speaking at a board meeting of the FSB on Wednesday, March 6, Vladimir Putin said foreign intelligence agencies 'are striving to increase their activity' across Russia.

Moscow (CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that the country's security services stopped nearly 600 foreign agents and intelligence personnel last year, declaring that adversaries were trying to interfere in Russia's domestic affairs.

Speaking at a board meeting of the Federal Security Service (FSB) -- the agency that he led before becoming President -- Putin said: "Counterintelligence agencies acted effectively and offensively last year. Thanks to successful special operations, 129 staff officers and 465 agents of foreign special services were stopped."
Putin added that foreign intelligence agencies "are striving to increase their activity" across Russia, seeking access to information on the country's economy, scientific research and technology.
Alexander Bortnikov, director of the FSB, sat alongside Vladimir Putin as he delivered his speech.
"As in the old days, now, perhaps, they are also trying to influence the relevant (political) processes in our country," he said. "Therefore, (intelligence) work must be efficient, conducted daily and based on modern methods of work."
    Late last year, the FSB arrested US citizen Paul Whelan, a Michigan resident and former Marine, on suspicion of espionage. His state-appointed lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, told CNN in January that he was found in possession of classified material when he was arrested in Moscow.
    Whelan was denied bail at a pre-trial hearing in January and remains in Lefortovo detention center in Moscow. His family has dismissed the accusation of espionage, saying he has been wrongfully detained.