The Moscow Times: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday hailed the country’s “courageous” spies as he visited the headquarters of the Foreign Intelligence Service to mark its 100th birthday. Putin, who has spent most of the coronavirus epidemic at his residences outside the Russian capital and on the Black Sea, visited the SVR headquarters in southern Moscow amid the controversy surrounding the work of the country’s security services. SVR, Russia’s external intelligence agency, which succeeded the First Chief Directorate of the KGB in 1991, marks its centenary on Sunday. But December 20 is also the day in Russia when the country fetes all members of the security services including those from the FSB domestic intelligence agency. Speaking outside the SVR headquarters, Putin, himself a former KGB officer, thanked all those who protect Russia from “external and internal threats” and called them “reliable and courageous people.”
RFE/RL: Aleksei Vasilyev is a Yakut photographer and a rising Instagram star with tens of thousands of followers. His most famous project, titled My Dear Yakutia, evokes what he calls the “magic realism” of this part of Russia’s Far North, where people and spirits seem to cohabitate in frozen spaces. Vasilyev shared his images with the Siberia Desk of RFE/RL’s Russian Service, along with stories from behind the scenes.