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Russian security says it foiled smuggling plots


MOSCOW -- The heirs of KGB counterintelligence said yesterday that they had practically covered their entire annual budget by foiling large-scale criminal schemes to spirit metals, petroleum, timber and other strategic resources out of Russia to the West.

An official of the Security Ministry called the ministry's most successful operation yet a "graphic example" of the way a successor agency to the KGB can help secure a prosperous, law-abiding Russia.

According to the ministry's estimate, the value of the illegally shipped materials recovered by Operation Trawl was about 5 billion rubles (about $25 million), compared with the ministry's 6 billion-ruble yearly budget.

In one particularly blatant case of wildcat capitalism, a company tried to sell the rails from a 32-mile stretch of railroad track, under the apparently approving gaze of local authorities, said the spokesman, Andrei Chernenko.

Many Russian reporters' questions showed overt skepticism that state security agents could change their spots so quickly.

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