LONDON: The US Central Intelligence Agency on Monday launched a campaign on social media platform Telegram to recruit Russian spies.
The CIA released a video on the popular social messaging service calling on Russians to come forward with important intelligence and information.
The two-minute video captures Russians going about their daily lives, seemingly contemplating major life choices.
The video uses a series of emotional questions and messages to reach out to patriotic Russian who are disillusioned by recent events, including the war in Ukraine.
“The CIA wants to know the truth about Russia, and we are looking for reliable people who can tell us that truth,” the agency said in the video.
“Your information may be more valuable than you know.”
Former CIA head of counterintelligence James Olson said that the invasion of Ukraine has created an “unprecedented opportunity” for Russians to share information with the US.
“There are a lot of disaffected Russians out there now,” he said. “Today is probably the best period of recruiting Russians that we’ve had.”
In one scene from the clip, a Russian official along with his wife and child are seen at home in difficult circumstances.
“We will live with dignity, thanks to my actions,” the narrator says in Russian as a woman in a car uses her phone to contact the CIA, before the agency’s logo and contact instructions appear.
CIA officials say the video will show ordinary Russians that they can help to make a difference by providing intelligence to the agency, while still remaining patriotic.
The video also details how information can be sent using the Tor browser, a confidential internet browser for encrypted communications.
“Our goal is to provide them with as safe a way as possible to contact us,” another US official said on condition of anonymity.
CIA officials involved in the project told CNN that the video avoids inflammatory content concerning Russia or President Vladimir Putin. Instead, it is meant to appeal to people who are unhappy with Russian policies by “demystifying” the process of contacting the CIA, they added.
The agency is seeking all types of information, including political and economic data, the officials said, adding that they hope to convince hesitant Russians to leak information on the dark web by showing them simple ways to do so.
A “spy vs. spy competition” between the US and Russian security services and intelligence agencies is underway, they said.
US intelligence has used similar recruitment tactics in the past, but are now turning to the encrypted Telegram network because of its popularity among Russians, including senior officials.
Before the war in Ukraine, the FBI launched a similar project aimed at Russians in the US, with the agency specifically targeting the phones of people coming and going from the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C.