Russia's Young Spies Just Wanna Have Fun

Dozens of recent FSB graduates may have blown their cover when they filmed themselves driving expensive SUVs and posing for photographs with drinks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Lehtikuva Lehtikuva / Reuters)

NEWS BRIEF Graduation is a happy time. It’s a time to celebrate and take pictures and maybe throw a party with your academic comrades cohort. And perhaps that celebration calls for renting 30 blacked-out Mercedes G-Class SUVs, commissioning a professional videographer to film everyone cruising the street, and posing with drinks in hand for a group picture. Nothing wrong with that––except if you just graduated from the FSB, the successor to Russia’s KGB, and your face is now plastered across the internet.

More than 2.1 million people have watched the video on YouTube, which one student uploaded. President Vladimir Putin, a former spy, has not commented, though the security agency said Thursday that students in the film will be punished.

“For four years they were taught conspiracy, corporate ethics, and that one must not reveal secrets,” retired FSB Major-General Alexander Mikhailov told a Russian newspaper, the Komsomolskaya Pravda. “So pompous and arrogant. If that’s how they start their careers, they won’t do any good.”

In the video, the students drive through the streets in formation, akin to a 1990s rap video, hanging out the windows while a techno beat plays. The Mercedes SUVs they drove were rented, but they cost more than $100,000 each, which also drew ire because Russia’s economy has been described as in long-term decline, and tumbling.

In two parts of the video, their faces become visible. The FSB’s statement said:

For the first time in many years of celebratory events outside work, students allowed actions to take place which attracted heightened public scrutiny. Their indecorous showy personal behavior linked to hiring luxury vehicles rightly caused outrage among citizens and was harshly condemned inside the security services who regarded it as incompatible with our code of ethics and service behavior.

The FSB said the students would have their assignments changed, and that some trainers at the academy had been demoted.