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Putin’s spy master says issue of Ukraine support turning ‘toxic’ in US

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with graduates of the country's military higher education institutions in Moscow

Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, attends a meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin with graduates of the country’s military higher education institutions at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia June 21, 2023. Sputnik/Yegor Aleev/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

MOSCOW, Oct 11 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foreign intelligence chief said on Wednesday that the issue of support for Ukraine was becoming toxic in the United States and that the divisions would deepen ahead of next year’s U.S. presidential election.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, the United States and the European Union have made more than $160 billion in commitments to Ukraine, including tens of billions of dollars in weapons.

However, President Joe Biden last week expressed fears that U.S. aid to Ukraine could be hurt by congressional chaos while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has repeatedly warned of the dangers of allowing Russia to win the war.

“The Ukrainian topic is becoming more and more toxic on the eve of the upcoming presidential election,” Sergei Naryshkin, the director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), said during a visit to the Azerbaijani capital Baku.

“It is becoming a bone of contention,” Naryshkin said, casting the struggle in Washington as one between those interested in improving the lives of Americans and those who were gripped with a hatred of Russians.

Diplomats and intelligence analysts have said for months that Putin is betting that American resolve over Ukraine will weaken as Washington faces different global crises and it becomes clear just how arduous a task it is to defeat hundreds of thousands of well-dug-in Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

Republican lawmakers’ ouster of House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy has raised questions about the future of aid to Ukraine. The United States has also repeatedly urged Kyiv to do more to tackle corruption, CNN reported this month.

Naryshkin, who has served as Russia’s foreign spy chief since October 2016, said the ouster of McCarthy illustrated the “malignancy” of the Ukraine issue in the U.S. body politic.

He said that Moscow’s counter-terrorism cooperation with Western spy services was continuing, though he said the scale of such contacts had been reduced due to the West’s “aggression” against Russia over Ukraine.

Moscow casts its military operations in Ukraine as defensive against what it says is a hostile and aggressive West. Kyiv and its Western backers say this is absurd and that Russia is waging an unprovoked war of aggression and land grab.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge
Editing by Gareth Jones

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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