GRU Generalnovo Shtaba
Glavnoje Razvedyvatel'noje Upravlenije
Гла́вное Разве́дывательное Управле́ни?
Enlarge picture
GRU emblem and sleeve ensign

GRU emblem and sleeve ensign
Agency overview
JurisdictionGovernment of Russia
Agency ExecutiveGeneral of the Army Valentin Vladimirovich Korabelnikov, Director

GRU is the English transliteration of the Russian acronym ГРУ, which stands for "Гла́вное Разве́дывательное Управле́ние" (Glavnoje Razvedyvatel'noje Upravlenije), meaning Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. The full name is GRU GSh (GRU Generalnovo Shtaba (or "GenShtaba"), i.e. "GRU of the General Staff").

The GRU is Russia's largest intelligence agency. It deploys six times as many agents in foreign countries as the SVR which is the KGB intelligence successor. It also commanded 25,000 spetsnaz troops in 1997.[1]

The current GRU Director is General of the Army Valentin Vladimirovich Korabelnikov.


The GRU was created in 1918 by Lenin, and given the task of handling all military intelligence. It operated residencies all over the world, along with the SIGINT (signals intelligence) station, in Lourdes, Cuba (), and throughout the former Soviet bloc countries, especially in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

The GRU was well-known in the Soviet government for its fierce independence from rival power blocs, even the CPSU and KGB. At the time of the GRU's creation, Lenin infuriated the Cheka (predecessor of the KGB) by ordering it not to interfere with the GRU's operations. Nonetheless, the Cheka infiltrated the GRU in 1919. This planted the seed for a fierce rivalry between the two agencies, which were both engaged in espionage, and was even more intense than the rivalry between the FBI and CIA in America at that time.

The existence of the GRU was not publicized during the Soviet era. It became widely known in Russia, and the West outside the narrow confines of the intelligence community, during perestroika, in part thanks to the writings of "Viktor Suvorov" (Vladimir Rezun), a GRU agent who defected to Britain in 1978, and wrote about his experiences in the Soviet military and intelligence services. According to Suvorov, even the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union couldn't enter GRU headquarters without going through a security screening.

The GRU is still a very important part of the Russian Federation's intelligence services, especially since it was never split up like the KGB was. The KGB was dissolved after aiding a failed coup in 1991 against the then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It has since been divided into the SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service) and the FSB (Federal Security Service).


According to the Federation of American Scientists: "...Though sometimes compared to the US Defense Intelligence Agency, [the GRU's] activities encompass those performed by nearly all joint US military intelligence agencies as well as other national US organizations. The GRU gathers human intelligence through military attaches and foreign agents. It also maintains significant signals intelligence and imagery reconnaissance and satellite imagery capabilities." [1] GRU Space Intelligence Directorate had put more than 130 SIGINT satellites into orbit. GRU and KGB SIGINT network employed about 350,000 specialists.[2]

According to GRU defector Stanislav Lunev, "Though most Americans do not realize it, America is penetrated by Russian military intelligence to the extent that arms caches lie in wait for use by Russian special forces". He also described a possibility that compact tactical nuclear weapons known as "suitcase bombs" are hidden in the US[3][4] and noted that "the most sensitive activity of the GRU is gathering intelligence on American leaders, and there is only one purpose for this intelligence: targeting information for spetsnaz (special forces) assassination squads [in the event of war]". The American leaders will be easily assassinated using the "suitcase bombs", according to Lunev.[3] GRU is "one of the primary instructors of terrorists worldwide" according to Lunev [3] Terrorist Shamil Basayev reportedly worked for this organization.[5][6][7]

During the 2006 Georgian-Russian espionage controversy several officers (allegedly working for GRU) were accused by the Georgian authorities of preparations to commit sabotage and terrorist acts. GRU detachments from Chechnya were transferred to Lebanon independently of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon after the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict "to improve Russia’s image in the Arab world", according to Sergei Ivanov.[8] Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was assassinated by two GRU officers. GRU officers have also been accused of creating criminal death squads[9]



Dmitry Kozak and Vladislav Surkov from the current Putin administration reportedly served in GRU.[2] Two Chechen former warlords Said-Magomed Kakiev and Sulim Yamadayev are commanders of "West" and "East" battalions that are controlled by GRU (each battalion includes close to a thousand fighters). [10]


In 2002, Bill Powell wrote Treason, [11] an account of the experiences of former GRU colonel Vyacheslav Baranov. Baranov had been recruited by the CIA and agreed to spy for them, but was betrayed to the Russians by a mole in either the FBI or the CIA and spent five years in prison before being released. The identity of the mole remains unknown to this day, although speculation has mounted that it could have been Robert Hanssen.

Historic agents

GRU "Illegals"

Naval GRU

GRU defectors

Further reading

  • David M. Glantz. Soviet military intelligence in war. Cass series on Soviet military theory and practice ; 3. London: Cass, 1990. ISBN 0-7146-3374-7, ISBN 0-7146-4076-X
  • Raymond W. Leonard. Secret soldiers of the revolution: Soviet military intelligence, 1918-1933. Contributions in military studies ; 183. Westport, Conn. ; London : Greenwood Press, 1999. ISBN 0-313-30990-6
  • Stanislav Lunev. Through the Eyes of the Enemy: The Autobiography of Stanislav Lunev, Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-89526-390-4
  • Viktor Suvorov Aquarium (Аквариум), 1985, Hamish Hamilton Ltd, ISBN 0-241-11545-0
  • Viktor Suvorov Inside Soviet Military Intelligence, 1984, ISBN 0-02-615510-9
  • Viktor Suvorov Spetsnaz, 1987, Hamish Hamilton Ltd, ISBN 0-241-11961-8



1. ^ Lunev, Stanislav (12 September 1997), "Changes may be on the way for the Russian security services", The Jamestown Foundation, <[3]
2. ^ Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin (2000). The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West. Gardners Books. ISBN 0-14-028487-7.
3. ^ Stanislav Lunev. Through the Eyes of the Enemy: The Autobiography of Stanislav Lunev, Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-89526-390-4
4. ^ Symposium: Al Qaeda’s Nukes by Jamie Glazov, FrontPageMagazine, October 27, 2006
5. ^ Western leaders betray Aslan Maskhadov - by Andre Glucksmann. Prima-News, March 11, 2005
6. ^ CHECHEN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER: BASAEV WAS G.R.U. OFFICER The Jamestown Foundation, September 08, 2006
7. ^ Analysis: Has Chechnya's Strongman Signed His Own Death Warrant? - by Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, March 1, 2005
8. ^ Moscow posts two Chechen platoons in S. Lebanon, one headed by an ex-rebel commander, "to improve Russia’s image in the Arab world" by DEBKAfile
9. ^ Special services are making teams for extrajudicial punishment (Russian) by Igor Korolkov, Novaya Gazeta, January 11, 2007. English translation
10. ^ Land of the warlords, by Nick Paton Walsh, Guardian Unlimited
11. ^ Powell, Bill (2002-11-01), Treason: How a Russian Spy Led an American Journalist to a U.S. Double Agent, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0743229150

External links

See also