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It was the height of summer in Moscow, and the offices around the city were suffering from the heat, including an attic of a five-story building in the old and prestigious district of Arbat. The attic was home to the weekly newspaper Versia, which had a rather scandalous reputation. It was 2002, and I headed the national security department. Staffed with reporters in their mid-twenties, our beat was the Russian security services. Many in the ranks of Russia’s counterintelligence agency FSB and the intelligence service SVR loved reading Versia. The owner of the newspaper was a beautiful woman with a soft spot for large American SUVs and long black mink coats. A photograph of her with the director of the FSB held pride of place on the wall in her office.

Vladimir Putin had been in the Kremlin for almost two years, and he made it very clear…

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