Who, us? Kremlin says it doesn't engage in 'kompromat,' but history suggests otherwise

Who, us? Kremlin says it doesn't engage in 'kompromat,' but history suggests otherwise
  1. Who, us? Kremlin says it doesn't engage in 'kompromat,' but history suggests otherwise
    It’s a Russian word suddenly known to many Americans — kompromat. A mashup of the Russian-language terms for “compromising” and “materials,” this pithy figure of speech encompasses a whole range of spycraft — entrapment, surreptitious videos, blackmail — that might seem more at home in a Cold War…
    Personal Finance

It’s a Russian word suddenly known to many Americans — kompromat.

A mashup of the Russian-language terms for “compromising” and “materials,” this pithy figure of speech encompasses a whole range of spycraft — entrapment, surreptitious videos, blackmail — that might seem more at home in a Cold War spy novel than as a serious news topic as a U.S. presidential inauguration draws near.

Kompromat is a dark art dating back decades, from the spy-versus-spy days of the old Soviet Union to Vladimir Putin’s newly resurgent Russia. The targets — at least those who are known — have included foreign diplomats, politicians, business figures and dissidents of all stripes.

Kompromat “has been a staple feature of Russia’s politics since at least the early 1990s,” said Daniel Treisman, a professor of political science at UCLA, whose work focuses on Russian politics and economics and comparative political economy. “These days, most of the embarrassing materials are generated by Russia’s security services, which leak secretly recorded videos or tapes to media sources.”

The aim, according to analysts and historians: to discredit and control. 

“It’s basically making use of anything that a person wouldn’t want to have found out about themselves — you can release it if they don’t behave the way you want them to behave,” said Olga Oliker of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The kompromat phenomenon burst into messy view late Tuesday with the disclosure of the existence of a dossier — unverified by U.S. intelligence — reportedly assembled by Russia on President-elect Donald Trump.

Trump forcefully denied any impropriety and blasted reports about the dossier as “fake news” put together by “sick people.”

Putin’s government, unsurprisingly, vehemently denied that any such activity goes on — ever.

“The Kremlin does not collect compromising materials,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

History suggests otherwise.

In 1999, Russia’s prosecutor-general,Yuri Skuratov, launched an investigation into corruption in the administration of then-President Boris Yeltsin. After parliament rebuffed Yeltsin’s attempt to fire Skuratov, a grainy video surfaced on state television of a man, identified as the prosecutor, cavorting with two prostitutes. Skuratov was initially suspended but later got the ax, just as he claimed to be moving in on high-level corruption.

More recently, Mikhail Kasyanov, a former Putin crony, got a taste of kompromat. According to media reports, Kasyanov was being flagged as a possible competitor to Putin in next year’s presidential election. But in the spring of 2016, video was broadcast on a state-controlled, pro-Putin television channel that purported to show Kasyanov and a female opposition activist having sex and speaking contemptuously about other opposition figures.

The Russian online tabloid Life News regularly publishes sensational and scandalous reports. Treisman said the publication is believed to have sources within Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor agency to the KGB.

In its classic form, as with Skuratov and Kasyanov, kompromat often takes the form of embarrassing information of a sexual nature — sometimes the result of entrapment.

To this day, foreign diplomats are warned to beware of “honey traps” — enticement to perform intimate acts, often in hotel rooms, that are then surreptitiously recorded on video.

“It’s a long-standing spy technique that was widely used during Soviet times so there is a certain degree of skill and tradition, but it’s not a technique that is exclusive to the Russians,” said Chris Chivvis, associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center and a senior political scientist at Rand Corp.

And such information is often collected solely on “spec” — compiled but never used, kept on hand just in case.

“It could be financial, sexual indiscretion, but it could be other things as well … things that seem unpatriotic,” Chivvis said.

It can involve corruption, or finances, or a broad range of personal behavior, he said.

While it’s probably best known in connection with the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1989, kompromat also had a heyday in the post-Soviet era — with a powerful boost from technology, analysts said. 

“It’s different now than during the days of the Soviet Union, both in the way it’s released and the way it’s used,” said Oliker, who is a senior advisor and director of CSIS’ Russia and Eurasia program.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, she and others said, there were huge amounts of information that had been amassed by Kremlin-accountable spy agencies using a formidable system of domestic surveillance.

“Old KGB records came out, and people who were building businesses and running for office could be compromised,” Oliker said.


  1. By going after the head of Samsung, South Korean prosecutors strike at the heart of the economy

    LATimes-Personal Finance
    01.18 / 15:46 latimes.com
    An investigation into the de facto head of Samsung Electronics, involving bribery at the highest levels of business and politics in South Korea, has sparked enormous concern here, where the company’s tentacles extend deep into daily life. But regardless of the legal outcome, analysts say the a…
  2. Is now the time to invest my retirement savings in stocks?

    CNNMoney - Retirement
    01.18 / 15:46 money.cnn.com
    Forecasting short-term moves in the financial markets is largely a guessing…
  3. What we learned from the Ducks' 2-1 OT victory over the Lightning

    LATimes-Personal Finance
    01.18 / 15:10 latimes.com
    The Ducks got their second overtime win this season, 2-1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday at Honda Center. Ryan Getzlaf scored a goal at home for the first time this season, and their power play scored for the second time in January. It all added up to a four-point cushion in the…
  4. EPA pick Scott Pruitt has repeatedly fought the agency he is now seeking to run

    LATimes-Personal Finance
    01.18 / 15:10 latimes.com
    Trump's Cabinet: Senate hearings continue Jan. 18, 2017, 7:10 a.m. This is our look at President-elect Donald Trump's transition and the outgoing Obama administration: Senate hearings continue for Trump's cabinet picks for Health Secretary, head of EPA, U.N. ambassador and Commerce Secretary…
  5. Analysis: Donald Trump's transition has hurt his popularity, not helped

    LATimes-Personal Finance
    01.18 / 13:57 latimes.com
    Chelsea Manning's prison sentence is commuted Jan. 18, 2017, 5 a.m. This is our look at President-elect Donald Trump's transition and the outgoing Obama administration: President Obama reduces the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of giving classified material to WikiLeaks Meet…
  6. Advisers renew calls for 'polluter pays' FSCS funding

    Professionaladviser.com - Personal Finance
    01.18 / 13:37 professionaladviser.com
    The vast majority of advisers think the funding review of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) will not go far enough and have asked for industry fines to be used to pay for compensation. …
  7. Should the U.S. still carry a 'big stick'?

    LATimes-Personal Finance
    01.18 / 12:08 latimes.com
    To the extent that President-elect Donald Trump has articulated a coherent view of foreign affairs, it appears to be that the United States needs to reject most policies of the post-1945 period. NATO is a bad bargain; nuclear proliferation is a good thing; Russian President Vladimir Putin is…
  8. Patt Morrison asks: Lawyer Ted Boutrous Jr. on preserving the 1st Amendment under Trump

    LATimes-Personal Finance
    01.18 / 12:06 latimes.com
    The White House press room evidently won’t be in the White House any more, but in a building next door. On national television, President-elect Donald Trump insulted CNN as a purveyor of “fake news.” He pledged to sue the “liars” — the women who have accused him of unwelcome sexual behavior toward…
  9. Three money numbers you need to know

    MarketWatch - Personal Finance
    01.18 / 11:40 marketwatch.com
    Knowing certain numbers can help you understand how well you’re converting income into wealth …
  10. The First Thing Mark Cuban and Other Highly Successful People Do Every Morning

    Gobankingrates.com - Personal Finance
    01.18 / 10:27 gobankingrates.com
    See the morning routines of 15 famous and successful people, like Warren…
  11. Where Does Trump’s Popularity Rank Among Incoming Presidents?

    Moneytalksnews.com - Personal Finance
    01.18 / 04:56 moneytalksnews.com
    Multiple polls do not have good news for the incoming president just days before he takes the oath of…
  12. Wednesday's TV Highlights: 'People's Choice Awards 2017' on CBS

    LATimes-Personal Finance
    01.18 / 04:09 latimes.com
    SERIES Undercover Boss The chief executive of a chain of specialty coffee stores goes undercover in this new episode. 8 p.m. CBS Fresh Off the Boat Jessica (Constance Wu) wants the family to let go of any and all negativity ahead of Chinese New Year in this new episode of the sitcom. 8 p.m. ABC…
  13. LAPD officer assigned to FBI-led task force shoots murder suspect in Anaheim, authorities say

    LATimes-Personal Finance
    01.18 / 02:56 latimes.com
    A Los Angeles police officer assigned to an FBI-led fugitive task force shot a 24-year-old murder suspect in Anaheim on Tuesday morning as the team was searching for him, authorities said. The shooting happened just before 10 a.m. at a plant nursery on West Broadway, where police say the task …
  14. Venus Williams advances to third round of Australian Open

    LATimes-Personal Finance
    01.18 / 02:19 latimes.com
    Venus Williams, a first-round loser in 2016 at Melbourne Park, is one of the first players into the third round this year after beating Stefanie Voegele 6-3, 6-2 to begin play at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday.  Williams maintained a perfect 3-0 record against the Swiss player, having beaten …
  15. Mattel taps Google executive as new CEO

    LATimes-Personal Finance
    01.18 / 00:29 latimes.com
    Mattel Inc. tapped a Google executive as its new chief executive, a sign that the company is going all in on technology as the future of its toys. Margaret Georgiadis is taking over the helm of the El Segundo company Feb. 8. She is replacing Christopher Sinclair, who was CEO for two years and…
  16. Gov. Phil Bryant delivers State of the State address

    SacBee- Personal Finance
    01.18 / 00:02 sacbee.com
    The text of Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant's 2017 State of the State address, as prepared for delivery Tuesday: Thank you, Mr. Lt. Governor, for your kind introduction. To you and … Click to Continue…
  17. 5 Seriously Simple Cash Back Credit Cards

    Credit.com - Personal Finance
    01.17 / 23:55 credit.com
    Keeping track of the rewards you earn with credit cards can be a real headache. Some cards offer different cash back amounts for different categories of spending. Some cards offer bonus cash back on categories that change every quarter. Unless you have the time to keep track of everything, well, then, the struggle can be... Read More The post 5 Seriously Simple Cash Back Credit Cards appeared first on…
  18. Buffalo Bills hire former Rams offensive coordinator Rob Boras as tight ends coach

    LATimes-Personal Finance
    01.17 / 23:54 latimes.com
    With new Coach Sean McVay in the process of hiring a staff, another former Rams assistant has found NFL employment elsewhere. The Buffalo Bills announced Tuesday that Rob Boras would join the Bills as tight ends coach. Boras, the Rams’ offensive coordinator last season, is the second former R…
  19. GM to invest $1 billion in U.S. factories and create or keep 7,000 jobs here

    LATimes-Personal Finance
    01.17 / 23:53 latimes.com
    General Motors Co. plans to invest $1 billion in U.S. factories and add thousands of new white-collar jobs, measures that have been in the works for years but were announced Tuesday after criticism from President-elect Donald Trump. In all, the Detroit automaker said it will create or keep…
  20. NY budget plan to include free state tuition, tax relief

    SacBee- Personal Finance
    01.17 / 22:48 sacbee.com
    Free state college tuition for middle-class students, an expanded child care tax credit and $1 billion in new spending on public schools are among the highlights of a New York … Click to Continue…