The CIA launched a Telegram channel to get Russians to spy for them, with one former spook saying now is 'probably the best period of recruiting Russians that we've had'
The CIA is attempting to recruit Russian spies with video posts on Telegram.
One video shows fictional Russians who appear to be struggling with concerns about their country.
As of Tuesday, the new CIA Telegram account had almost 5,000 followers.
The CIA has begun posting recruitment videos to a newly-created Telegram account in Russian to try to attract potential agents.
The spy agency posted a slick, cinematic video designed to appeal to disaffected Russians on Monday.
This was followed by a further video containing detailed instructions on contacting the agency securely, as well as a message asking: "Are you a military officer? Do you work in intelligence, diplomacy, science, high technology or deal with people who do?" per The Moscow Times' translation.
The videos are the latest move to try to benefit from dissatisfaction in Russia.
"Ukraine is top of mind but that's more or less a symptom of something larger. There are always individuals in Russia who identify with what we have to say here," an unnamed CIA official told CNN.
In the first video, a number of people who appear to hold high-level administrative and government roles seemingly grapple with a difficult decision.
In a dimly-lit office, in front of a pile of files, a man runs an exhausted hand over his face; parents visit a child in hospital; a man sits wearily on a bed.
Accompanying text appeals to a sense that all is not well in Russia, and that life can be better.
Finally, a woman uses her phone to look up the CIA website, as the text reads: "We will live with dignity, thanks to my actions," according to CNN's translation.
"We wanted to convey to Russians in their own language we know what they're going through," the unnamed official told the network.
The video does not allude to the war in Ukraine, part of a decision to deal with even deeper uncertainties, they said.
The cinematic video has also been circulated on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, but is among the first posts made by the CIA on its Telegram account, launched in April.
The messaging platform is popular in Russia. Unlike much of the country's conventional media, it is completely uncensored and hosts numerous accounts that function as popular news sources on topics like the invasion of Ukraine.
The US has appealed to Russians on other social media platforms before, such as a series of ads aimed at Russians in the US, run by the FBI on Facebook in 2019, and CIA Instagram posts in May last year.
In November, CIA Deputy Director of Operations David Marlowe said that the agency is "open for business" for Russians who are "disgusted" by the war in Ukraine, as The Wall Street Journal first reported.
Officials told CNN that the response to that appeal was encouraging enough to launch this latest effort.
James Olson, a former counterintelligence chief, told CNN that this is "probably the best period of recruiting Russians that we've had."
"There are a lot of disaffected Russians out there now," he added.
As of Tuesday, the CIA Telegram channel had almost 5,000 subscribers — something that Russia's foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said makes it "a very convenient resource for tracking applicants," according to The Moscow Times.
Unnamed officials speaking to CNN stressed that the move was not an attempt to stir unrest among the wider Russian population.
However, tensions are high following the reported arrest of Robert Shonov, a man identified by Russian state media as a former employee of the US Embassy who has been charged with conspiracy.
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