On February 26, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended a board meeting of the Federal Security Service (FSB), one of the successors of the Soviet-era KGB. The purpose of the meeting was to review the outcomes of the service's work in 2015 and set its priorities for 2016. Putin - who, as a former KGB officer, addressed the FSB board-members as tovarishi ("comrades") and kolegi ("colleagues") - stressed at the meeting that "foreign intelligence organizations have stepped up their activity in Russia," and, more specifically, that external elements plan to intervene in Russia's Duma elections next fall. He clarified that any intervention in the elections will be regarded as a "direct threat to our sovereignty," and that "everyone should be aware that we will defend our interests with determination and in accordance with our laws."
Referring to the ceasefire in Syria, Putin noted that Russia is committed to ceasing hostilities against "those armed groups that declare their readiness to observe the ceasefire," while stressing that Russia will continue to target ISIS, Jabhat Al-Nusra and other terrorist organizations that are recognized as such by the UN Security Council. It should be noted, however, that on February 28, 2016, Saudi Arabia accused the Syrian regime and its ally Russia of violating the ceasefire in Syria. According to Orient News, a Syrian media group owned by oppositionist Ghassan 'Aboud, on February 29 Russia bombed the city of Harbnafsa in the Hama area and on March 4 it bombed the city of Douma in the eastern Ghouta. The rebel forces fighting in Douma belong to Jaysh Al-Islam, which the UN has not designated a terrorist organization.
The following are exerpts from an English transltion of Putin's address that was posted on the official Kremlin website:
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Image: Kremlin.ru, February 26, 2016)
The Syria Ceasefire Does Not Apply To ISIS, Jabhat Al-Nusra Or Other Terrorist Organizations
"...We are here today to review the results of the Federal Security Service's work in 2015 and set the tasks for the upcoming period... To say a few more words about the Syrian issue, as you know, on February 22, Russia and the United States of America adopted a joint statement on cessation of hostilities in Syria. The purpose of this document is to give impetus to the efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict, more precisely, to boost the efforts to find a political solution and put in place the conditions for starting the settlement process.
"Of course, we are fully aware that this will be a difficult and perhaps even contradiction-filled peace process, but peaceful settlement is the only possible way out of the crisis. We must put in place conditions for bringing a swift end to the bloodshed and then starting a full-fledged intra-Syrian dialogue with all constructive political forces taking part...
"On February 27, starting at midnight Damascus time, the Syrian armed forces, Russia, and the US-led coalition will not conduct hostilities against those armed groups that declare their readiness to observe the ceasefire. But let me stress that this ceasefire does not apply to ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, or other terrorist organizations recognized as such by the UN Security Council. We will certainly continue our resolute combat against these groups. I hope that our American partners will take the same position. This is what is reflected in our joint statement...
"It is important now to effectively seal off Russia's territory from these terrorists trying to enter from the Middle East or other regions, and act swiftly to identify and neutralize those who are involved in terrorist activities abroad. In this respect, Russia in general and its armed forces took timely action in starting our operations in Syria. Your work here in Russia itself also confirms this. Your efforts have put a stop to the activities of underground groups that were planning attacks against our country... I hope you will continue to work in this same spirit and prevent the actions of not only those who plan attacks, but also those who recruit our citizens to terrorist organizations and spread extremist ideology.
"We should tighten monitoring of the refugee flows coming into Russia or transiting onwards to European countries. In this respect, I want to add that this refugee crisis began long before Russia began its antiterrorist operation in Syria. At the root of this refugee crisis is the destabilization of entire regions of the world, especially the Middle East...[There] are refugees from Afghanistan. What have Russia's operations in Syria got to do with them? Their situation is totally unconnected to our operations. Our operations have one sole aim: to stabilize the situation in these countries and create conditions for people from these countries to be able to return to their homes..."
The FSB Must Prevent Any External Attempts To Intervene In The Duma Election
"The counterintelligence services have important tasks today. At the last board meeting, you recall that we noted that foreign intelligence organizations have stepped up their activity in Russia, and this was convincingly confirmed over the last year. Over this time, we put a stop to the activity of more than 400 foreign intelligence officers and agents, with criminal charges brought against 23 of these people.
"We need to ensure reliable protection of information on confidential activity and personnel in government organizations, military facilities, defense industry companies, the fuel and energy sector, and our leading research centers. We need to cut off all channels of access to confidential information.
"Colleagues, we will hold elections to the State Duma this autumn. All constructive political forces and parties want these elections to go ahead in full compliance with the law, in a spirit of fair and open competition, and hope their results will be objective and reflect the real mood and opinion of our country's people.
"The FSB and other agencies have the task of doing everything necessary to prevent the activity of those who attempt or might attempt to use nationalist, xenophobic or radical slogans to divide our society. Of course, you must also prevent any attempts from outside to intervene in our election and our country's political life. As you know, such methods exist and have been put to use in a number of countries. Let me say again that this is a direct threat to our sovereignty and we will respond accordingly.
"I read the regular documents you prepare, read the summaries, and see the concrete indications that, regrettably, our ill-wishers abroad are preparing for these elections. Everyone should therefore be aware that we will defend our interests with determination and in accordance with our laws.
"Our country's economic security is also very important...It is important to prevent any misappropriation of state funds...But we should all be well aware that the large sums, enormous resources, you could say, that the country is investing in its defense capability not just today, but for the future, must be reliably protected from swindlers and schemers.
"You should continue to give your attention to the question of ensuring our information security and neutralizing new threats emerging in this area. More than 24 million cyber attacks against Russian government official sites and information systems were registered in the last year alone. More than 1,600 internet resources that conducted activities harmful to our security, including terrorist and extremist activity, were shut down.
"It is clear that we need to improve the level of protection of our information and communication resources, especially those used for defense and national security needs, law and order, for our economic and financial system's stable functioning..."
 The Federal Security Service (FSB), founded in 1994,is in charge of implementing the Russian government's policy in the domains of national security, counterterrorism, and protecting Russia's borders(Government.ru).The Russian president oversees its activity.
 English.alarabiya.net, February 28, 2016.
 Orient-news.net, February 29, March 4, 2016.
 En.kremlin.ru, February 26, 2016.