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Financial espionage specialist Pavel Ivanov appointed head of Russia's most secret foreign intelligence service department

On February 1, 2024, Pavel Ivanov, former head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Economic Intelligence Directorate (also known as Directorate “E”), was appointed commander of Military Unit 39949.

Unit 39949 is the SVR’s most secret unit. Its structure includes the Directorate of Political Intelligence (“P”), Directorate of Legal Intelligence (“L”), Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence (“N”) and Directorate of Illegal Intelligence («S»). Officers in 39949 run the SVR's largest residences around the world and spy from Russian embassies abroad under the guise of diplomats. They usually hold positions of ambassadorial aides and 1st or 2nd secretaries. They also use jobs at major Russian banks and energy companies that have foreign subsidiaries as a cover — as well as roles in the foreign correspondent offices of most Russian state-owned media.

General Pavel Ivanov graduated from the Military Institute of Finance and Economics in Yaroslavl and then studied at the SVR Academy. After graduating from the academy, he was appointed to the central apparatus of the SVR, where he rose to the position of head of financial intelligence. According to The Insider's source in Russian intelligence, Ivanov oversaw financial espionage in Ukraine, Moldova and the Baltic states and “achieved impressive operational results thanks to numerous agents in banking circles.”

The commander of Unit 39949 and his deputies are assigned a mansion on Kolpachny Lane in Moscow — the former head of the Soviet-era Ministry of State Security Viktor Abakumov lived in the building before his arrest in 1951 (Abakumov was executed by firing squad in 1954). They also have a secret dacha in the village of Lopatino in the Moscow Region’s Leninsky District, complete with its own sauna and standalone guard house.

Ivanov's wife Oksana Moroz graduated from the Financial Univeristy in Moscow and now heads the internal financial audit department at the Russian Foreign Ministry's headquarters.

Pavel Ivanov's son Nikita is a fifth-year student at the Department of Spacecraft and Launch Vehicles at the Bauman State Technical University in Moscow. He tutors university applicants in math and physics in his spare time.

Unit 39949 gained notoriety in 2010, when Colonel Alexander Poteev, who supervised the SVR’s “illegals” network in North America, escaped to the U.S. Following his defection, Poteev handed over an entire network of SVR-installed Russian agents to the FBI, the most famous of whom was Anna Chapman (Kushchenko). The ten exposed agents were later exchanged for GRU Colonel Sergei Skripal, SVR Colonel Alexander Zaporozhsky, scientist Igor Sutyagin and ex-FSB officer Gennady Vasilenko, all of whom were serving prison terms in Russia for espionage.

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