Leaked FSB Spy Documents Claim Putin Planned To Invade Japan Over Island Dispute

An email addressed to Vladimir Osechkin leaked FSB spy documents that claimed that Putin planned to invade Japan over the island dispute.

Leaked FSB Spy Documents Claim Putin Planned To Invade Japan Over Island Dispute 1

Months before President Vladimir Putin began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia was prepared to invade Japan in the summer of 2021, according to an email including a letter from a whistleblower at the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia that was shared with Newsweek.

The email, dated March 17, was addressed to Vladimir Osechkin, a Russian human rights campaigner and founder of the anti-corruption website Gulagu.net who is currently living in exile in France.

The FSB operative sends dispatches to Osechkin on a regular basis, exposing the wrath and unhappiness within the agency over the conflict that started on February 24 when Putin invaded the neighbouring Ukraine.

The correspondence has been translated from Russian to English by Igor Sushko, the executive director of the non-profit Wind of Change Research Group, since it started on March 4.

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Expert on the FSB Christo Grozev has studied a letter written by the whistleblower and published by Osechkin. He claimed to have shown the letter to “two actual (current or former) FSB contacts,” who were certain that “a colleague” had written it.

Leaked FSB Spy Documents Claim Putin Planned To Invade Japan Over Island Dispute 2
This picture shows Russian President Vladimir Putin superimposed onto an image of Japan. Russia was preparing to attack Japan in August 2021, according to leaked emails from a whistleblower at Russia’s Federal Security Service.

Military Conflict

The agent wrote to Osechkin in March that Russia was “quite seriously preparing for a localised military conflict with Japan” in August 2021.

Instead, the FSB agent argued, Russia decided to invade Ukraine months later.

“Confidence that the countries would enter the stage of acute confrontation and even war was high. Why Ukraine was chosen for war in the end [the scenario was not changed much] is for others to answer,” they wrote.

The Russian propaganda machine was also launched, with a major campaign to paint Japanese as “Nazis” and “fascists,” as the whistleblower described movements of electronic warfare helicopters targeting Japan.

Kuril Islands

Russia and Japan have never formally ended World War II through the signing of a peace treaty, in large part due to disagreements over a set of islands claimed by Japan but occupied by Russia.

At the close of World War II, the USSR occupied the Kuril Island chain’s Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan, and Habomai islands. The dispute has strained ties between Russia and Japan for decades. Tokyo claims the islands as its “Northern Territories.”

The Kuril Islands are a “key stumbling block” between Moscow and Tokyo, said the FSB operative.

The islands provide a lot of military and political advantages due to their position between the large Japanese island of Hokkaido and Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.

“For Japan, there is a cornerstone of its modern geopolitics here: its status as a World War II loser still prevents the Japanese from having an official military force, a foreign intelligence service and a number of other things. For the Land of the Rising Sun, the return of the Kuril Islands would actually mean a revision [or even cancellation] of its postwar status,” they wrote.

The whistleblower proceeded by saying that the islands serve as “a bargaining chip” for Moscow.

“The Heavenly Kingdom (China) takes any attempted revisions to the postwar agreements very negatively, and a potential victory for Tokyo in the dispute over the Kurils is unacceptable to Beijing. It is so unacceptable that China would easily complicate Russia’s life for making such a ‘gift.'”

Leaked FSB Spy Documents Claim Putin Planned To Invade Japan Over Island Dispute 3
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, shake hands during a press conference at the Kremlin in Moscow on January 22, 2019.

The whistleblower pointed out that former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had already been emphasising modernising the nation’s intelligence service and trying to “negotiate” with Russia over the Kuril Islands at the time.

“Historically, Japan’s military intelligence has always been at a high level, but after the defeat in World War II it was simply abolished at the behest of the victors,” they wrote.


The FSB declassified graphic information in August 2021 detailing how Japanese special services tortured Soviet citizens during World War II.

According to the FSB leaker, the agency was tasked with starting a “information campaign with Japan in Russian society.”

“[It happened] abruptly, suddenly and almost unexpectedly,” they wrote.

Data from Otozo Yamada’s interrogation as a general in the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II was among the declassified information.

“Initially, as early as August 8, the Russian mass media were rather stingy in their comments on the news: they claimed that Japan had been preparing for war with the USSR since 1938, plans of the attack were being hatched, diversions were made, etc,” the whistleblower wrote.

“But on August 16, the Russian media literally exploded at the same time, discussing the declassified documents in a completely different tone: The Japanese allegedly conducted terrible biological experiments on Soviet prisoners, and treated Soviet prisoners extremely badly. The details of the plague lice that were used to torture prisoners were scrawled all over the place. Russia Today, the main mouthpiece of international propaganda, also joined in.”

Multiple links from pro-Kremlin media outlets on the subject were included in the whistleblower’s email, including one headlined “How the USSR saved the world from the biological war that Japan was preparing” and another titled “Evidence of Japan’s preparations for war with the USSR declassified.”

According to a report from RBC released on August 20, 2021 and citing declassified FSB documents, experiments on prisoners took place at a concentration camp in the Harbin area, and the Japanese used these prisoners to test bacteriological weapons and “new chemical poisonous substances” during World War II.

The FSB also revealed previously-classified material in August 2021, claiming it demonstrated Japan’s intent to launch a biological weapon in 1944.

“The FSB had even declassified in a timely manner at the right time when this push was beginning…it was classified this entire time and then [Russia] declassified it right when all of this buildup was happening against Japan, and preparing the Russian population to start believing that Japanese are fascists,” said Sushko.

“They sort of swapped out Japan for Ukraine,” he added. “And both of them right, they’re just insane. Just take the things that Russia was considering [before] attacking Japan, it’s insane, as is the fact that Russia attacked Ukraine is insane. It’s insanity.”

The whistleblower claimed that in the summer of 2021, there was “active spin in the Russian information space” against Japan.

“The bet was placed on the fact that the Japanese specialized in brutal biological experiments, showed inhumanity, and had a disposition for Nazism. And they should have demilitarized after the war, but they violate these regulations, creating risks for Russia,” they wrote.

“But on the whole, war was inevitable for Russia due to the maniacal desire for war by the leadership…And now the bulk of the combat-ready units from that direction have been redeployed to Ukraine,” the whistleblower added.

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  1. I wish you had included more of your own geopolitical assessment of this “leak.” This looks like pure disinformation and a ploy to misdirect strategic attention from the real purpose of the Ukraine SMO. Russia has clearly been planning a major response to Ukrainian attacks on the Donbas for 8 years. It takes YEARS of planning to have the level of coordination and materiel stocks evident in use this year.

    There is absolutely no comparable strategic purpose for the disputed islands in Japan, which actually Russia holds. The fact that you don’t analyze this matter further causes me to question your analysis of other issues.

    Also, it makes no sense at all that FSB employees would be upset with Mr. Putin or the successful prosecution of the SMO in Ukraine. It seems to be very successful by any rational military assessment and Putin enjoys an 84% or so approval in Russia. Any disloyal FSB officers would be easily dismissed given this standing.

    The whole article reads like 1980’s cold war stuff. I prefer more realism in the leaks.

  2. Great article, and great response by Hayward. Will check the references, but what seems odd is continuing emails to Osechkin. One would think that President Putin, a KGB veteran, would have squelched the leaks months ago. Of course, ANY spy service probably has those who think their government should be replaced.

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