"All my work in the USSR foreign intelligence agencies was connected not just with the Foreign Intelligence Service [SVR], but specifically with illegal intelligence," Putin told Rossiya 1 broadcaster in an interview.
The president noted that agents under non-official cover were people of special qualities, special convictions and people of a special nature.
"Not everyone can give up their life, give up their loved ones, leave their families for many, many years, not everyone can devote their lives to serving their home country. Only the chosen one can do this. I say this without any exaggeration. Employees of the illegal intelligence live with such an approach to the cause, to the country, to the people. They are unique people. I wish them happiness, prosperity, I am sure they will hear my words," Putin said on the occasion of the 95th anniversary of the SVR illegal intelligence department.
In 1985-1990, the Russian president worked for the KGB in the Eastern German city of Dresden. According to him, he was doing foreign intelligence work.
In 2013, Putin provided a rare insight into 16 years of his work in the KGB. "It’s bad to eavesdrop," Putin smiled and told a meeting of the All-Russian People’s Front movement. "I learned this from my time in the KGB. [And] I gave it up."