ST. PETERSBURG -- The Yabloko political
movement says federal agents approached two students active
in its ranks and gave them an ultimatum: Spy on Yabloko
from within, or find yourself sent off to fight in Chechnya.
The students at St. Petersburg's Baltic State University,
Dmitry Barkovsky and Konstantin Suzdal, have laid out
their allegations in a letter posted on Yabloko's web
Their plight has been taken up by Grigory
Yavlinsky f who says top Yabloko leaders, including himself,
have come under surveillance of federal agents on orders
from President Vladimir Putin.
Yavlinsky, who heads the liberal Yabloko
movement's parliamentary faction, has requested a formal
explanation from Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Federal
Security Service, or FSB, the main KGB successor agency.
Patrushev succeeded Putin, who left the director's chair
at the FSB in August to become prime minister.
Yavlinsky's letter asked Patrushev: "Are
the Yabloko movement and its leaders the targets of a
covert surveillance operation f and if so, on what legal
grounds? Is it true that you, in the name of orders from
the president of the Russian Federation, [Vladimir] Putin,
have ordered a covert surveillance operation against me
and my loved ones?"
The letter f versions of which were also
sent to President Putin and to Prosecutor General Vladimir
Ustinov f goes on to say, "If the president of the Russian
Federation really has ordered you to assemble information
about the Yabloko movement and about my professional,
social and political activities, then we are prepared
to ease your work and provide it."
A spokeswoman for the FSB said she was
familiar with the Yabloko allegations, but declined to
comment, asking instead for questions by fax. She declined
to say when they would be answered.
Students Barkovsky and Suzdal say they
were called into an office at Baltic State University
in late May and questioned about Yabloko's St. Petersburg
branch by two men who identified themselves as FSB officers.
The students said the FSB officers told them Yabloko was
involved in spying for unspecified foreign powers.
The agents also asked where Yabloko got
its campaign financing, why the party had so many offices,
why it had recruited so many young people and why Yabloko
members closely monitored the Russian media.
One of the students, Barkovsky, said he
tried to evade questions, on grounds that he did not know
the answers and did not think the questions proper. "In
reply I got threats that I would be expelled from the
university, that I would be 'sent to Chechnya' and so
on, and also threats against my relatives and friends,"
Barkovsky said, in remarks posted on Yabloko.ru.
Barkovsky said that out of fear he signed
a document promising not to leave St. Petersburg without
FSB permission, and to provide the FSB with information
about the "espionage activities of Yabloko" and about
"their methods for sending information abroad." He said
he was given the code name "Georgy" and told he would
be called on May 31.
Barkovsky in his fourth year studying
to be a rocket propulsion engineer also says he soon after
began to have trouble in school. He said professors refused
to schedule him for exams on May 31, the day of his scheduled
FSB meeting. Barkovsky said one professor explained such
a refusal by saying, "The situation has changed." Soon
after, Barkovsky was expelled.
The Baltic State faculty mentioned in
Barkovsky's letter could not be reached for comment. But
Igor Kuzmin, deputy rector of the university, said in
a telephone interview that Barkovsky was expelled because
he was a bad student. "This scandal is groundless," Kuzmin
"There have been no FSB representatives
in the university, and this student was expelled because
he was a poor student who didn't attend lectures and who
had very bad results." Kuzmin had no explanation for the
similar allegations of Barkovsky's classmate, Suzdal,
who was also expelled recently. Barkovsky says Suzdal
was told by the university officials who expelled him
that "you have to use your head when choosing your party."
Education Ministry officials were expected
at Baltic State this week to investigate the Barkovsky-Suzdal
allegations, Kuzmin said. He added that the ministry had
asked him to compile a report on all students at the university
engaged in any sort of political activity with any party.
Barkovsky and Suzdal both worked for Yabloko during the
State Duma elections in 1999, the presidential race in
March, and the St. Petersburg gubernatorial race in May,
when Yabloko candidate Igor Artemyev was soundly beaten
by incumbent Governor Vladimir Yakovlev.
President Putin, a former deputy mayor
of St. Petersburg and a 17-year veteran of the KGB, has
expressed admiration for Soviet-era informers, calling
them patriots. Yabloko's Yavlinsky, in a televised ORT
interview this week, countered that the culture of informers
and informing ought to be repudiated. "Creating an atmosphere
of surveillance and blackmail will lead to enormous losses
for our nation," Yavlinsky said. "To foster an atmosphere
of informing will mean to scare off the very best.
They won't want to participate in public
life, or to work for the good of their country."
of Grigory Yavlinsky on Sergei Dorenko’s programme
That Moscow Spies on Party Gain Weight
Russian security taps phones, bullies supporters